AnAr Restaurant at President Plaza Foodcourt, Richmond

When Ben and I were having our evening walk, we found a new Persian restaurant in the President Plaza Foodcourt.

I remembered Minoo had just mentioned to me about a Persian restaurant in a Chinese mall on Cambie Street that she would like to introduce to me before we stumbled upon this place. This must be it. According to Minoo, this restaurant is run by a brother and sister.

Ben and I shared a Kubideh which the owner told us is a skewer made with a combination of minced beef and lamb. It was a generous helping with grilled tomatoes and salad. It was the end of the day and we paid the $11 dollar dish with a $20 note. The owner gave us a change of $10 because she did not have small change and neither do us. She said it’s ok. But, we returned the next day with the family as I know Nanzaro loves Persian food. I paid her the $1 that I owed her the next day.

Nanzaro had the same dish. He loves it. (more…)

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Darya Persian Restaurant on Pendrell and Denman, Vancouver

Updated 19th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Of late, Suanne and I had been trying to make our dining out a learning experience.  This all started from our gastronomic tour of Spain. In the tour, we had taken on an entirely new perspective of food. We had come to appreciate the origin of the cuisine and how it had evolved over the years — stories behind food.

Growing up, we carried the view that Chinese cooking is supreme in the culinary world. We thought it had by far the widest variety and the longest history. Even the culture of the Chinese people are centered around food … i.e. the Chinese celebrate the new year, birth, marriage, birthday by banqueting. Why, even at a funeral, food is part of the ceremony. Fasting? Virtually unheard of.

So we were intrigued by cultures which has a long history in the area of culinary arts. The more we read about them, the more we wanted to find out more. One of them is the Persian cuisine. In the learning process, we understood the pride that Iranians have in the rich heritage of their cuisine.

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Suanne and I arranged to meet up with Mohammad and his lovely wife, Ilham. I asked that he recommend his favourite Persian restaurant. Being such an overly considerate person that I had known him to be, he suggested one place that is the most convenient for us … in downtown Vancouver instead of North Vancouver where the best of Persian restaurants are situated.

We met in the Darya Restaurant. Darya is located on a side street called Pendrell, just off busy restaurant row of Denman. The location of Darya is somewhat hidden and you will most certainly miss it unless you drive into Pendrell from Denman.

One tip about parking here … you know how difficult it is to get parking around the West End. Now, if you could not find a parking spot, you can actually go in and ask the owner and he will let you have the keys to the car park underground.

Darya labeled themselves as a Persian AND Mediterranean restaurant. This is quite common practice for Persian restaurants in Vancouver because not a lot of people understand and appreciate pure Persian cuisine. So to broaden the appeal to western customers, some Persian restaurants tag on the “and Mediterranean” label to the name. I felt it is unfortunate because the Persian cuisine is one of the richest and oldest in the world.

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Darya is a very clean and pleasant restaurant. It is a self-service restaurant where most customers order and pay at the till. When we were there, we did not even had to order at the counter. Instead, the owner asked us to get seated and came by to take our orders.

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We started the meal with some appetizers. We got something called Dolmeh Grape Leaves ($10). It is leaves wrapped with rice. We get a choice of hummus or salad.

There are many variants of Dolmeh with a lot of regional differences. This is a simple dish and is stuffed with rice. It is served cold and taste-wise, it is sourish.

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The other appetizer is called Mirza Ghasemi ($9) which is an appetizer unique to North Iran. North Iran has the richest in culinary history and the region is rich in food produce.

Mirza Ghasemi is smoked eggplants, tomatoes, garlic & onions sauteed in extra virgin olive oil.

Suanne and I did not understand this part where it says “sauteed in extra virgin olive oil”. There are many types of olive oil for different purposes. For all we know, extra virgin olive oil is meant to be used for salad and for dipping. We thought that one should never use extra virgin olive oil for cooking because it burns easily.

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The Mirza Ghasemi was really delicious eaten with the pita bread … and a healthy appetizer too.

