Recipe book writer Anissa Helou signed up with Los Angeles Times dining establishment doubter Costs Addison on a 2 1/2-day mission to consume at as most of the Persian dining establishments in the Los Angeles city as they could.

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Anissa Helou speared a charred, oblong piece of smoked donbalan-- Farsi for lamb testicle-- with her fork as well as considered her bite. The look and also appearance of the kebab looked like a flexible sea scallop, though the taste had a controlled gaminess, solidified by its great smoky sides. "It's prepared appropriately," Helou claimed. Then she included: "It's incredible to be consuming this meal in L.A."

We were having the 3rd of our day's 7 dishes-- 8 if you count a last quit for gelato-- at Attari Grill, an Iranian dining establishment in Westwood. The dining establishment is the lesser-known complement to prominent brother or sister Attari Sandwich Store; they deal with each various other throughout a yard where clients remain at tables shaded by vibrant umbrellas, and also they offer in a similar way grab-and-go foods and also weighty food selections. Yet just the Grill prepares donbalan.


Dining establishment doubter Expense Addison determines 7 current testimonials, from a carnitas food vehicle to a little Japanese marvel, that highlight the city's incredible eating society.

Helou is a Lebanese Syrian recipe book writer, based in Sicily, that has actually invested the last 20 years relentlessly taking a trip to investigate the cooking Center East and also its diaspora. In Might, she won a James Beard Honor for her 530-page magnum piece, "Banquet: Food of the Islamic Globe." The recipe at Attari astonished her due to the fact that the offal, while rather usual in the center East, is as well hardly ever offered in America in dining establishments of any kind of kind. It was a standout shock throughout our current self-assigned goal: to consume dishes at as a number of the Iranian dining establishments in the Los Angeles city as we might take care of in our 2 1/2 days with each other.


All informed, we made it to 18 locations.


(Parisa Parnian/ For The Times)
We both intended to much better understanding the city's Iranian American society by scaling hill after saffron-peaked hill of rice, learning every feasible floral stew as well as feasting on as several type of kebabs as we might discover. We looked at one of the most engaging suggestions from close friends as well as coworkers and also devoured passionate morning meals, lunches as well as suppers. Clear champs arised.

There were lots, otherwise hundreds, of choices to limit. Southern The golden state has the biggest Iranian populace outside Iran. Area approximates tally 300,000 to 500,000 Iranian American citizens in the area; the Demographics Bureau states Los Angeles is residence to 87,000 individuals of Iranian heritage.

Tehrangeles, as the Westwood-based area has actually long been nicknamed, started to materialize in the 1960s; it mushroomed with the novices that got away Iran in reaction to the nation's marking 1979 transformation. Both Attari dining establishments live on a block that obtained a main classification as "Persian Square" by Los Angeles in 2010, a recommendation of just how deep the neighborhood Iranian American origins have actually gotten to.


We never ever saw donbalan used once more. The majority of the food selections at the various other dining establishments we checked out-- in Westwood, Glendale, Irvine as well as Anaheim-- shared a particular similarity. Kebabs, offered with drifts of rice, predominate: lamb, beef, hen, generally a number of fish and shellfish options. Numerous stews show up repeatedly: moss-toned ghormeh sabzi (kidney beans as well as frequently lamb or beef simmered with dried out lime as well as six natural herbs), sweet-and-sour fesenjan (poultry in a sauce close walnuts as well as competing with pomegranate molasses) as well as gheymeh (a tumble of spiced tomato, beef as well as split yellow peas, with fried eggplant or a crown of deep-fried potatoes making constant looks). Dips of eggplant and also yogurt celebrity as appetisers, as does ash-e reshteh, an aromatic veggie noodle soup. Cucumbers as well as tomatoes control the salads.

