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Feb 2, 2010 05:29 PM

Anyone into Persian food?

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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  1. 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

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

      1. re: Dogbite Williams

        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

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

      2. re: drpynchon

        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

            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

              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

                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

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

              3. re: losfelizhound

                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

                  I go to Wholesome Choice for my stews.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    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

                      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

                        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. 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.

                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

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

                  1. re: J.L.

                    Hi J.L.,

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

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

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

                Although less impressed, I still enjoyed:

                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

                  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

                    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

                      Yes, Darya now is really average.

                      1. re: epop

                        I have to agree. Also, very rude people.

                  2. 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

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

                      1. re: epop

                        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

                          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

                              ...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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          You should have kept her, A and W.

                                          Just kidding. But she was right.

                                        2. re: Servorg

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

                                      2. re: Servorg

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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

                                              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

                                      YES, parsing out the Pars from the Levantine.

                                    3. re: Servorg

                                      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

                                    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. Is this a branch of Darband on Ventura Blvd?