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Anyone into Persian food?

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Robert Ogden Feb 2, 2010 05:29 PM

I live in Thousand Oaks, we just got a new addition- Darband. Pretty good place, but I am looking for the ultimate persian restaurant. I used to go to Shiraz in the valley, but I know westwood has been nick-named Tehrangeles. I want to try a new place this weekend. Thanks

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    drpynchon RE: Robert Ogden Feb 2, 2010 05:38 PM

    Raffi in Glendale is the hot spot for Persian-style kebabs. For stews and other classic dishes, I personally like Javan in Santa Monica. These are my personal go-to places, though there are countless others.

    14 Replies
    1. re: drpynchon
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      Dogbite Williams RE: drpynchon Feb 2, 2010 10:10 PM

      I also like Javan. It's at 11500 Santa Monica Blvd., a few blocks west of the Nuart Theatre.

      1. re: Dogbite Williams
        Azizeh RE: Dogbite Williams Feb 2, 2010 10:48 PM

        Thumbs down on Javan. I'd like the place if they made their own bread, but they don't. They just hand over some cold Lavash or pita and call it a day.

        Shahrzad in Westwood is my westside favorite. I'm a sucker for the homemade Lavash. Since I cook Persian at home, I haven't explored as many places as I should.

        1. re: Azizeh
          ronnie_gaucho RE: Azizeh Feb 4, 2010 12:27 AM

          agree with you on both counts...the fresh bread at Shahrzad is incredible. best persian on the westside

      2. re: drpynchon
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        losfelizhound RE: drpynchon Feb 3, 2010 09:54 AM

        Raffi's is technically Armenian. However, they recently added a number of new Persian-style rice offerings (polos). In addition, if I remember correctly, they also serve Dizi now.

        1. re: losfelizhound
          J.L. RE: losfelizhound Feb 3, 2010 10:12 AM

          Tru dat.

          1. re: losfelizhound
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            drpynchon RE: losfelizhound Feb 4, 2010 02:41 PM

            I would beg to differ. Raffi's is owned and operated by Armenians (Persian-born, btw), no doubt. However, virtually none of the food as it is served there originated in Armenia, though it may be eaten as such in Armenia as well. Their kebabs are made and served in the traditional Persian style. As proof of this just look at the words on the menu: shirazi, barg, koobideh, mast-o-khiar, mast-o-musir, etc. etc. That's straight up Farsi. I should know, as a fellow Armenian born in Iran, much like the owners.

            1. re: drpynchon
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              losfelizhound RE: drpynchon Feb 4, 2010 02:51 PM

              Thanks for the insight. Just a quick question: Why is the menu at Raffi's similar to other Armenian joints in Glendale, and a subset of the Persian joints in Tehrangeles? For example, almost all Persian joints in Westwood serve polos, and stews, which are not available in Raffi's, or weren't until recently. Is that a result of their clientele being largely Armenian, or is it not part of the Persian-born Armenians diet?

              1. re: losfelizhound
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                drpynchon RE: losfelizhound Feb 4, 2010 03:11 PM

                No it certainly is part of the Persian-born Armenian diet. My grandmother used to make sabzi polo and baghali polo for us all the time when I was a child.

                But I have noticed what you describe, and I think there are a few possible reasons for it. One may be the fact that kebab in general is quite popular in Armenia proper, while the stews may not have caught on there. So it may be that the clientele in Glendale, having a larger proportion of non-Persian Armenians, is what drove that decision by the owners, whereas in west LA, the patrons are largely Iranian. Not sure, but I can ask them next time we're there (my father is on fairly close terms with them). One thing is for sure: polos/stews or no, any restaurant of this type lives or dies by its kebab.

              2. re: drpynchon
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                Robert Ogden RE: drpynchon Feb 6, 2010 05:03 AM

                I've heard of this place, I think I am going to try Raffi's this weekend.

