Cafe Renaissance

On a Saturday evening what would you want for dinner? Sure, I could stay in, fry an egg, heat up a can of corn and call it a meal, or order pizza, or go to a hamburger place in town just to say I go out every now and then, but would that really worth a Saturday evening? As usual, we use Citysearch to find new places. Chinese, Indian, Mexican, American, and Thai never make it to my list. Nothing against them, they’re just a bit too… usual. I’ll admit I can hardly distinguish enchilada from quesadilla (without looking them up on Wikipedia), because I don’t even remember when was the last time I ate something Mexican. I also can’t think of any Indian dishes other than curry and naan, because I’ve hardly had anything else remotely Indian. So those food definitely aren’t usual to me, but they are the usual options you get when someone takes you out to eat. Next in line boarding boredom plane is Italian. Tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, that’s about it, right?
5pm. We opt for Persian tonight.

Greeting us is an Asian lady. (By this point I would no longer be surprised if someone told me Californian meant Asian.) The door is kept opened, warm (no AC, of course) and welcoming (a dog almost ventures into the place had his owner not yanked him out). We choose a tiny table in the corner, looking out through the glass walls to the slow afternoon street. The menu is neatly placed on the front door, so we go in quickly placing our orders. Pomegranate chicken (khoresh-e fesenjan) and souffle (kuku-ye sabzi) we get.
The chicken comes with rice and a big plate of salad. The souffle comes with a tuft of salad and no rice, but a few dolmas. What is the white sauce on top of the dolmas? Please tell me if you know.

Does she arrange the smiley face on purpose? 🙂
This is the first time I have dolma. I later find out the leaves are grape leaves, and I taste something like mung bean and sticky rice in the roll, but other than that I can’t dissect the ingredients of a dolma. The grape leaves give a zing on the tongue, a little too tart, like a lime clinging tight to your taste buds. Hard to explain, it’s just a tight taste. The stuffing is mild, but not too plain. Next time eating dolmas I’d discard the leaves and go for the stuffing.

The souffle is much kinder to the taste buds. It’s like eating a veggie pudding. It tastes veggie and soft. I like how menus in America have detailed description of the dishes. I wouldn’t have been able to tell what was there otherwise.

What about the chicken?

It looks nothing like a dolma, not even close in colors, but it tastes like a dolma, only a degree higher of tart tightness. Is pomegranate related to grape?
My tongue curls and shrivels at the touch of the sauce, but it enjoys the tender, juicy, flavorful chicken meat under. I can handle only a few bites before giving the chicken to Mudpie, who is a fan of the sauce. Carnivore I may be, but plain ole souffle is a soothing delight.

For a little more than $15, we also get paper pita bread to warm up at the beginning and really caring service from the hostess throughout the whole meal. She thinks it is cute that we trade plates.

Address: Cafe Renaissance (Persian cuisine and American sandwiches)
321 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 321-6222

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