5 October, 2022, 10:59

Feast like Royalty at Upscale “Persian Room Fine Dining”

Exotic flavors and decadent plates await.

Persian Room Fine Dining has been successfully serving traditional Persian food in an upscale restaurant in Scottsdale for over 30 years. To the delight of those who made the drive from Tucson to feast at the original location, Nasser Nikkhahmanesh and his sister Farideh Nikkhahmanesh brought Persian Room to the Old Pueblo.

“There were a lot of customers from Tucson that had to drive two hours to get lunch or dinner and then two hours back,” Farideh said. “Sometimes they had a party and they asked for catering but it was difficult and they had to pay extra, then they had to return the dishes.”

Partner-chef Farideh Nikkhahmanesh at Persian Room

Partner-chef Farideh Nikkhahmanesh at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Eventually, they decided to take the plunge. Farideh moved to Tucson to open their second location, bringing the rich flavors and ambience with her.

A luxurious dining experience

Persian Room, nestled in a strip mall off Thornydale Road, has been open since June 15, 2018. On arrival, a large etched-glass water fountain greets you. The crystal chandelier above reflects the glow of the ceiling mural, which is painted to look like a sky transitioning from sunset to night. The dining room is formal yet cozy and the menu, extensive.

Interior at Persian Room in Tucson

Interior at Persian Room in Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Iranian hospitality usually involves a considerable amount of food and the large portion sizes at Persian Room are an accurate reflection of the custom.

“[Customers] come here and they know Persian food and they talk about before the revolution when they lived in Iran and they have a good memory of it,” Farideh said. “They wish they could visit; they show me pictures and they talk about the hospitality, the food, and the places they went.”

Farideh was determined to recreate that authentic experience in a space fit for ancient Persian royalty. Her vision was realized.

Where to begin

The dining experience starts with a plate piled high with fragrant herbs and raw onion. The herbs are called sabzy, meaning green, and usually consist of parsley, mint, and basil. Iranians typically eat the herbs and onion before and during the meal, garnishing each dish as they please.

Lavash bread at Persian Room in Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Lavash bread at Persian Room in Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

A basket of lavash, warm flatbread, is brought to the table. The lavash is made in house and baked in a rotating oven throughout the day.

For a delicious combination, use the bread to scoop the herbs and garnish one of the dips or use it to wrap your entrée kebab. The bread will flow freely—if you ask for it—but you’ll want to save room in your stomach.

Dip suggestions

Try the Kash O’Bademjan—a mouth-watering, creamy and savory blend of roasted eggplant (bademjan), salty whey (kashk), garlic, and mint topped with crispy fried onions.

Many eggplant-haters have been converted with this dish. The appetizer also serves as a fantastic addition to the grilled kebab (or can be stirred into rice).

Kash O'Bademjan at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Kash O’Bademjan at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

For a lighter dip, try the Yogurt and Garlic Dip (Mast o Moosier) or popular Yogurt and Cucumber Dip (Mast o Khiar).

Mast, meaning yogurt, is an essential side to every Persian meal. The cucumber version, khiar, will remind many diners of its Greek cousin, tzatziki. It is the perfect antidote for a hot Tucson day, adding a cooling tang to any meal. The garlic version is made with pungent shallot, moosier, for a punchier kick.

Both dips are topped with tiny, sour barberries called zereshk, which add a tantalizing tartness to the creamy yogurt.

Homemade Yogurt & Garlic Dip (Mast o Moosier) at Persian Room

Homemade Yogurt & Garlic Dip (Mast o Moosier) at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tah Dig, the crispy saffron-tinted crust of the rice, means “bottom of pot” when translated. At the dinner table in Persian homes, families fight over who gets it. You can order it as an appetizer at Persian Room, no fighting required, and it comes with a choice of Gheimeh or Ghormeh Sabzy stews—both recommended.

Save room for the entrees

Persian room offers an extensive list of entrées. For variety and fullness of flavor, look no further than the kebabs.

“The kebab has no oil, no frying, and everything is fresh,” Farideh said. “Everything has flavor.”

