Sunday, May 08, 2005


I recently had a meal at Shahrezad (1442 Westwood Blvd. 310 470-3242) with a large crew of Persian peeps [congratulations Kathy!], and have reconsidered its position in the hierarchy of kebab houses. Shahrezad is fancier than the others on Westwood but steps up with extra goodness to match the glitzy setting. For starters, the bread is tremendous, cooked in a clay oven like naan. Try it with masto'khiar, chopped cucumbers and yoghurt like Indian raita for a wonderful appetizer. Add some kash'k bademjan, or eggplant mush topped with soulful caramelized onions, because this is probably my favourite version of this in town, really deep flavour.

Kebabs are fine, but for these I go to Raffi's Place. I think the best thing on the menu at Shahrezad is tah chin, a rectangular block of Persian rice filled with lamb and cooked until the edges are slightly dried out, kind of like the bottom-of-the-pan crispy rice tah dig. It's delicious and not found at other Persian spots I've been to (must try Javan soon...). Which brings me to the biggest complaint about Shahrezad. Not once, but twice I have been there when they've sold out of tah dig! This is like a Cuban spot running short of moros y christianos, or a Vietnamese deli sans baguettes.

At my recent dinner I branched out into the polo section of the menu. Polo (poh-LOW) isn't pollo (POY-o) but the Persian pilaf, rice cooked with some delectable fruits, nuts and spices and served at Shahrezad with a tender lamb shank or chicken on the side. I chose the shirin polo cooked with saffron, pistachios, orange peel and rosewater. The unusual ingredients were a delicate combination and the result was quite dissimilar to the adass polo (lentils and dates) and zereshk polo (sourish barberries, excellent) that I normally order. Better yet I received props from the Persian end of the table, some of whom hail from Shiraz and informed me that their hometown is the birthplace of shirin polo.

The biggest surprise of the night came during dessert. We all had tea and the painfully sweet honey confections zoolbia/zoolbiya (extruded flat spiral thing) and bamieh (ridged sweet dough balls). Then several orders of faloodeh arrived. These sweet noodles are served with Persian pistachio ice cream and fittingly were frozen into a block of crushed ice for a crunchy cold sensory treat. Faloodeh at Shahrezad is served in the Shirazi style with a fresh lime to squeeze on top. The sour, frozen flavour is amazing, this is a unique and essential dessert to add to one's Los Angeles repertoire. If you want the authentic flavour don't use the little cup of pomegranate syrup that comes on the side. Strong Persian tea is the perfect way to complete this type of leisurely meal. The old school method is to put a sugar cube in one's mouth, sip some tea and savour a dissolving mouthful of relaxation.


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