Helou and also Iranian American food authors Andy Baraghani and also Naz Deravian all simplified my inquiry concerning the food selections' universality to the very same significance: The khoresh, or stew, is the fundament of Iranian residence food preparation, with unlimited person, seasonal as well as local variants; teams as well as family members often tend to pursue kebabs, as well as the recipes offered at the dining establishments are indicated to have extensive allure. (I have a lot more on the subject today in our complimentary doubters' e-newsletter, Sampling Notes; you can subscribe at


Mix the web pages of Najmieh Batmanglij's huge recipe book "Food preparation in Iran: Regional Recipes and also Kitchen Area Tricks"-- a 700-plus-page compendium of the food of Iran that she has actually grasped over the last 3 years-- and also you'll locate specific active ingredients went down like path pens.

Yet the extra Helou as well as I consumed, the a lot more unique every dining establishment came to be. We can recognize the exact flavoring of the meats (as well as do not have thereof), or the precise density of the yogurt dips, or the hoped-for weightlessness of the rice; extraordinary specializeds jumped bent on us.

When eating in restaurants, I often tend to take experiences at stated value and also collect context later on; Helou is the contrary. Regal and also enigmatic, yet likewise kind and also slyly naughty, she strikes a single existence. She has a remarkable head of undulating silver hair, like surges in a fish pond on a blistering day when the air over likewise twinkles in waves. She has lots of instant questions for proprietors and also web servers-- concerning just how much oil the cooking area makes use of for the crunchy rice, concerning where in Iran the proprietor is from as well as the length of time she's remained in America, concerning the appropriate uniformity of ab-goosht (a lot more on that particular later). Individuals easily address the concerns; her majestic, asking personality generally motivates a couple of inquiries of their very own.


Anissa Helou is a Lebanese Syrian recipe book writer based in Sicily. In May, she won a James Beard Honor for her recipe book "Banquet: Food of the Islamic Globe."
We remained in overall arrangement regarding the stalwarts that a lot of pleased us. One noninclusion might shock viewers: Raffi's Area in Glendale, a valued establishment for greater than 25 years, which neither people a lot delighted in. It was our initial quit, and also it was the very first time Helou came across the customized in regional Persian dining establishments that she does not remember from her journeys to Iran: ladling a couple of thick stews straight in addition to continent-shaped portions of tahdig, the valued snapping, caramelized layer of rice that creates at the end of the pot. "Why would certainly they do this?" she sobbed. "Taking pleasure in the clarity is the entire factor. It definitely damages the structure." We experienced stews spooned over tahdig all over we consumed. Her antipathy never ever yielded.

Permit me to present you to every Iranian house chef's trump card: the Persian rice stove, or what I passionately describe as my "rip off pot."

The joyous feeling of fellowship amongst the consumers did if the food preparation at Raffi's really did not wow us in general that day. "The large teams-- the uncles and also aunties, the several generations-- as well as it's definitely loaded on a Tuesday lunch," Helou stated. "We might primarily have actually remained in Iran." Observing exactly how these sanctuaries support neighborhood was as vital to us as the consuming: the energetic family members, the sensible older solo restaurants, the phonetic tunes of Farsi (and also often Armenian; Glendale particularly has a long-standing Iranian Armenian populace) frequently chiming with the dining-room.

With the fragrance of meats smoked over charcoal clinging to our garments, we rated our 5 favored regional Iranian dining establishments.

Preference of Tehran

The Tehran kebab plate unique consists of poultry, beef and also filet mignon kebabs. Rice, a residence salad as well as mast-o-khiar (yogurt combined with sliced cucumber and also mint) complete the spread.
"The top quality of the food preparation truly leapt significantly at the smaller sized dining establishments," Helou articulated as we completed our dish at this little six-table boîte concealed amongst a thicket of various other Iranian American coffee shops and also markets in Westwood. It was our grand ending after 2 1/2 days of consuming, however also with our overstuffed exhaustion we identified its prevalence.

