August 28th, 2010

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Persian Room

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…

Persian Room
52 Harris Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9692 9299

The Persian Room on Urbanspoon
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Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - W(h)ining & Dining

Published in the City Hub and City News.

First the Whining...

No, I’m not going to complain about gimmicky ideas designed to make us spend more money on our (already) pampered fur-kids. Instead I’m going to tell you that while you’re buying your own cupcakes at Surry Hill’s Sparkle Cupcakery, you can also make Fido very happy with his own bag of ‘Pupcakes’. So you don’t get your cakes mixed with his, he gets his own bag sealed with a special For Your Pooch Only sticker. You can also pat yourself on the head and call yourself a Good Mummy because Pupcakes are made from dog-friendly ingredients like grated apple, apple juice and honey with a ground meaty dog treat topping and a carob bone decoration! Whatever happened to visiting the butcher?

More Wining...
La Scala on Jersey have a swigging September in store! So if you like a bit of wining while you’re dining, head in for a five-course wine dinner of Darren Simpson’s pared-back, Modern Italian cuisine matched to world wines for $120/head on any night you fancy. Before you pick up the phone, if you’re a Shiraz fan, you might prefer to pencil in Wednesday 15th September because the folk from Coriole in McLaren Vale are visiting. Northern Italy is an expensive place to travel, so if you’re still saving the coffers, let Sommelier David Walters take you on a tasting tour of Venezia, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna on the 29th September. If you’re more a barfly than a diner, perch yourself at the cocktail bar for a three-carafe special complete with matched antipasti for $65/couple. Now if there’s anything I like more than a wine, it’s three wines, so I might check this one out myself!

Deconstructed Dining
October’s shaping up to be the biggest month for foodie’s that Australia’s ever seen with so many international food heroes flying in for the Sydney International Food Festival. One import that’s got my heart pumping is Wiley Dufresne from WD-50, currently ranked forty-fifth on the 2010 S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant List. His deconstructed Eggs Benedict ain’t going to fly with everyone though, so choose your dining companions carefully if you plan on checking out his culinary wizardry at Bentley Restaurant and Bar from 10th-13th October. He’ll be cooking with dessert king Alex Stupak (ex-Alinea) who has beaten Iron Chef Cat Cora on Iron Chef America! With all that talent plus matching wines from Nick Hildebrandt, the big $350/head price will deliver one hell of a futuristic foodie experience… Book now, places will fill fast!

Tarted-Up Chook
For a barbecued chook with a Middle Eastern difference, head on down to the newest entry on Crown Street, Surry Hills - Madam Char Char. You should expect your Lilydale free-range chook to be rubbed with herbs like ginger and cinnamon, and stuffed with burghal wheat. You’ll also get to choose from a stellar looking range of salads involving ingredients like pearl barley and quinoa, plus relishes, dips and fragrant salts including hot harissa. Co-owner Damien Monley, who also owns Woollahra’s popular Flat White Café, promises that his “goal is to punch above our weight and over deliver on quality food, value for money and exceptional service.” With spring just around the corner, it might be time for a picnic…