Sunday, October 02, 2005

Caspian Cafe
(review, sorta but not!)
1120 Fulton Ave at Larkspur
Persian and Greek Cuisine
Take out and catering available.
Lunch and dinner. Cash and major credit cards accepted.
Wine and beer sold on premises.

It was a little past midday when I met my friend Esther at Caspian Café, I had just relieved myself of damage control gym duty, and she had apparently just ridden a mini bike marathon (also damage control for the amount of calories we were about to consume) with FOK (friend of the knitters) Alex.
Akbar and Miriam were busy preparing for a private party to be held that evening, but that did not stop them from being kind and hospitable to our humble party of two.
We chose a table near the kitchen, I, always enjoy almost peering in to see what is going on, to almost oversee the cooks as they work, as I love preparing meals so much myself!
Miriam looked at the menus I had redesigned for the place and she was overjoyed.... she was beaming as she took our drink order....almost disappointed we stopped at water. Well, I had a lot of vino yesterday, and really, I like Middle Eastern food so much, I eat a lot of it, so I don't need the alcohol with. :)
I asked Miriam sweetly if she could make me the tahdig. I knew it took more time, but I honestly have been craving this dish for a year now, as there is NOWHERE in Ohio to get it.
Tahdig is a Persian rice dish. Commonly served as an appetizer. The rice is cooked and then cooked again for a long amount of time in a pot lined with butter, so that the bottom gets very golden brown and crispy. Then the rice is turned out of the pot, the loose rice is mixed with a little saffron and then fluffed in with the rice from the bottom of the pot. Then "Gormeh Sabzi" is spooned on the top of the rice mixture. Gormeh Sabzi can be served as an entree by itself, as it is a hearty stew with chunks of beef and kidney beans, flavored with persian spices, and dried lime. And that was just one of the appetizers we had....WHICH WAS NOT ON THE MENU... but now is, as I told her she was crazy not to include it! If enough people tried this, there would be no shortage of customers, bad location or no....
Es and I also decided on the hummus platter, as her eyes landed on it on the appetizer portion as something she recognized, and I had tasted it a few days ago and new it was very good, and would come to the table while we were waiting on the Tahdig.
Miriam brought out our water and then an oval platter about nine or ten inches across spread with the classic garbanzo bean, olive oil, & tahini spread, here kissed with a green and black olive, drizzled with extra EVOO, and sprinkled with crushed saffron.
The platter was accompanied by eight to ten triangles of warm pita bread in a basket. We were ready to dig in.
Nearly as soon as we polished off most of the hummus platter, Miriam brought out the Tahdig that Akbar has so dearly labored over. I was forever grateful as I took the first bite and enthusiastically waited for Esther to try it. It was served on 12"round plate, and as stated, topped with gormeh sabzi--am thinking spinach and parsley are the greens used, Esther suspected even a little grape leaves were used, along with the common, yet very essential taste of the dried lime.
Miriam returned to our table to get our entree order.... Esther and I decided we would eat family style. I ordered the Fesanjoon, and she ordered the Ghameh Bademjoon.
As we finished the rest of the Tahdig, Miriam returned to fill our water and give us our rice platter (can you believe we had any room for the entree?) that comes with the entrees. Then one by one, she brought out the Ghameh Bademjoon (this was a dish with medium chunks of beef, large slices of eggplant, pieces of roasted tomato, white beans, and flavored with a little saffron. Then she brought out the Fesanjoon (I'm a loon for Fesanjoon) Stewed Chicken with pomegranate and walnut sauce....OMG... both entrees were served in medium to large size bowls, and meant to be spooned over and eaten with the saffron rice on the platters. Esther and I both agreed that both meals were delicious, but we both favored the Fesanjoon, it had a much sweeter flavor (the pomegranate syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg to blame!!). We stopped a little over halfway, and asked for boxes. This meal was meant to be enjoyed over two days.... and we were both stuffed, honestly.
Yes, I suppose Persian food is not light in any sense of the word, but it is getting later in the year and I am really hoping this place stays open so I can come in from the colder temperatures and enjoy the stew-like dishes either there with friends or carry it across the street back to my office. That's probably the best thing of all for me, is that it is literally across the street from where I work. I know that next time I will be having the Zereshk Polo... a dish I have had at Famous Kabob... chicken with saffron and currants. Another "sweeter" dish to come.
I graciously thanked Miriam and she and her husband thanked me in return. I am finishing their takeout menus tomorrow, and would like to have their sit down menus done by the middle of this week. Now, I seem to be on a mission. I am like, "why does no one know about this place?"


ammmmmanda said...

I am going to have to try this place! I haven't ever had Persian food and your description sounds awesome.

kristy said...

cool. I am putting up coupons for the place on the web site this evening. be sure to check em out, and print em out and use them if you are going to dine with a friend.