Slooowly continuing on my mission that is probably going to take me four years…
Next up we have Iran! So just a quick background in case you are not familiar. The name Iran is often used interchangeably with Persia, and while technically the same country, Iran is the legal name. Persia was an ancient, dominant kingdom within Iran and was the most used name until 1935. Now though, Iran is more common to hear in the western world. Obviously I am getting my info from Wikipedia. I tend to research each country before (so I know what authentic dishes to order) and then again after I eat there, so I am learning quite a lot on my mission to eat the world.
For my Iran eating adventure I roped my blogger pals Casey, Shanondoah, and Michelle into joining me at a little Persian/Iranian restaurant, The Pomegranate, on Bathurst and College in Toronto. None of us had ever eaten Iranian food before, so we were excited!
The Pomegranate is super cute. Small and slightly crowded, but really cute.
(photos all from The Pomegranate website)
Everywhere I looked there was something interesting happening.
I would recommend making reservations if you go here. We didn’t and they were ushering us out for another group at 8pm (my fault – I did try to call several times for reso’s in the afternoon, but I didn’t realize they opened at 5pm so I was too early).
We started with the Doogh, a savoury yogurt-based drink popular in Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iraq and Syria, flavoured with mint. It can be carbonated also, but we just got the plain.
On the menu it clearly stated that doogh is a salty yogurt beverage (salty was even bolded, the only word bolded in the sentence), so it tasted pretty much exactly how I expected; like salty yogurt. Like drinking a salty Yop with a touch of mint. You know, I didn’t hate it. I was happy to try it, but I couldn’t drink the whole thing, even with the help of the ladies. We all agreed, just too much salty yogurt.
We also ordered some delicious appetizers to start. Spinach Borani, which is sautéed spinach, garlic and creamy yogurt (yogurt is quite popular), and the Mirza Qasemi (or Ghassemi), a northern Iranian appetizer of charred eggplant in a mildly spicy garlic tomato sauce.
I have never tried either of those dips, and I don’t even think I have tried dips similar in taste to those. They were different and so delicious! We had to keep requesting more bread, which brings me to a little PSA:
ATTENTION ALL RESTAURANTS: JUST BRING ALL THE BREAD. WE’RE GOING TO EAT IT ALL, WE PROMISE. No really, this would save servers so much harassment. Please, just bring the bread. If you think you’ve brought enough bread, bring more bread.
We also ordered the Dolmeh, stuffed vine leaves with a lemony blend of rice and herbs. Yogurt on the side, of course.
Eh, ees ok. The dolmeh was probably my least favourite of everything we ordered, I didn’t think that it really tasted like much at all. But the two dips sure made up for it.
I really could not get enough of them. Literally was not able to get enough of them because we never had enough bread.
For my main dish I went with the Qeymeh (or gheimeh), a classic Persian dish, a tangy tomato-based stew with yellow split peas, lamb chunks and dried lime topped with cinnamon.
All our meals were served with salad shirazi (cucumber, red onion and tomato with herbs in an olive oil lime vinaigrette), lettuce with the same vinaigrette, and basmati rice.
Look how good that stew looks! It might have been the best dish I have ever tasted…if I liked lamb. I totally forgot that I don’t exactly enjoy lamb. It’s not something I ever order so I forgot how strong of a taste it has. Though I have had beef and lamb mixed and I didn’t mind that… Anyway, I still don’t really like lamb, but the stew was good despite it, and that is saying something because lamb is just so distinct and lamb-y. Oh, and that big ball in there? I thought it was going to be something delicious, like some sort of carb, so imagine my surprise when I shoved half of it into my mouth and discovered it was a full dried lime. Tart. It was quite tart. The girls were all laughing at the face I made when that happened.
I also tried what the rest of our group ordered. Casey and Michelle both got the Morasa Polo, aka jeweled rice, often served at Iranian weddings. Slivers of seville orange peel, almond, and pistachio, with diced carrots and barberries blended in saffron basmati rice with a braised lamb shank.
Well, I did not try their lamb shank. But that rice was good.
My favourite was Shanondoah’s dish, the Fesenjaan. This is also an Iranian special occasion dish, a rich stew of ground walnut and pomegranate syrup with chicken breast.
Really good, and I was having some dinner envy over here. Though I do feel like I would have really loved mine if it had been made with chicken and not lamb. Oh well, next time.
So that’s Iran! I was eyeing the dessert and we totally would have gone for it except people who actually had reservations needed our table. Oh well, we went to Menchie’s and that is always a good time.
Also, while the Pomegranate serves more home cooked Iranian food, next door you’ll find their sister restaurant, Sheherzade, which serves Iranian street food (a lot of kabobs). In four years when I am done eating the rest of the world I am going to have to go back for that.
Past eating the world adventures:
- Middle East (just an honourable mention because I still want to try to eat every country there)