Friday, May 28, 2010

Shaherzad

When I first moved to LA, my palate was far from adventurous. As a picky eater, I was terrified to branch out of my comfort zone and try any of the vast array of unfamiliar cuisines presented to me by the city.

My first trip to Shaherzad, however, marked a turning point in my attitude towards and appreciation for food and was one of the first places I uttered the brave words, "I'll try it." As such, the Persian restaurant in Westwood remains one of my favorite go-to dinner spots.

Shaherzad

Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of an ethnic restaurant's authenticity is whether or not people of the same ethnicity bother to eat there. Shaherzad passes this test with flying colors. During every visit, without fail, the mid-sized restaurant is packed with customers, many of whom are Persian, enjoying their stews, kabobs and meat plates.

Dinner begins with hot, fresh-baked flatbread. The basket presents a delicious mix of pieces of bread that are fluffy and chewy and ones that are crunchy. With the refills continuously placed within snacking radius, it is almost impossible to not overload on this carb-y goodness.

Fresh bread @ Shaherzad

Because this was my friend's first experience with Persian food, we ordered the combination of appetizers (#11, $11.95), which includes olivieh salad (chicken and potato salad with pickles and sweet peas), kashk bademjan (seasoned eggplant with yogurt sauce, sauteed onion and mint), dolmeh (grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice) and cotelette (ground chicken and potato cutlet).

Although J and I usually pass on this enormous appetizer combination when we dine by ourselves, any Persian food or Shaherzad newbie should give it a try. Every individual dish is delicious and, hey, that's what to-go boxes are for, right?

Combination of Appetizers (#11) @ Shaherzad

Although I frequently visit Shaherzad with a firm resolve to try a new entree, the bademjan (baked eggplant cooked in tomato sauce, #32, $13.95) is too delicious to pass up. The dish is available with veal, chicken or vegetables, but I recommend the lamb, which is tender and, with its mild flavor, plays nicely off the tang of the tomato sauce. Served with a large plate of rice (see photo below), this savory and hearty dish is the meal that keeps on giving; I usually get dinner, another meal and a snack out of this.

Bademjan @ Shaherzad

On this night, J was feeling more adventurous than I and did branch out, trying the fesenjan (chicken stew with sauteed, ground walnuts in pomegranate sauce, #35, $13.95). Although he enjoyed the first few bites of this stew, the sweet, tangy pomegranate flavor soon became overwhelming, and he began to eat more rice than stew with each bite (and steal bites of mine).

Fesenjan @ Shaherzad

For its delicious dishes served in behemoth portions and for inspiring my present-day love of and appreciation for food, Shaherzad is always at the top of my dinner list.

Shaherzad
1422 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 470-3242

Shaherzad Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Shaherzad in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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