A magic carpet ride for your mouth
Part café, part grocery store and part library, Persian Market is an oasis of Persian culture. A banal strip mall exterior gives little indication of the world inside; but when you open the door, things change. If you happen to read Farsi, help yourself to the pile of books by the door. If you’ve been wondering about Turkish delight ever since you read The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, you’ll find it on the shelves. (Turkey was conquered by Persian forces during the fifth and sixth centuries.) If you’re wondering what you might concoct with the gallon-bag of dried limes that’s for sale, take a seat and order a plate of khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi, a soupy dish of parsley, leeks and fenugreek fried with red kidney beans and dried limes.
All five of the dishes on Persian Market’s café menu come with salad-e shirazi—a salad of cucumber, mint, dill, onion and lemon juice—and a mountain of basmati rice. A sour, purple powder (ground sumac berry) waits in a shaker to be sprinkled at your discretion.
The menu is small because owner Nakisa Odell is a perfectionist. She says she refuses to serve anything below her standards—and her small space doesn’t allow for the volume necessary to justify a large menu. The portions, priced like tapas, would comfortably feed a person with a light appetite.
The meats served at Persian Market are “natural,” from Keller’s, and Odell says she seeks out ingredients that are as minimally processed and pure as possible. There are two beef kebabs on the menu: a large skewer of ground beef and a smaller kebab of marinated hunks. Both are tasty on their own—and they’re spectacular when dipped in the aforementioned khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi.
Odell calls you “luv,” and she’s eager to inform you of all things Persian and help you pick out the right dish.
The most intriguing and delicious menu item for me was the khoresh-e fesenjan, a paste of walnuts and pomegranate. It went very well with the chicken kebab, which was marinated in citrus and arrived at the table a bright yellow, colored with saffron.
I had pulled a bottle of sour grape juice from the store shelf that I intended to drink, but Odell warned me that it’s intended only for cooking—too sour for slurping. “It’ll drop your blood pressure,” she commented.
“Sour food does that,” she said matter-of-factly.
But she brought me a glass anyway because I’m stubborn. My face curled up and it did, indeed, feel like my blood pressure hit the floor. I switched to iced green tea instead, sweetened with honey.
Even if you’re there for a sit-down meal, the Persian knickknacks and groceries for sale—pickled eggplant, halva and other candies, spices, and ready-made meals—add interest to the surroundings. As does Odell’s daughter, quietly at play behind the counter. The space is adorned with Persian art, some of which is for sale.
Glasses of water come without ice, which is supposed to be good for you, according to Ayurvedic principals (“cold water disrupts the digestive power”). Although Ayurveda comes from India, not Persia, it’s clear that Odell is on a similar page in terms of the attention she pays to the health implications of what she serves and how she serves it.
Speaking of the service, it’s quick. Odell calls you “luv,” and she’s eager to inform you of all things Persian and help you pick out the right dish.
The extra health points you earn by drinking your water without ice will come in handy if you still have room for dessert. There are quarts of rose-
• Khoresh-e fesenjan
• Chicken kebab
• Persian ice cream
Persian Market • 5017 Menaul NE • 883-0013
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Price range: $7.95 ( khoresh-e fesenjan ) to $10.95 (beef kebab)
Ambience: Like home, if you’re from Iran
Credit cards: Accepted