              3. re: losfelizhound
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                epop RE: losfelizhound Feb 4, 2010 05:51 PM

                Raffi's is owned by Armenians but most of the offerings are authentically Persian.

                I wonder how the dizi is there. Their kabobs are the only ones in town that I like from Persian restaurants so I haven't been able to order anything else.

                As for the stews I'd say there isn't a restaurant that really does it right. The closest to the taste is Shamshiri on Monday and Friday. But even that doesn't have it.

                Only at homes and made by a couple of the caterers can you find this side of the cuisine.

                1. re: epop
                  Das Ubergeek RE: epop Feb 4, 2010 09:54 PM

                  I go to Wholesome Choice for my stews.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
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                    mrsjoujou RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 5, 2010 07:31 AM

                    If you ever had a real authentic Persian stew you wouldn't like Wholsome choice. Their stews is like every thing else they serve. OK if you are really desperate for some Persian food.

                    1. re: mrsjoujou
                      Das Ubergeek RE: mrsjoujou Feb 5, 2010 08:05 AM

                      I have had proper Persian stews, in homes, even, and while I'm not anxious to get the fesenjan at WC, their gheymeh and their khoresht-e bademjan are not bad.

                      I'm willing to go to the sit-down places for ghormeh sabzi (fresh herbs make all the difference in the world), for fesenjan and, when the season allows, for khoresht beh, but the gheymeh and bademjan in these places is not so much better than WC that I'm willing to pay the shameful prices the sit-down places charge.

                      Also, WC has outstanding ash-e reshte.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
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                        mrsjoujou RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 5, 2010 10:01 AM

                        Well, you sure love your stews. You are right that most stews at the Persian restaurants are bad. I tried WC ash reshteh a few years ago and didn't care for it, maybe they have improved it. Shahrzad has a good ash reshteh, but their kabob's are not as good as it used to be.

            2. J.L. RE: Robert Ogden Feb 3, 2010 01:24 AM

              Raffi's in Glendale is my ultimate Persian currently, and I live in Westwood!

              In Westwood itself, I like Shahrzad (excellent bread & estamboli polo), followed closely by Javan, Darya, & Canary.

              Flame, Baran, and Shamshiri Grill - not so much.

              I hear Shah Abbas (San Vicente & Burton Way) has new (& improved) ownership - has anyone eaten there lately?

              3 Replies
              1. re: J.L.
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                exilekiss RE: J.L. Feb 3, 2010 07:15 AM

                Hi J.L.,

                Thanks for the recs. Just to clarify, you're talking about Raffi's Place, not Raffi's Kabob (both in Glendale), right? Thanks.

                1. re: exilekiss
                  J.L. RE: exilekiss Feb 3, 2010 09:53 AM

                  Yes, exile, Raffi's Place. Is the target of your next foray Persian?

                  1. re: J.L.
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                    exilekiss RE: J.L. Feb 3, 2010 12:10 PM

                    Hi J.L.,

                    No, but it's always good to be on the lookout for good recommendations. :) Thanks.

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                degustateur RE: Robert Ogden Feb 3, 2010 01:58 AM

                Persian can be wonderful when done properly (as can virtually any cuisine). I’ve been really impressed with:

                Caspian
                14100 Culver Drive
                Irvine, CA 92604-0301
                (949) 651-8454

                Although less impressed, I still enjoyed:

                Darya
                1611 W Sunflower Ave
                Santa Ana, CA 92704
                (714) 557-6600

                I look forward to trying:

                The House of Kabob
                20651 Lake Forest Drive
                Lake Forest, CA 92630
                (949) 460-0800

                4 Replies
                1. re: degustateur
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                  mrsjoujou RE: degustateur Feb 3, 2010 09:30 AM

                  Non of the OC Persian restaurants are that great specially Caspian. Darya used to be good years ago and last time we tried House of Kabob it tasted like they use tenderizer.

