For those not familiar with Persian cuisine, it's hard to exaggerate the central role that spices, nuts and fruits play in Iranian dishes. Above all, there is saffron.
The expensive spice dominates the culinary landscape in the historic Middle-Eastern region, in part to add edge to the generally lean fare. And it dominates the physical landscape too, where, in spots such as northern Tehran, saffron sellers and their ochre-red mounds abound.
Shiraz restaurant, near Langley Park and the river in East Perth, stays true to this recipe. Take soltani (Persian for king) lamb kebabs ($25.99). A mix of the two ubiquitous grilled kebabs in Iranian cuisine - koobideh, a minced lamb and barg, a flattened lamb tenderloin - were nicely charred, juicy and plated simply with a poached, then barbecued, whole tomato. A side of buttery, fluffy rice dusted with saffron powder accompanied. Delicious.
More complex is fesenjun ($22.99). Chicken thighs are marinated in pomegranate juice, baked in a creamy walnut and pomegranate paste with saffron water and served with saffron rice. It takes three days to prepare and cook the dish. The result is a deep, dark fragrant sauce - akin to a mole in Mexican cuisine - coating pull-apart chicken. It's served in a small bowl; a reminder that saffron also adds a very rich edge to food. Shiraz won't win any awards for decor - it's a little like an upmarket coffee house, which an entree of chips $7.99 reinforces. But it is across the road from Perth's front lawn, with pretty views of the river.
On a balmy evening, there are worse places to be than having a beer and eating borani bademjan ($5.99) - whole-milk yoghurt, with smoked eggplant and wood-fired bread to dip. Some of the food can be challenging - especially for non-offal lovers. Lamb tongue, simmered in a rich, cloudy saffron broth ($8.99) is full of intense gamey flavour, and reflects a region where no food is wasted.
A florid yellow dish of Persian ice-cream ($6.99 - vanilla ice-cream with pistachios, saffron and rose water) was a touch waxy, which may have reflected melting then refreezing the ice-cream to infuse flavour.
Despite some interesting political leaders, Iranians are famously hospitable. Likewise there is a pride in home-cooked flair at Shiraz. The owners are looking to branch out to the suburbs, so watch this space.
- Shiraz *
- Address * 1/78 Terrace Road, East Perth
- Phone * 9225 5484
- Open * Lunch and dinner, seven days, except for Monday (dinner only)
- The buzz * Exotic flavours and river views make for a pleasant enough time. Weekends see occasional belly dancing shows if there's not enough spice.