This is refined, amazingly complex, and authentic Persian food that tastes like it came from a favorite grandmother's table
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 1, 2010
Mon.-Sat., 11am-10pm; Sun., noon-8pm
Pars Deli8820 Burnet Rd. #502, 452-4888
Monday-Saturday, 9am-8pm; Sunday, noon-5pm
Pars is the ancient native word for Persia, and it reflects the menu at Pars Deli. Run for years by Sam Roostaie and his wife, Kobra Kadfhar (who are among the friendliest restaurateurs in town), the restaurant has a menu that is solidly Persian, with an assortment of Mediterranean standards thrown in for the less adventurous. When I was researching the restaurant, I saw a few negative comments online, but after eating there again, I realized these detractors were simply the unenlightened who had eaten there expecting a run-of-the-mill Middle Eastern diner. After sampling almost the whole menu, I couldn't have been happier with the Persian dishes or the Mediterranean food; everything was superb, and you could tell it had been cooked with love.
We started with hummus ($4.49 as a plate), and it was amazingly good: nutty and subtly garlicky. "We cook it from scratch, using dried garbanzos and roasted garlic," said Roostaie. The baba ghanoush ($4.49) was equally fantastic: smoky and rich and topped with chopped toasted walnuts. The tabbouleh ($3.49) is a perfect example of their craft. What is normally a throwaway dish drenched in olive oil, is, at Pars, light, fluffy, tart, herbal, and perfect, with the slightest kiss of oil. Pars' pomegranate soup ($4.99) delighted, as it was complex and rich, made from a mix of five small beans with herbs and bulgur, and had the underlying fruity tartness of pomegranate. These are new flavors to my tongue, and my tongue is happy.
We had a kebab combo of chicken and ground beef ($8.49) served with grilled onions and tomatoes: The chicken was marinated in saffron and yogurt and grilled to moist perfection, and the juicy and tender ground beef was complexly seasoned. Both were incredible in a pita with some yogurt, onion, and dill tzatziki sauce. Our zereshk polow plate ($8.49) was a myriad of great tastes: The fall-apart tender chicken is served separately in rich herbal gravy and accompanied by an artistic saffron rice platter adorned with onions, barberries, almonds, and pistachios; together, they are heavenly. Bademjon ($8.49) is a rich, garlicky, and smoky eggplant stew with whole lentils, beef chunks, and subtle herbs and spices. We followed that with a lightly dressed Greek salad ($3.49) of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, and a thick topping of feta cheese.
We tried the Mediterranean potatoes ($2), roasted new potatoes lightly dressed with olive oil and seven herbs; they were moist, rich, and light, and so much better than fries. We sampled the lentil soup ($2.99), which was deceptively simple at first taste but more complex and detailed with every subsequent spoonful. If there is one dish you must try, it is fesenjon ($9.49), a bowl of the most incredibly rich stew of pomegranate and walnuts with fork-tender chicken, served with a saffron rice platter. We also sampled the sabzi ($9.49), which is chunks of steak stewed with herbs, kidney beans, and dried limes – rich, layered, and tart, and ideal with saffron rice. Our spinach pie ($1.99) featured layered, flaky, homemade pastry surrounding a nice spinach and potato filling; dip it in the tzatziki sauce! We couldn't leave without trying the lamb shank ($12.49), a bowl of unctuous shanks swimming in a rich saffron sauce that had the taste of hours of reduction; every nibble was engulfed, especially when combined with the saffron dill rice with baby lima beans.
We paired this feast with the complimentary spiced tea and some of Pars' special rose tea, both of which pair nicely with the food. Food like this is a rare treat not to be missed. We seemed to be the only table that the owners didn't know by name. Pars Deli has a very loyal following for a very good reason: This is refined, amazingly complex, and authentic Persian food that tastes like it came from a favorite grandmother's table.