                  1. re: mrsjoujou
                    Das Ubergeek RE: mrsjoujou Feb 3, 2010 12:12 PM

                    I prefer the Orange Darya to the Costa Mesa Darya. But frankly, I buy most of my Persian food at Wholesome Choice now. It's the same quality as Caspian but a third of the price.

                    1. re: mrsjoujou
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                      epop RE: mrsjoujou Feb 4, 2010 05:52 PM

                      Yes, Darya now is really average.

                      1. re: epop
                        a_and_w RE: epop Feb 5, 2010 07:42 AM

                        I have to agree. Also, very rude people.

                  2. Servorg RE: Robert Ogden Feb 3, 2010 09:40 AM

                    If you do decide to come over to the west side of LA and want to try something a little different (this time or next) then you might give Sham in Santa Monica a try for Syrian food. Also out in your end of the world (well, not exactly T.O.'s end of the world but at least in the west SFV) are some of the Israeli food places along Ventura Blvd. like Hummus Bar & Grill in Tarzana and another couple of places a bit farther east in Encino that get a lot of play on this board.

                    -----
                    Hummus Bar and Grill
                    18743 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA 91356

                    Sham Restaurant
                    716 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: Servorg
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                      epop RE: Servorg Feb 4, 2010 05:53 PM

                      Not Persian. Like recommending Spanish food when one wants French food. Sorry.

                      1. re: epop
                        Servorg RE: epop Feb 4, 2010 06:56 PM

                        You mean like the baba ganoush or the hummus or the schwarma at all of these places? Yeah, no relationship at all. Why couldn't I see that? Damn, my eyes are opened now. Thanks! ;-D>

                        1. re: Servorg
                          Das Ubergeek RE: Servorg Feb 4, 2010 10:01 PM

                          None of those things are particularly Persian. Just because they're served in restaurants doesn't mean they're part of that national cuisine; a lot of places advertise themselves as Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food in order to attract more business, and this means having a wide array of Middle Eastern meze.

                          The Persian answer to babaghannoush is kashk-e-bademjan, which involves cheese whey (thick, a bit like thin sour cream) and mint and is a much creamier dip than your normal eggplant-tahini-lemon-garlic-oil babaghannoush.

                          Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli places don't produce the stews or rices for which Persian cuisine is famous. While it's hard sometimes to differentiate Syrian from Lebanese from Egyptian from Jordanian, Persian is usually reasonably easy to parse out.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                            J.L. RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 4, 2010 10:06 PM

                            Mmmm.... Ghaimeh bademjan....

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                              Servorg RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 5, 2010 02:51 AM

                              ...and hummus and shwarma and pita and falafel and kabobs and a lot of other food that you find in common at these places? Even the spices and the taste of a lot of these dishes is so similar that it would be hard to tell where you where if you were eating with a blind fold on.

                              My point to the OP is, if he/she likes one they well like the other and it's probably worth a try (without risking the family fortune) and who knows, they may actually find something that they like better in a serendipitious type of encounter. To my way of thinking it's what makes being a chowhound all about. Take a chance. Discover new or different food. Expamd your dining horizons. Nothing wrong with that.

                              1. re: Servorg
                                Das Ubergeek RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 08:15 AM

                                So if I go into a Vietnamese place and I see orange chicken (which, sadly, happens a lot) that means that Vietnamese and Chinese-American are the same thing? Persian restaurants serve these things because most Americans lump their food together with the Arabic-type foods under the "Middle Eastern" banner and get upset when the "Middle Eastern" restaurant doesn't have Lebanese foods.

                                Persian food is really easy to tell apart. Yes, kebabs are kebabs and there are kebabs all over the world and you couldn't necessarily tell what ethnicity's restaurant you were in simply by tasting a kebab, but as soon as you had flavoured rice or any of the Persian stews or tadig or anything with kashk in it, you'd know instantly... and for whatever reason, Arabic restaurants (Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, etc.) don't borrow from the Persian cookbook, which is a shame since it's awesome food.

