Alborz Persian Cuisine in Walnut Creek

by foodhoe on October 24, 2011

1829 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Walnut Creek, CA| 925.944.9009 | website


I have been listening to the audiobook Blood of Flowers, an enchanting novel set in 17th-century Persia, which introduces us to far away lands in which a spirited young country girl struggles to find her place in a harsh world.  It is narrated by Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, the gravelly voiced actress who is best known as Dina Araz from Season 4 of the highly improbable but mesmerizing Fox television show 24.  Using traditional storytelling conventions, the author weaves tales of real and imaginary Iranian and Islamic fairy tales throughout the engrossing story and I was entranced by the wonderful descriptions of Persian meals, perfumed gardens and the bathhouses known as  hammams, whose rich traditions rival the Japanese onsen.  So obsessed was I, that the sign for a Persian restaurant called Alborz in Walnut Creek caught my eye recently, where I was able to explore some of the traditional dishes of Iran. The capital city of Tehran sits on a plain at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, which is the restaurant’s namesake.  Did you know that Iran is home to the world’s best saffron and caviar?   The first time I entered the restaurant, I noticed this interesting contraption covered with beautiful tiles from which waves of heat are generated from the smoldering flames within.

You can see a mound of bread dough on the counter and the woman who greeted me allowed me to take a closer look inside.  It is the oven where they cook the delectable flatbread that is served as an appetizer.

I sat in the lovely covered patio area and perused the menu which features a variety of traditional dishes such as kebabs or house special stews served with impossibly fluffy long grain rice.  I was interested to learn that fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins, nuts are used in stews and sauces along with fragrant spices such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and sumac which are added to balance out the flavors.

I was served a basket full of the flatbread which is kept warm in a crisp white cloth.  It came with a  plate of sliced onions that were dusted with sumac and parsley, along with foil wrapped pats of butter which are meant for the rice that is served later.

I ordered a bowl of the yogurt sauce called Mast o Musir ($4.50), which is mixed with crushed elephant garlic and cubes of cucumber.  I love this cool tangy sauce drizzled over everything!

I always like to order a combo plate of appetizers when I see it on the menu because you get to sample a little bit of everything.  Here it included feta cheese, olives, slices of tomato and cucumber, walnuts and piles of fresh herbs like basil, mint, cilantro and chives. The kashk bodemjan pictured in the front left, is made with layers of roasted eggplant flavored with spices, drizzled with yogurt and topped with fried onions, crunchy pine nuts and herbs.

On the other end of the platter were housemade dolma and a slice of koo koo sabzi, which is like frittata made from finely chopped herbs, egg and walnut baked in olive oil.

The dolma are obviously freshly made, the grape leaf wrap was chewy and enclosed a savory mixture of long grain rice, lentils and nuts and beef.  It was noticeably not greasy and had an exquisite flavor, really the best version I’ve ever had!  This plate would be good shared as an appetizer or a fabulous lunch on its own.

Tah Dig is a speciality of Iranian cuisine consisting of crisp rice taken from the bottom of the pot in which the rice is cooked. The name comes from a Persian word meaning “bottom of the pot”. You can order it as an appetizer ($5.50) topped with one of the stews, I chose Ghorme Sabzi which is made with finely chopped scallions, parsley, and chives with kidney beans and lamb shank.  It wasn’t the thick crunchy crust I was expecting but rather a thin chewy layer and the stew was surprisingly tart with a thin brothy texture.

I had to try the Fesenjoon ($11.95), a house specialty made with pomegranate sauce simmered with crushed walnuts and mini meatballs.  My server recommended the meatballs over the chicken breast, which were savory and delicious.  I’m glad I listened to her because the sauce was really very sweet but went well with the meatballs.

It was served with chelow, parboiled and steamed rice topped with saffron rice.  This was an excellent vehicle for the intense sweet and sour stew along with the savory meatballs.

The Koobideh Kebab is made from ground beef and mixed with a variety of spices, served here with Salad ($10.95).   The kebab was juicy throughout with a satisfyingly charred exterior that went really nicely with the yogurt sauce wrapped up in the bread with some of the sliced onions.  The salad was dressed in an excellent vinaigrette.

The entrance to the restaurant is flanked by bushes of fragrant rosemary which I had to squeeze through to open my car door.  It left me awash in the resiny aroma of rosemary…  a lovely reminder of a lovely meal which lingered on through the afternoon!

There are a couple of other locations, one on Van Ness in San Francisco and another one in Berkeley.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa October 24, 2011 at 10:43 am

The food looks so scrummy! I adore Middle Eastern dishes.

Cheers,

Rosa

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Cookie October 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

YUM! I LOVE Persian Cuisine and cucumber yogurt sauce is the best!

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Cathy October 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm

We have a place called Alborz in San Diego, but ‘your’ location looks better- I love Tah Dig

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Ben October 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I’ve always been intrigued by Iranian cuisine too. Persia sounds so exotic, and I knew the best saffron comes from there. It’s just too bad today’s political environment in Iran makes it difficult to get them here. The food you tried looks a lot like Greek food.

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grace October 28, 2011 at 1:54 am

it frustrates me that i can’t pronounce most of the words for items on a middle eastern menu, but that doesn’t stop me from ordering–i love that cuisine!

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