Takeout Quickie: Persian Food from Zeitoon (West End)

My downtown Persian standby had been Cazba on Davie and Thurlow, but someone recommended that I try Zeitoon on Pendrell near Denman. So after a lunch at Che-licious around the corner, I got some takeout from Zeitoon for dinner. Our food ranged from good to incredibly awesome, so we’ll be back!

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Their menu is available online. What’s great is that they have daily specials where some dishes are ~$2 off. They also offer free delivery, which I just might take advantage of to get food sent to my office before I head home :).

I thought this was funny: the front of house was staffed that day by two Korean girls. I guess it made sense because there’s lots of Korean students in the West End, but I was a bit surprised and amused at how warmly they were being greeted by the Persian clients. Korean and Persian are two cultures with a very strong sense of pride and cultural identity, and it was refreshing to see these people coming together in a way that was heartwarming.

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I love that sumac. It’s essential for Persian food. I love its zingy, citrusy quality. Portland Craft used to do potato chips with sumac, it was great. Might be good on popcorn too…

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For some reason, I felt like asking the people there if I could take pictures of the food plated up before getting it packed up to go. They happily obliged! 😀 This was the Saffron Rice. From eating Persian food around town (especially in North Van), I get the feeling that Persians really pride themselves on rice. It’s almost like the star, and they always give such huge servings of it. It’s always light ‘n fluffy, with separated grains. Zeitoon seems to be a bit more generous with the saffron-flavoured rice than other places ;).

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Mirza Qassemi (roasted eggplant, garlic, herbs, mint). This was our first time trying this eggplant dip. If we get eggplant, it’s usually the Kashkeh Bademjoon, which is deep fried eggplant mashed up with sauteed onions. This dish was more tomatoey in flavour, almost to the point of losing the eggplant. Smokiness was on the mild side — I wish it was smokier. Wicca wasn’t a fan but I didn’t mind, although it tasted a little plain to me, especially next to:

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Ghormeh Sabzi Stew, with really tender, falling-apart beef chunks, red kidney beans, and dried lime (limu omani). The base is a whole whack of herbs cooked down into a stew. It’s like using herbs like vegetables! At its best, it’s a magical dish with depth, flavour and punch. This rendition was great but not the best that I’ve had. We used to get ghormeh sabzi from Cazba downtown and it was indeed magical but the last time was uncharacteristically bland and awful, so that’s part of the reason why I wanted to try Zeitoon. I’d have no problems ordering this version again. It’s so good poured over rice, eaten with pita/sangak/barbari/taftoon, or even tadig/tahdeeg (the crunchy bottom-of-the-pot rice).

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One order of Barg (skewer of marinated Top Sirloin) and one order of Lamb Soltani served on one plate. Lamb Soltani is a combo of lamb chops and koobideh (ground beef kabob). There’s pita bread underneath to soak up the wonderful meat juices :D. The plating is simple and not fussy, but looks fantastic, and is even regal in it’s own way.

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Wicca really enjoyed her barg. Juicy, tender and flavourful. She likes her beef well-done (ack!) but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked how I like my barg to be cooked, but luckily it was still juicy without being pink inside.

My lamb chops (Zeitoon calls them bone-in rack of lamb) were good, about medium-well, tender, and subtly seasoned. And we both love those charred/grilled tomatoes! Even though the skin got blackened, it still tasted wonderful. It’s like you can char tomatoes but they never taste bitter.

But what blew both of us away was the koobideh! We’ve never had ground meat kabobs that were so JUICY and flavourful before! They’re usually drier and a bit too oniony for us, but Zeitoon’s koobideh was seasoned in a way that is hard to describe but incredible to eat. Definitely getting a full order of koobideh next time! That Persian pride is coming through strong in this food. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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This is my idea of paradise. A relaxing dinner at home in front of the computer, watching various food shows while drinking craft beer and eating kick ass takeout.

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