                                Persians don't eat much pita; Persian places that serve pita are borrowing, because there are other flatbreads used for the same function as pita in Persian places.

                                The OP asked for Persian food, not Middle Eastern.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                  Servorg RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 5, 2010 08:31 AM

                                  True, but expanding the OP's horizon isn't a bad thing for the board, and he won't be the only person who comes across this thread in the future. Someone might actually decide to try Sham or Hummus Bar & Grill, and they might even like it. A win win situation.

                                  And I clearly delineated my recommendations for what they are. And whether or not Arabic restaurants borrow from the "Persian cookbook" or not a lot of the flavorings and spices are common to the cooking of the cultures.

                                  So why do you have a problem with it?

                                  1. re: Servorg
                                    OCAnn RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 08:50 AM

                                    I don't think anyone was saying that what you recommended was wrong, but just clarifying that your recs were not the cuisine the OP requested. I think it's great that someone might try your recommendations and expand their horizons. Maybe the OP will try your rec...who knows? =) I think epop and DU were simply (while astutely) pointing out the regional differences (like Chicago v NY pizza) that some of us might not be aware.

                                    1. re: OCAnn
                                      Servorg RE: OCAnn Feb 5, 2010 09:11 AM

                                      I think when one gets "Not Persian. Like recommending Spanish food when one wants French food. Sorry." it less about pointing out regional differences and more about something else. But maybe that's just me?

                                      1. re: Servorg
                                        a_and_w RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 09:46 AM

                                        I think the issue is that Persian food is very different than generic middle eastern grub like falafel and hummus. I used to date a Persian woman who bristled at the sight of such dishes on Persian menus. She didn't see it as expanding anyone's horizons, more as an obstacle to non-Persians experiencing the cuisine.

                                        1. re: a_and_w
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                                          epop RE: a_and_w Feb 5, 2010 07:07 PM

                                          You should have kept her, A and W.

                                          Just kidding. But she was right.

                                        2. re: Servorg
                                          OCAnn RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 01:02 PM

                                          I *do* think it's about regional differences and nothing else.

                                      2. re: Servorg
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                                        epop RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 07:06 PM

                                        There is little borrowing in either direction between Arabic and Persian food. I'd say Turkey has more of the hybrid, but even that is debatable. A lot of this food is based on a heavy sense of tradition and the produce available.
                                        They really are 2 distinct, amazing cuisines. Hummus is as American as it is Persian, for example. The Iranian restaurants here blur the traditions for money. The spicing is really entirely different. The pantries of each are quite different. That's why Spain and France was the analogy. Sure, some overlaps. But really different cuisine.

                                        1. re: epop
                                          Servorg RE: epop Feb 6, 2010 04:08 AM

                                          Iran shares not only a border with Iraq and Kuwait but the entire Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf to the Iranians) with a host of Arab countries and there exists a centuries long history of trade across the gulf between all of the cultures/countries - including spices. So the fact that there would be common flavors between these countries can't come as a surprise to anyone.

                                          The surprise would be if there WASN'T a common flavor component to the food.

                                          1. re: Servorg
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                                            JBC RE: Servorg Feb 6, 2010 04:12 AM

                                            I agree; however, one might question why you and I are on the internet at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning ? (assuming you exist in the PST zone).

                                            1. re: JBC
                                              Servorg RE: JBC Feb 6, 2010 04:19 AM

                                              I worked on the Arabian Gulf for a few years in the early 80's and had a chance to talk to a lot of the Dhow operators who took us diving to the off shore islands. They all said that there was a lot of trade between the two regions for as long as they and their fathers and grandfathers could recall.

                                              1. re: Servorg
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                                                Robert Ogden RE: Servorg Feb 6, 2010 05:21 AM

                                                Persian food definitely has it's own unique style. All middle eastern food is great, but each region is unique to its own.

                                            2. re: Servorg
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                                              epop RE: Servorg Feb 6, 2010 12:34 PM

                                              Some overlaps, yes, but far fewer than people realize. Like France and Spain. Not to belabor the analogy.

