London - Chowdown at Gilak Iranian restaurant, Archway
Gilak at Holloway Rd (near Archway tube station) prides itself at serving Gilaki cuisine from the northern Gilan province of Iran. We started off with crisp papery flatbread, used to wrap walnuts, smoked fish and some rather raw-tasting broadbeans. Interesting amuse geule.
From there, we proceeded immediately to the mains:
- Chellow Kabab Torsh, which were some very tender lamb fillets, marinated in a walnut, sour pomegranate sauce & grilled. It's quite strong-tasting & salty, but went well with the steamed rice & grilled tomatoes;
- Koresht Fesenjan, chicken stewed in a walnut/onion/sour pomegranate sauce till the chicken was fall-off-bone tender and the sauce dark;
- Zereshk Polow Ba Morgh - recommended by the owner/restaurant manager - fragrant steamed buttery saffron rice, topped with chopped pistachios and almonds, accompanied by a piece of tender braised saffron-tinted quarter of a chicken & a small bowl of tomato-based sauce. Very tasty;
- Mahi Polow - marinated fried seabass, served with rice, and a wedge of lime on the side.
I quite liked the strong vinegary Sir Torshi (pickled garlic), which served to undercut the richness of the meaty meal. Portions were also quite generous, so the 4 of us shared 2 desserts at the end;
- Bastani, a saffron ice-cream topped with chopped pistacios; and
- Reshte Khoshkar, a crisp, deep-fried spring roll-like pastry with sugared walnut & cinnamon filling.
663 Holloway Rd, Islington, England N19 5SE, United Kingdom
The quality of the rice was very good -- soft slightly fluffy and individual grains, with a reasonable amount of the saffron flavoured rice to white. Would have liked a bit more barberries in the zereshk polo but it's a quibble (any reports on the version from Mohsen's daily special menu?).
The Mahi Polow was my favourite -- perfectly grilled fish, juicy and crispy, aromatic dill flavoured rice topped with saffron rice. And good with the pickled garlic.
The fesenjen was more earthy spice and pomegranate tang than some of the fruitier versions I've had elsewhere. Not better or worse, just different, and certainly worth trying.
Found the bread wonderful -- thin, cloth-like and slightly brittle.
Tried the place this weekend on the strength of the enticing description here. Happy to report that contrary to what TimeOut says, they do have wine. Started off with bread and pickles (one mixed, one garlic) -- pickles were quite nice but we have had nicer bread. Of the three mains we had, we agreed the fesenjan was the best, rich and unafraid. The lamb stew with lentil and preserved lime was nice indeed, about the same as we have had at other places around town. Only the chellow kebab was a bit of a letdown, blander than I had hoped for. So a mixed impression, I think on another visit we would get a few more starters and perhaps steer more to the stewish than the kebabish side of the menu.
The atmosphere was nice, the service lovely and dinner for 3 (wine but no dessert) just a bit above £60.
There is no longer a daily menu at Mohsen -- they're selling 'full' range every day (not sure if it encompasses entire previous daily menu).
Also -- how to Chowdowns get organized? Are you friends in real life or is there a chowdown area of this site to organize? (curious, not desperately seeking friends).
Tried Mohsen's a couple of weeks ago - may have ordered badly, but wasn't blown away with either the kebabs or fessenjun. Good, but not outstanding (although the bread was amazing) I prefer Rose on The North End Rd myself - forewarned it is less a restaurant more a random hole hidden behind hairdressers / phone card shops etc. Depending on the day (multiple chefs maybe?) the food can be completely great and dirt cheap.
Most of us are long-time Chowhounds whose interactions on the boards here sometimes progress to personal friendships - we meet, we eat, we talk ... about food, a LOT about food.
I am a Singaporean Chowhound, but whose interests in food spans across every culture & its cuisine, and includes anything under the sun. I've been actively seeking out good restaurants in London annually since the 1980s - pre-Chowhound days, and have seen how London's dining scene has evolved, vis-a-vis Paris'.
I've taken part in Chowdowns in San Francisco (where I started as a Chowhound), London & Singapore, and participants are usually Chowhounds from the boards of those respective cities. I'd missed 3 Chowdowns in HK, organized by the irrepressible Toronto-based Chowhound, Charles Yu, when he visits HK - I can assure you, we *are* all real die-hard foodies, who share a passion for food. We reciprocate by showing Charles Yu the Singapore dining scene and organizing Chowmeets in Singapore to coincide with his visit..
Chowdowns can be organized via the boards here, and we usually progress to personal/group email exchanges - on how to start one, here are some examples:
The last time I was in London (January this year), I had a Chowdown with your fellow UK Hounds at the Bombay Brasserie. It was fabulous.
Tell you what - I'm in London again for a fortnight, from next Monday - would be happy to meet anyone of you for a Chowdown :-)