Where to eat Persian food in L.A.
This top-of-the-line Persian restaurant is known for juicy kebabs (beef and chicken), stews and rice dishes. Darya, which means ocean in Farsi, is not anything to write home about in terms of interior decor (expect the usual Persian gaudiness of chandeliers, columns and paintings adorning the walls). The real draw here is the focus on high-quality Persian food, including large platters of authentic stews, meats and accompaniments that are definitely shareable and noteworthy. Try the restaurant's signature dish, Naderi Kabob (center-cut filet mignon in their special house marinade), with a side of buttery white rice topped with saffron. With an established sister location that has taken the helm of Persian food in Orange County for more than 20 years, the L.A. outpost is not one to miss. Located off of Bundy Drive in Santa Monica, a short drive from the many Persian restaurants in nearby Westwood, Darya may just have—dare we say—the best Persian food in L.A.
If you've heard about Attari before, it probably has something to do with the cafe's famous sandwiches. The shop itself is tiny, with a counter, a deli case and a couple of tables. Order inside from items like the popular beef tongue sandwich or the chicken olivieh, which is like a better version of a chicken salad, both which are served on a fresh, crusty baguette. Other traditional dishes like ash-e joe (barley soup) and koobideh (beef) kebab with lavash bread are the highlights of the cafe's short menu. Take your food outside to the cafe's courtyard fountain, or take it to go. This is a popular lunch spot for the Westwood crowd.
Show up hungry for fresh-out-of-the-tanoor flatbreads, kebab platters and lamb tahchin (crispy saffron rice cake) at this elegant Persian restaurant, which occasionally livens up the dining room scene on weekends with belly dancers. The lights inside this restaurant in the middle of Persian Square in Westwood may be too bright and don't match the ambiance, but the real focus here is on the food. Order from a variety of traditional Persian dishes—we suggest getting the crispy rice, tahdig, which literally means "bottom of the pan," with one of the stews on top. Other delicious options include thick yogurt dips (must-o-moosir with shallots or must-o-khiar with cucumbers) or their house-made hummus to use as a dip for thick slices of the fresh bread. Vegetarians could always ask for a vegetarian stew option (they usually have one daily); we recommend ordering the ghahmeh (yellow lentil stew) to top the tahdig as an appetizer. For the health conscious, order the delicious white fish (grilled or fried), and consider swapping out the rice portion that comes with every entrée for the house salad, a green salad with grapes and pineapple with a dill yogurt dressing that pairs surprisingly well.
Frequented by homesick Persians, large parties (a private banquet hall is available), or just anyone with a hankering for a plate full of beef kebab and lavash, the traditional Persian cuisine at this husband-and-wife-owned eatery can be enjoyed outside in the courtyard or in the main dining room. Located in Glendale, the Persians here are mainly Armenian Persians who are usually seated in large groups enjoying dinner at this massive indoor-outdoor restaurant. Enter from the back through the alley where valet parking is located and be transported to what you would imagine a restaurant in Iran would look like. The menu boasts meats (chicken, lamb and beef) and what Raffi's is known for is their gigantic serving sizes. Come hungry and be prepared to share large skewers of koobideh (ground meat) kebab and filet mignon kebab, known as barg, paired with a variety of rice dishes (we recommend trying the sour cherry rice, albaloo polo). End your meal with fragrant hot tea (add mint to help with digestion)—a must-try at this Glendale hotspot.
Rumored to be the sister restaurant of famed Darya Persian restaurant in Santa Monica, this Encino eatery is one to try. Butter reigns supreme at this upscale restaurant off of Ventura Boulevard. The rather large restaurant has all the fixings of a traditional Persian restaurant in terms of interior decor, as well as a couple of flat screen TVs near the bar, plus a pianist playing loud, classical music. On the weekends, you may just feel like you walked into a Persian party. Popular menu items include the Juicy Chicken, boneless chicken breast kebab pieces charbroiled over an open flame, and the white fish (either charbroiled or fried) served with sabzi polo (dill and lima bean rice) and a garden salad. There are also many vegetarian options (stews and rice), plus combos to help you with ordering indecision.
Located just around the corner from other notable Persian restaurants, this is one that you cannot miss as the food here is consistently good. Order a khoobideh (ground beef) kebab or even their juicy chicken khoobideh (ground chicken) kebab, or as a soltani (one skewer of ground meat and one skewer of filet meat, served with rice). It's all top notch. Standout stews, which change daily, include the fesenjan (a sweet and tangy stew of pomegranate syrup and ground walnuts, traditionally made with chicken or duck) over plain white rice with saffron. The atmosphere at this Westwood mainstay is casual, so if you don't speak Farsi, don't be shy to ask for clarification on a particular dish.
Most nights at Shamshiri, the spacious restaurant is packed with diners, parties and families, and the stream of take-out orders is almost constant. There's reason for it—Shamshiri serves some of the best Persian food you can get in Los Angeles. The restaurant is known for its rice dishes and ten different stews, like fesenjan, the pomegranate and walnut stew served with chicken, veal or lamb neck. All ten of the restaurant's excellent stews can be prepared vegetarian, which makes it a friendly place for big parties with varied dietary needs. Shamshiri's succulent-covered façade is an eye-catcher, and the dining room is warm and inviting with a view into the kitchen, blackened kebabs cooking away on the grill.
At the helm of this small, casual Persian lunch spot is Saghar Fanisalek, the chef and brains behind the South Westwood eatery. Fanisalek, who used to work as a manager at Shaherzad up the street, is flexing her culinary muscles with tastes-like-home Persian food. The menu here is simplified—choose from plates, salads, kebabs and even wraps, perfect for on-the-go lunching. If available, try the cornish hen kebab lunch special, which comes with rice and a small salad as well as a grilled tomato (a traditional accompaniment for Persian entrees). Primarily serving as a lunch spot, be aware that the portion sizes are not as grand as other Persian restaurants. And while you may not be getting a heap of food, their ghormeh sabzistew (sautéed green herbs and kidney beans) tastes as though your very own Persian grandma made it for you.