After a pleasant Turkish dinner at Turquoise Grill in Houston last year, followed by countless shawarma lunches at a cheap cafe on Durant this semester, I figure I should venture eastward and attack Iran, with a fork. The first target is 5 blocks away: Alborz Restaurant.

    Take a look at the old menu to get an idea, but there are more items on the real menu, and the actual price is roughly two times higher. Being carnivorous as I am, I couldn’t resist the sound of a lamb shank with baghali polo (green rice with dill and lima beans) (pictured above). Ignorant me, I didn’t know the lamb shank was so little. It’s just about the size of a big turkey leg. Slow cooked in a vegetable stew, it’s more tender than deep fried turkey (which I had for an early Thanksgiving dinner). According to the far-eastern tongue, the stew fell short by at least a teaspoon of sodium chloride and a tablespoon of sucrose, per lamb shank. The polo (basmati rice), however, tastes slightly salty. It makes a dish alone. Each grain is slender and bare, the miniscule fibrous texture is simply lovely.

    Mudpie got the better dish of the two: chicken fesenjoon (chicken in pomegranate-walnut stew), also served with basmati rice. I should mention that on every table there’s a jar of filled with mysterious maroon sumac powder, that looks most like some kind of aromatic sand accompanying a Yankee candle, and tastes somewhat like the pomegranate sauce. (We asked the waiter, but we couldn’t understand his answer, so we just nodded to make him happy. We finally found its name online.) Pomegranates grow well in hot, desiccant climate, (the grocery stores here were flooded with them last summer during the drought), is that why it is the central condiment in the Middle East? It can be quite acrid, but in moderation the pomegranate sauce gives a tinkling delight. Come on, FritoLay, what are you waiting for? Make this flavor.

    Dinner for two: $35 (with tax and before tip). The interior bathes in cozy light and delicate atmosphere, with white table cloth and well-dressed customers. The pita bread for appetizer was plenty, but of low quality. 3.5 stars for presentation, 2 stars for food. We ended the night with a bratwurst to fill up the salt quota.

    Address: (not to be confused with the one in Texas or the one in Del Mar)
    Alborz Restaurant
    2142 Center Street
    Berkeley, CA 94704

    Alborz in San Francisco on Fooddigger

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