Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pa2gh: A Persian Experience

On a lonely Friday night, I found myself scrambling for a place to eat so I could meet up with my friend and her brother before they returned to the valley. My friend had just called and I needed to think of a place fast. The pressure was on. It had to be vegan-friendly, nearby and needed to have a good discount. I scanned through multiple websites before remembering a quaint Persian restaurant tucked away in a small strip mall near where Santa Monica blvd meets Sepulveda. I only discovered it because it is located next to Carvel and I love ice cream. I had ordered from there a couple times before but I never used their discount. Thus, I quickly placed an order for a $25 dollar gift certificate and managed to get out the door with a few minutes to spare.

When I arrived at the restaurant, my friend and her brother were already waiting. There was a spot waiting for me right in front of the restaurant. My friend had already looked over the menu and seemed a bit upset at the seemingly lack of vegan options. I noted that it was Mediterranean food and while most of the food is not specified as vegan, they could easily make it that way. Thus, when the waiter came over, we explained that everything needed to be made completely free of animal products.

We started with an assortment of appetizers ($13). I believe we got some hummus, pickled vegetables, crispy rice with a sauteed herbs topping and dolmehs.

The hummus was my favorite appetizer dish and was creamy and decadent. There was a strong taste of tahini and it had a light oily consistency. The sprinkling of spices on top was a nice touch and made it even more flavorful. The dolmehs were mediocre, as they were very dense and oily. The grape leaf wrapping was too heavy and the stuffing was even harder to digest.  The pickled vegetables had an odd taste to them and were also too oily. The dish seemed like it should be light but it just tasted too greasy.

When the crunchy rice dish came out we thought it was topped with cheese and almost sent the dish back. Upon closer examination, we realized it was just a yellow rice that had been toasted very well. I enjoyed this dish and found it very different from anything I've had before. The crunchy rice had a great consistency and was slightly sweet. The herbed topping had a very interesting taste and was very savory. It had a great mixture of smooth pureed parsley interspersed with chunks of beans. The dish was almost like eating a fritter and had such great contrasting textures.

The pita bread served with the appetizers was fairly dry and a little overcooked.

Finally, my entree came. Knowing that Pa2gh probably didn't have any vegan desserts, I opted for a succulent entree, the Vegetarian Fesenjan ($12.45), ground walnuts in a pomegranate sauce served with basmati rice.

This was the highlight of my meal and I would return just for this dish. It was so sweet and decadent, it was definitely like eating a dessert as a meal. The pomegranate sauce was so delicious and heavenly. It had a very fruity flavor and was quite syrupy. There was a hint of spice, which was very subtle and matched the sweetness very well.  The walnuts successfully absorbed the flavor and gave the sauce a slight crunchiness which was even more prevalent when mixed with the well-cooked rice. This dish is true perfection and I would not change a thing about it.

My friend and her brother both ordered the falafel wrap ($5) and while I didn't try it, they both described it as being dry. Even loading it with the vinaigrette served with the salad did not seem to help much.

Overall, I felt pretty mixed with the meal. The appetizers were so-so, but my entree really made up for it. I would definitely return and order only the hummus, crispy rice and pomegranate dish. Nevertheless, the meal was very inexpensive with the discount and we each only paid $9, which included tax, tip and beverages. This restaurant is a bit on the expensive side, but considering the portions are very large, it is definitely worth it.  I will be returning soon, even if only for the amazing fesenjan dish!

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