Just across the parking lot from Amena is Lily’s, a white-tablecloth-dominated space with an abundance of framed posters depicting Persian art. The food here is as authentic as any Persian cooking I’ve eaten in this city. Isn’t Iran on the shores of the Caspian? You could’ve fooled me.
The one thing that may not be authentic here is the bread service. Instead of the square, flat pieces of lavash you get in most restaurants serving Persian cuisine, you get hot, fluffy pita, accompanied by a peeled onion and lots of individually wrapped pats of butter. An onion sandwich appetizer is de rigueur in a Persian restaurant, as food is cooked to order, and you’re bound to get hungry waiting for it.
- 2101 S. Decatur Blvd., 257-1330.
- Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
- Suggested dishes: kashk e bademjan, $6.95; ash e reshtesh, $5.95; fesenjan, $12.95
You might want to start with ash e reshtesh, in my opinion one of the world’s great soups. Originally a dish for Noruz, the Persian New Year (in April), this is a hearty fava and kidney bean and noodle soup topped with frizzled onions and darkly sautéed spices, plus a dollop of kashk, thickened whey.
Kashk also tops the appetizer kashk e bademjan, hot pureed eggplant that is absolutely addictive when smeared on a hunk of pita. This version is as good as it gets, so hopefully you have someone to share it with, or you won’t have room for your kebab, and that’s the reason you are here in the first place.
Lily’s delicious kebabs can be made from marinated broiled lamb, chicken or various cuts of beef, as well as white fish. Unfortunately for my vegetarian friend, the vegetarian kebab has been taken off the menu. Whichever you choose, it will be served on top of a mountain of fragrant basmati rice, stained yellow at the surface from a touch of saffron, and grilled tomatoes, blackened on their skins.
Do like the Farsi-speaking customers do, and shake a little somagh, the piquant brown dried sumac berry, onto your kebab. It gives the meat (or fish) an exotic flavor, and is the best salt substitute I know of. There are also other dishes to try here. One is tahdig, crusty rice scraped from the bottom of the pot topped with a choice of homemade stew. Another is kebbe, cylinders of ground meat mixed with bulgur wheat, delicious as an appetizer.
If I had to pick one stew, by the way, it would be fesenjan, chicken cooked almost to a pudding, in a rich sauce based on pureed walnuts and pomegranates. Intensely flavorful, exotic and incredible with rice, it’s about as far from the Mediterranean as Pahrump, but we aren’t complaining.