My eye-opening visit to this ornate, intricately decorated family-run restaurant made me ashamed of my ignorance about Iranian food. I expected the flavours to be familiar from my forays into the Middle East; but it’s actually quite unique!
With my mouth watering from the wafting smell of sizzling Persian kebabs, I devoured interesting dips accompanied by excellent, house-made, garlicky Persian Bread ($4) – definitely include a magenta (beetroot) bowl of lightly effervescent Borani Laboo ($9) with your meal. The two darker bowls both involve eggplant from the area near the Caspian Sea. The one on the right involves eggplant, grape juice, fresh mint, walnuts and caraway seeds (I think) - bright, a little acidic, fruity and really unlike anything I have tried before. The one on the left was smoky from the eggplants being blackened on their window-side grill, and combined with saffron (a popular inclusion in this cuisine), garlic and onion. At the back is a sample of the Salad Olivier ($18) which pops with green olives against an approachable, cold combination of chicken, potato and egg bound by mayonnaise - perfect for a picnic.
The compelling Kufteh ($12) reinvent meatballs completely (and for the better) with lean lamb, rice, split peas and a surprise plum. The broth is also a delight, with subtle tomato paste. It ensures the meatballs are beautifully moist too - I am generally not a huge meatball fan, but I would return for these!
Fruit also makes an appearance in the slow-cooked dishes like the sweetish eight-hour Fesenjun ($22) of chicken drumsticks cooked with pomegranate and walnuts. The best analogy I can make here is that it reminds me of the Apricot Chicken found in many Aussie homes - a sweetish twist that got me to eat what was essential a stew when I was a kid. Turns out, this is the sort of food Persian grandmothers cook in the home, and from the looks of the packed tables when I dined, each sporting beautiful Iranian women, home-cooking is a great (and authentic) crowd-pleaser everywhere!
Owner Maryam Azady and her staff arrive at 5am each day to ensure these dishes impress with tender, falling-apart hunks of lamb; particularly good in combination with kidney beans and sun-dried lime in the five-hour Gormeh Sabzie ($22).
Geymeh Khoresh ($22) is definitely the most approachable of the slow-cooked dishes with four-hour cooked lamb, split peas, tomato and er... French Fries. I didn't dare ask... but curiously last week in Phuket, Thailand, I saw a Persian restaurant with the dish and the same fries topping it!
Mystery dish number four was a special. From keen internet research, I suspect it is called Khoresht-e Esfenaj Aloo which by now I am sure you've guessed means lamb... This time it was cooked with spinach and more dried plums. I liked this dish too, but by now my new-flavour receptors were starting to hit critical overload... these dishes really do challenge your palate!
Enter the best Persian Fairy Floss I've ever had! You haven’t tried Persian cotton candy until you’ve wrapped your lips around the silky saffron infused strands they make here - I guess it's another product where freshness really counts!
They go down best with a creamy, fragrant bowl of house-made Saffron and Rosewater Ice Cream ($7). This newish Pyrmont restaurant is worth a stumble off the usual foodie trail…
52 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9692 9299