Cook as well as proprietor Saghar Fanisalek matured in Shiraz, an old city in south-central Iran. She relocated to the united state in 2003 as well as initially operated at Shaherzad, among Westwood's longest-standing kebab homes; she opened up Preference of Tehran in 2013. Her food selection meddles modernist lavash covers and also renegade mixtures such as spiced lentil-quinoa salad with days as well as raisins, yet the heart of her food preparation lands directly in Iranian dining establishment customs: kebabs, rice and also dips, all performed with unusual skill.

Cook Saghar Fanisalek matured in Shiraz, Iran. She operated at Shaherzad in Westwood prior to opening up Preference of Tehran in 2013.
Koobideh kebabs-- an Iranian standard of ground meat formed with unique finger-width impressions-- were the relative typical Helou and also I got from dining establishment to dining establishment. The prototype at Preference of Tehran revealed a master's touch, the grated onion in the tender-singed beef included simply the ideal percentages, every bite vibrantly experienced. Very same for the still-rosy filet shish kebab and also the lemony smoked hen. Mast-o-khiar (yogurt blended with sliced cucumber and also mint) as well as mast-o-mousir (yogurt with shallot; fantastic with the cosy rice as well as kebabs) located a smooth tool, neither gluey neither watery thus several variations we ran into.

For a tight room, it supplied primo people-watching: a grandma doting on her 2 grandchildren while the mommy dispersed plates of poultry; a straight-backed male meticulously making up well balanced forkfuls of smoked trout, rice and also tomato. The dining establishment's name might heed back to Fanisalek's country of origin, yet this is a silently remarkable method to preference-- and also experience-- the very best of Tehrangeles.

1915 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 470-0022,

Attari Sandwich Shop/Attari Grill

Farhad Pourbastani, supervisor at Attari Grill, stands up a plate including donbalan, barbequed lamb testicle. "It's incredible to be consuming this meal in L.A.," stated Anissa Helou.
The sandwich store, with its trademarks such as very finely cut beef tongue with pickles on a soft French roll, is a Westwood pillar. However the next-door grill has a much more comfy setup and also a handful of differentiating specializeds, consisting of sabzi polo mahi (deep-fried trout with herbed rice), a vision of greenness that's typically offered at Nowruz, the Persian New Year commemorated in the springtime. Helou mentioned that also the walnut fifty percents on a side plate of natural herbs had actually been saturated to effectively revitalize them.

Very finely cut beef tongue with pickles on a French roll at the prominent Attari Sandwich Store in Westwood. It rests throughout from Attari Grill.
I watched for an outstanding variation of kuku sabzi, an herb-dense egg recipe comparable to a frittata that's likewise a requisite at Nowruz. I really did not discover my perfect, truthfully, yet the one at Attari came the closest. The kebabs are strong, the donbalan being the front jogger. Our soft-spoken, septuagenarian web server flushed when we asked him to equate that word; Helou instantly recognized it was lamb's testicles when she saw his humiliation. He charmed us both incredibly.

1388 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 441-5488,

Chicken Home Grill

"Do you wish to mash the ab-goosht, or would certainly you like us to do it?" asked the male at the counter taking our order.

"Oh, we'll do it," Helou claimed promptly.

We would certainly asked for dizi, a recipe called for the conventional vessel in which to offer the ab-goosht, a tomato-laced lamb as well as chickpea stew. Helou recognized the routine: Start by draining pipes the stew's brew right into a dish, and afterwards blending in torn items of going along with flatbread. Then, with a masher made to fit the dimension of the dizi, smoosh the lamb as well as beans right into a structure someplace in between smooth and also crude; there's nobody proper uniformity. The event, and also the natural benefits of the different elements, really felt entirely beneficial.

Much of the stews we experienced throughout our trip tasted one-dimensional, however a dish of ghormeh sabzi (beef, kidney beans as well as natural herbs) had actually an entire dried out lime stimulating the recipe with its one-of-a-kind, musky-pungent sourness.

