Feeling a bit of winter cabin fever? Yeah? Me too- good thing a culinary trip to Persia is not so far away.
My Iranian-American friend took me to Darya Persian Restaurant in Santa Monica for some spicy Middle Eastern flavor. I love going for meals with people who know a lot more about the cuisine than me, that way they can guide me through all the best things to get (I truly believe this is THE BEST and ONLY way to eat new foods). You may think it’s all kabobs and spices… but let me tell you, it’s so much more. Say “nvsh jan” (Persian for good eats) because we’re about to take a taste bud trip to the Middle East.
From its massive chandeliers and crown molded columns, Darya looks like an elegantly extravagant banquet hall and that ambiance really set the scene for an extraordinary meal. We started off with a heaping plate of Kashkeh Bademjan, which is sautéed eggplant topped with sautéed garlic, mint, onion & Kashk. It was such a hearty and savory eggplant dip, I was hooked. It’s served with very thin pieces of flatbread to scoop, roll, and eat up as much dip as you desire. It had a slightly nutty flavor which, coupled with the yogurt & spices, led to a surprisingly robust appetizer.
But we weren’t done there, just yet. For out second appetizer, we got Tahdig which is basically crispy rice (pan-fried in oil) and then served with three stews to mix-in. The first stew on the top left was a Ghormeh Sabzi (Sautéed herbs (cilantro, green onion, & parsley) cooked with dried limes, veal, & red kidney beans & special seasonings), the second stew on the bottom right was a Gheimeh Bademjan (Sautéed eggplant cooked in special tomato sauce, yellow peas, & onion sauce) and the third stew, and my personal favorite, was the Fesenjon (Walnut cooked in pomegranate sauce, mixed with boiled chicken). The other stews were alright, but the Fesenjon had an incredibly sweet and nutty flavor all at the same time. It paired perfectly with the crispy rice, and would be my one to recommend getting a whole meal out of.
Finally, the entree we’ve all been waiting for. No trip for Persian food is complete without Koobideh (traditional, Iranian minced meat skewers) served with a behemoth mountain of Basmati rice. I figured it would be best to get the best of both worlds so I got one beef koobideh and one chicken koobideh, and I did not regret it one bit. They were so delicious and flavorful. Imagine the ground meat from a burger, but extremely finely chopped, and then with peppers and other spices mixed in. There’s your koobideh. The beef koobideh melted in my mouth and was sooo delicious. Despite being a literal meat-rocket, it wasn’t greasy or heavy at all and you could tell it was really great, quality meat. The chicken one was also fantastic and quite flavorful. The Basmati rice was the perfect compliment to the meat and those pieces of thin flatbread from earlier came in handy when I started stuffing them with the various meats, rice and spices. Great entree all around, and next time I’m definitely eager to try the lamb one.
And, as we all know… no meal is complete without dessert. Luckily, we went the traditional route and opted for some teas and Zoolbia (basically syrupy Iranian funnel cake fritters), and Bamieh (little donut holes that reminded me of Indian gulab jamun). Both were so awesome and that perfect kick of sweetness to end a hearty meal.
If you’re looking to expand your cultural horizons and take a little mouthful of a trip to Persia… look no farther than Darya Persian Cuisine in Santa Monica.
12130 Santa Monica Blvd, West Los Angeles, CA 90025