                                              I would say the flavors are remarkably different.

                                    2. re: Das Ubergeek
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                                      epop RE: Das Ubergeek Feb 5, 2010 08:23 AM

                                      YES, parsing out the Pars from the Levantine.

                                    3. re: Servorg
                                      ronnie_gaucho RE: Servorg Feb 5, 2010 09:51 AM

                                      none of those dishes are persian AT ALL...My mother said the first time she ever ate hummus was after she moved to the US from Iran.

                                      It's like recommending chinese food when the OP was asking about sushi

                                  2. re: Servorg
                                    Foodandwine RE: Servorg Feb 4, 2010 07:22 PM

                                    Hosted a dinner for 10 at the Hummas Bar. While the mezza course was great with the fresh lafta (sp ) bread and 10 more small dishes was good, the main dishes failed on all points. If you want kebobs and rice go somewhere else. I am a fan of Westwood Blvd. Play or not I like whenever someone gives their personal account of the place..

                                  3. boogiebaby RE: Robert Ogden Feb 3, 2010 01:49 PM

                                    Is this a branch of Darband on Ventura Blvd?

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                                      Robert Ogden RE: Robert Ogden Feb 6, 2010 05:14 AM

                                      Wow, I posted this and then had to leave town for a few days...Thanks for all the recommendations to all. My haircutter is Persian and she told me to try Raffi's a few months ago and I forgot about it. My Wife is Persian, I am American...But I am the restaurant guy so she and her family don't know the best places. The two things I love about authentic Persian is, fresh Sabzi as an appetizer with home made bread, and a good Fesenjun.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Ogden
                                        Kitchen Queen RE: Robert Ogden Feb 6, 2010 10:44 AM

                                        Robert

                                        This is family owned and run. Mom cooks and son, Ali runs the place: www.alibabapersianrestaurant.com On Chatsworth near White Oak N side in a strip mall. The fesenjun mom makes here is unlike anyone elses, including Shamshiri in Westwood. My family goes crazy for Ali's lamb. (I don't eat it). The rices are also amazing too, one w/sour sherries, one w/lentils and dates. Authentic, fine and intimate. Your wife will appreciate it! When you go, tell Ali Shari and Bruce sent you. You can't go wrong here. :)

                                        1. re: Kitchen Queen
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                                          Robert Ogden RE: Kitchen Queen Feb 6, 2010 01:22 PM

                                          this sounds great thanks!

                                          1. re: Kitchen Queen
                                            Foodandwine RE: Kitchen Queen Feb 7, 2010 09:24 AM

                                            Hi Kichen Queen, thanks for the tip I am always looking for new places to try and this spot sounds great. I have a friend in the area and will suggest the spot next time we meet. As an aside I do appreciate the direct reply to the OP's post. I find the banter here on Chowhound off course some time. You need to read thru allot of banter on the "Im right your wrong" or look at me I can use google sort of thing. Kudos to the posters that give the recs. As to a tip, have you tried Downtown Kebob on South Los Angeles Street. A favorite of mine for lunch. Many in the Garment Industry go their for lunch. The food is very good. Never been there at night and not sure if they are open in the evenings..

                                            1. re: Foodandwine
                                              Kitchen Queen RE: Foodandwine Feb 7, 2010 07:12 PM

                                              Foodandwine-
                                              You're welcome...And, thnx for your suggestion however, I hardly ever get to the downtown area. :) Look for a chow invite to Ali's soon, I may have a luncheon there soon.

                                            2. re: Kitchen Queen
                                              boogiebaby RE: Kitchen Queen Feb 7, 2010 09:36 PM

                                              I'm so glad you posted this -- I drive by this place on my way to/from work everyday and always think about stopping sometime. The problem is, they keep the windows so dark that you can't see if the place is busy or dead! Glad to hear it's good -- we enjoy persian food so we'll make an effort to get here soon.

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