For a classic, street-food style kebab, order Koobideh. The kebab —featuring onion, seasoning, and a ground beef mixture—drips irresistibly. It’s a good starting block for anyone unfamiliar with Persian kebabs. If you’re looking to order the meat sliced instead, go for the kebab barg.

If dining with a crowd, order a combination platter—The Tour of Persia platter comes highly recommended.

“Most of the customers ask for this kind of dish because it has a little taste of everything and you can switch the stew out or switch the Cornish hen for the chicken fillet if you don’t like the bone,” Farideh said.

Tour of Persia platter, lavash bread, sabzi, Homemade Yogurt & Garlic Dip (Mast o Moosier), Kash O'Bademjan, and Gheimeh Bademjan at Persian Room

Tour of Persia platter, lavash bread, sabzi, Homemade Yogurt & Garlic Dip (Mast o Moosier), Kash O’Bademjan, and Gheimeh Bademjan at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Served on a large, flat platter, the Tour of Persia will delight with texture, color and something for everyone. It features marinated steak kebab (barg), lemony Cornish hen, ground beef kebab (Koobideh), both traditional rice and Zereshk Polo (rice filled with barberries shining like little rubies), and the stew Gheimeh Bademjan.

Gheimeh Bademjan features sautéed beef, eggplant, and yellow split peas in a tomato-based sauce. It has a tangy, smoky citrus flavor due to the dried lime, a hallmark of Persian food.

Gheimeh Bademjan at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Gheimeh Bademjan at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Meat-free options abound

Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. Start with a full-bodied soup, such as Osh Reshteh, or the Persian Room Appetizer Platter, which includes a combination of Dolmeh grape leaves, hummus and eggplant, Yogurt and Cucumber Dip, and vegetable Torshi.

The Vegetarian Gheimeh Bademjan, featuring sauteed eggplant, onions, and yellow split peas simmered in a spiced tomato sauce, or the Vegetarian Loobia Polo are stand-out entrees that will leave you satisfied.

Elevated sides

Although all entrées come with the traditional saffron-topped basmati rice, swap it for the Adas Polo or Sabzi Polo at an extra cost. Adas Polo is an aromatic and balanced rice, adorned with dates, golden raisins, and lentils, while the Sabzi Polo is rice mixed with freshly chopped green herbs.

“I love Sabzi Polo,” Farideh said. “It reminds me of the New Year when Persian’s eat it with fish and it brings me good memories.”

Highlighted beverages

For a time-honored pairing to your meal, order hot black tea with sugar cubes. While sipping your tea, take a moment to look around and soak it all in.

Persian tea, Zoolbia & Bamieh at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Persian tea, Zoolbia & Bamieh at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the Homemade Yogurt Drink. Like a savory lassi, the drink is made with yogurt, soda water, salt, and mint. This home-style summer refresher is cold, tangy, sparkling, crisp, minty, and salty and complements Persian flavors.

A sweet ending to an indulgent experience

At this point, it’s unlikely that you’ll have room for dessert, but don’t skip it.

Most Persian desserts are not overly sweet and are usually flavored with natural ingredients like honey, rose water, saffron, and nuts. The perfumed Persian treats are a lingering taste you’ll want to leave with.

Their Persian Ice Cream distinguishes Persian Room from other Persian restaurants because it is made in house. It’s a vibrant yellow, fragrant with rosewater, saffron, and pistachios. But what really makes it unique is salab, an ingredient made from orchid root.

Persian Ice Cream at Persian Room

Persian Ice Cream at Persian Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“If you Google [salab], you can find it and order it, but it tastes different than the one from Iran. So we have friends and family bring it for us when they travel from Iran,” Farideh said. “You don’t need a lot. It isn’t for flavor, it adds a stretch to the ice cream.”

Vanilla ice cream will be a faint memory as the Persian ice cream melts on your tongue. Let it dissolve while you reflect on the elegant dining experience.

Location and hours

Persian Room, located at 9290 N Thornydale Rd., is open from 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

For more information, visit persianroom.com.

Mietra Brown is a Tucson transplant who has fallen in love with the local climate, cacti, and cuisine. She has a Master’s of Marketing and enjoys going on road trips, overthinking, and hosting dinner parties. See her post about most of these things on Instagram @mietrabrown.