Asal Persian Bakery
Finally got a chance to try the place recently touted in LAT for lunch. The draw here is the special tanoor (oven) for baking Sangak bread, one of the three most popular breads in Persian cuisine. Sangak means little stone as the bread is baked on a bed of pebbles. Here, stainless steel takes the place of the pebbles and the bread that comes of the behemoth tanoor looks like the real deal but I'm afraid falls way short in the taste department. Now, it's a perfectly OK flat bread on its own, but Sangak it's not. It also had a slightly greasy, oily feel to it that I found rather odd. The two of us ordered the special koubideh and chicken kabob. Both were served on the aforementioned bread - no mounds of Basmati here - and came with a side of salad. I found the koubideh average but the chicken was excellent; very juicy and tender, extremely flavorful. But ashe-eh-reshteh (noodle soup) was definitely the star of the show, very hearty and yummy and just the perfect thing on a rainy day. The bill for the two kabobs, two orders of ash - one to go - soft drinks and tea came to around $32,00 which I thought was very reasonable. The place is open for breakfast which includes kaleh-pacheh (head and foot soup!) which I intend to try next time I'm in that neck of the woods. Another draw here is the fact that Woodland Hills Market is just a couple of doors down where you can pick up things I haven't even seen in all the Persian specialty stores in Tehrangeles. They too make their own Sangak as well as Barbari, the Persian breakfast bread.
I went to this place last night with a couple friends (I'd also been meaning to try it since the LAT review, especially since my friend lives in Woodland Hills). We ordered hummus, the eggplant and whey dish (forgot the name), koobideh, and they split the salmon. I thought the bread was pretty good, but I guess I maybe had higher hopes for it after reading about it. The hummus was a bit of a letdown, but I thought the eggplant dish was pretty good. Koobideh was just average. Service was good though.
Of all the general categories of food preparation, I've always had a deep respect for those in the baking professions. In my eyes, it's one of the hardest things to pull off, day in and day out. I've been wanting to go since reading the article as well, and have had my plans foiled many times (it's a haul from the Westside).
I'm not surprised with they hummus being not what you expected. I think the culinary exchanges between the Persian culture and the general Middle East/Mediterranean (mainly Greece and Turkey) is most apparent with the kebab/kabob. I usually associate hummus with the cuisines of Lebanon, Israel and Greece. These cuisines are markedly different from Persian cuisine. For whatever reason, hummus has no foothold in Persian cuisine, but it does appear here (at least in LA) in some Persian eateries. Maybe its vague association with Mediterranean/Middle East cuisine has created an environment where either diners often ask/expect it, or maybe even LA Persians have developed a taste for it?
It's more the case of some diners who lump all "Middle-Eastern" cuisine together asking for it and restauranteurs giving them what they ask for. Owner of a small kabob place told me Persians never order it and he keeps it on the menu so that those unfamiliar with the cuisine can see something they recognize!