For a lesson in geography that you can eat, head into Shandeez Restaurant in Fairfield. The cuisine is Iranian, which might not initially be familiar to you, but you’ll soon taste the culinary through-line running across the whole geographic region from Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea, all the way to the Indian Subcontinent.
Eggplant is ‘the potato of Iran’ and thus a diet staple, making the Kashk E Bademjan ($5) – fried eggplant dip topped with curd - a must-order.
Enjoy it on flat bread, but make sure you also order rice.
The rice dishes here are exceptional, light and fluffy with nicely separated grains. It’s hard to choose between the yellow saffron and berry (barberry and pomegranate) topped Zereshk Polo ($12) served with chunks of chicken, and the Baghali Polo ($13) turned green with broad beans and dill.
You’ll probably find Koobideh ($10), an Iranian meat kebab made from prime lamb mince, and...
...Joojeh ($11) saffron marinated chicken, taste quite familiar.
To explore something more unique, order Ghormeh Sabzi ($11) - a stew with lamb, kidney beans and dried limes (a common Iranian flavouring). Add a squeeze of lemon juice from the bottle on every table, and a dab of Mast-o-mousir ($4) – shallot-topped yoghurt - and eat it on your rice.
Dining at Shandeez Restaurant as part of Babylonian Delights (by Taste Food Tours) gives you the opportunity to ask as many questions as you like about the cuisine. It also gives you a rare opportunity to explore the culture; politics; and history of a region we are seldom afforded opportunities to ask questions about.
Over lunch, our tour guide Yamane explains the “love and hate relationship” between Iranian and Iraqi people stems from the long war in the Eighties: “There’s not one family that hasn’t be affected by the war.” She also gently encourages us to remember that Iranians speak Farsi, not Arabic, and thus aren’t fond of being referred to as Arabs.
The pricing at this restaurant is keen, so however you come to dine, load up your table and have a proper Persian feast. Illustrated menus with English descriptions make ordering easy, and the texturally rich dining room is a welcoming space, complete with comfortable, wide, fabric-covered booths.
40 Ware Street, Fairfield
Ph: (02) 9755 5247