Friday, August 08, 2014

From Iran With Love

Anar in San FranciscoIranian food continues to be called Persian in the United States; not sure if this is the Freedom Fries phenomenon at work! Iran’s ancient culture dates as far back as 2000 BC, sharing borders with then Indian territories. Just going by the names of culinary ingredients and food alone, I can see some influence of India and Iranian influences in each others' cuisine.  Sabzi, shorba, chai, sherbat, dopiazah, koofteh, and lobia are words that mean the same thing in both Persian and Hindi. While India discovered the fragrant rice dishes garnished with dry fruits, Persia took back spicy curry recipes that influence its stews to this date.

Anar means pomegranate in both Iran and India, and this is the name of the newest Iranian restaurant to open its doors in San Francisco. Family run and located in a rather odd spot in SoMa, the restaurant does a fantastic job of bringing the real flavours and tastes of traditional dishes to life.

Anar in San Francisco

The restaurant itself is kept simple. Warm tones, white tablecloth and decor that incorporates Iranian artefacts, Persian calligraphy and, of course, pomegranate. The two waitresses who attended to me were probably sisters and part of the family too.  Service was warm and efficient throughout.

Kashk-e Badamjan at Anar in San Francisco

I decided to begin with a glass of Doogh, a yogurt drink very similar to the Indian lassi. The doogh was freshly whisked, thick and tasted of mint.  My appetiser of Kashk-e Bademjan came quickly.  Made of roasted eggplant and garnished with sun-dried yogurt sautéed onion, roasted garlic, mint flakes and saffron, this dish is a variation of the Indian baingan bharta.  I loved the dish and polished it off with the thin Persian breads that accompanied this dish.

Koobideh Kabob at Anar in San Francisco

The Koobideh Kabab came next.  Large, succulent kakabs made of beef and lamb mince with saffron seasoning and served with fragrant butter rice and grilled tomato.  This dish is a favourite and was cooked absolutely perfectly.  The kabob was soft and the rice just lovely!

Irani Chai at Anar in San Francisco

I had no space for dessert after that large lunch, but decided to stay on and have a cup of Irani chai.  The black tea was served in a traditional glass cup with a date.  A perfect end to a traditional Iranian lunch.

Anar is a wonderful place for lovers of Persian food.  Moderate prices and traditional cooking coupled with warm service makes this a must-try for foodies looking for something new in San Francisco.

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