The counter location at Chicken Residence Grill really feels instead drab-- however leave to the outdoor patio as well as, then, aha, right here's the heartening scene: young moms and dads and also their youngsters, events of pairs and also females, putting the brew from their dizi, responding approvingly at the juiciness of their kebabs, drinking solid tea with a remote aroma of cardamom.

4515 School Drive, Irvine, (949) 786-2000,

Nersses Vanak

If you live closer to Glendale than to Irvine, this handsomely extra dining establishment is your location for dizi; the variation right here brings the lamb-rich umami deepness, a reality kept in mind in a 2016 testimonial by Jonathan Gold. After Helou involved co-owner Romik Abediyan in discussion, asking him concerning his recommended structure of mashed ab-goosht (he battered it for us at the table to a close to puree), he rollovered a side of seer torshi-- little entire heads of marinaded garlic, a specialized of seaside Gilan district in north Iran. Some variations age for a years or even more to be spreadable like cheese; this set was young, however its strength cut directly with the stew's meatiness. As a comparison to the stew, sturgeon over dilled rice is great in its simpleness.

6524 San Fernando Roadway, Glendale, (818) 550-7800,

Shamshiri Grill

Some specials at Shamshiri Grill are readily available just a couple of days a week. Tanchin, a full-flavored cake crowned with crimson barberries, is offered on Tuesday, Wednesday and also Thursday.
Our choice amongst the bigger, older-guard Westwood kebab homes. Helou's inquisitiveness appeared to irritate our surly web server, that went away for lengthy stretches, however he could not reduce our recognition of the food preparation. Cooks often tend the fires and also the skewers behind a glassed-in grill; this is a great location to spend lavishly on more expensive cuts of meat such as crown roast kebab. The food selection, like the dining-room, stretches, so it is important to absolutely no in on the numerous specials offered just a few days a week. It deserves visiting on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for tahchin, a tasty rice cake blended with yogurt as well as egg, layered with poultry or lamb, baked and also crowned with crimson barberries.

1712 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 474-1410,

Worthwhile quits past dining establishments:

Sangak at Wholesome Selection

A consumer at Wholesome Selection in Irvine carts away 2 big items of sangak, an Iranian whole-wheat flatbread freckled with sesame seeds

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The food court of this Irvine food store offers kebabs as well as great smelling stews (as well as likewise pastas, shawarma and also crepes) to a demanding lunch group. The marketplace's real splendor, however, is sangak, an Iranian whole-wheat flatbread freckled with sesame seeds; Helou has actually seen it baked over beds of rocks. (Its name equates as "stones.") A line typically creates for the charred, soft-crisp, 4-foot loaves. We curtained ours over the front of a purchasing cart as well as swindled scorching pieces while we roamed the aisles-- and also we weren't the only buyers doing that.

18040 Culver Drive, Irvine, (949) 551-4111,

Sugary Foods at Rex Pastry Shop

Boxes of breads and also cookies pack every square inch of table room at this no-frills Sawtelle bakeshop. It's popular for lotion smokes, yet we most appreciated the nan-e nokhodchi-- carefully crumbed, cardamom-scented cookies made with chickpea flour.

1659 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 445-8799

Gelato at Saffron & Rose

A Westwood community staple-- owner Haji Ali Kashani-Rafye showed up in America in 1974-- sees groups throughout the day and also up until it shuts well previous dark. I appreciate exactly how the store teams its tastes, by fruit (day, pomegranate as well as sour cherry; a rejuvenating cucumber obtains abided in below), flower (jasmine as well as both white as well as pink increased; the last is subtler) as well as delicious chocolate and also nutty (eco-friendly pistachio, the common cookies and also lotion). Faloodeh, threaded with slim noodles as well as aromatic extravagantly with rose water, and also saffron-pistachio hew most very closely to custom, according to Helou. I'm a follower of the orange bloom variant; easily, orange bloom water functions as a stomach-calming representative after a long, lengthy day of consuming.