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The Baghali Polo Mahicheh … oh man, this dish is awesome.

I would just call this the Lamb Shank Rice but Mohammad was saying that it is not just any rice. It is basmati rice with fava beans. When he said that it just dawned on me that Persians take a lot of pride in preparing their rice. I learned that there are many ways that rice are prepared and many of them involve a complex process.

For the Chinese who eats a lot of rice, cooking the rice is a simple affair and often it is the only no-frill items on the table. Not in the Persian Cuisine. The rice must be perfect. I remember Kazem (an Iranian friend at work) used to tell me that rice used to be a food for the privileged and for special occasions. As such a great deal of care is placed in making it perfect. I remember I was quite amused when Kazem told me that in Iran, a prospective daughter-in-law is often judged by her ability to make the perfect rice (and tea).

I like the flavour, fluffiness and texture of the rice. It is not starchy like those in East Asia. As much as I thought this was perfect, Ilham complained that there were … (more…)

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Kash Cool Restaurant in North Vancouver

Updated: 17th Feb 2011: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Hi All: I wanted to let you know that I had feedback from a few readers (Iranian and also non-Iranian) that some of the comments I had made on this post is generalizing, disrespectful and particularly hurtful. I had considered the feedback and re-read carefully what I had written. I do agree that some of the words were totally misplaced and that it could be interpreted as disrespectful, particularly to the Iranian community. For that I do sincerely apologize to each and everyone of you who felt offended. I want to admit that I had been insensitive in the poor choice of words used. It is very important to me (Ben) that I set things right. As such, I had made amendments to this blog entry by removing those words. Again my sincere apology!

If there is one major cuisine that I have never tried before, it is Persian cuisine. This is despite that there is actually quite a large Iranian community here in Vancouver, particularly in North Vancouver. My personal impression about Iranians in Vancouver is that they are either very rich or that they are great Java programmers. LOL! This is because ALL of the leads programmers (I had three of them!) I had on my project teams were Iranians.

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There was this day when I had to go the North Shore, I thought I should take the opportunity to try out Persian food … and I wanted to have real, authentic Iranian Cuisine. So, I asked Kazem who works in my company for a recommendation. Without any hesitation … he said Kash Cool.

Kash Cool is located on Pemberton in North Vancouver. Even though I have not been to North Van for, oh, 5 years already, it was easy to find Kash Cool. We met up with Angie (of Sea Salt With Food) and her kids for lunch here.

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Before I went, I asked Kazem for recommendations since the only Persian food I know of is Lubria Polo which Suanne had blogged before. Kazem was giving me names that simply confuses me. So, I got him to write down his recommendation on a piece of paper for me to bring to the restaurant.

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Kash Cool does seem very authentic. They have a little fish pond right in the middle of the dining room. I find it kind of cool since most restaurant will maximize the floor space with dining tables. I later learned that having a pool with red fishes are very common in Iranian home’s front courtyard.

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Kazem told me that the owner decorated the entire place himself. There are a lot of large painting and sculptures everywhere. I find that very impressive and does think that the owner sure had an artistic flare in him.

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I also noticed there were quite a number of pillars. I think they are mainly for aesthetic purposes. I later found out that pillars are core elements of the Persian architecture.

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I had to ask them why the name Kash Cool. I teased the friendly wait staff if they love money because of the name. She chuckled and told me that Kash Cool is the name of a dish.

We were the only Chinese looking customers there. I initially feared that I might have problems ordering. However, they were extremely helpful and could see that we are unfamiliar with the menu.

However, I also felt uneasy about being pushed. I felt there were an certain unnecessary degree of hardselling. It was when I ordered ONE chicken and ONE lamb and they will repeat TWO chicken and TWO lamb. I then repeated ONE … and they repeated TWO … this went back and forth for like five times. LOL! It sure made me uneasy, awkward and embarrassed especially when I had friends there too. (more…)

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