Persian food has a lot in common with Indian food, but owing to its position on the legendary Silk Road, it shares significant traits with Chinese, Russian, Eastern European and Arabic food as well.
Traditional Persian cuisine combines the savory of fresh herbs and spices like saffron, merges it with the sweetness of pomegranate, barberry and cinnamon, and tops it all off with a flourish of nuts, dried fruits and beans. There are no chilli peppers, so there is no spiciness to the food. The idea is not to present one distinct flavor, but to serve up layers that keep the tastebuds guessing as to what is coming next.
Tastebuds intrigued, I gathered my fellow food enthusiasts for a Lunch Expedition at Bustan. The restaurant opened May 2015 and it is well-frequented by the local Persian community.
Food Explorers’ Lunch Expedition “Persian Dreams”
We started our meal with an appetizer platter consisting 5 different types of vegetarian starters – “Kaschke Bademjan” (aubergine dip with Persian yogurt), “Mirza Ghasemi” (soft-roasted aubergine in a tomato sauce), “Falafel” (deep-fried patties of ground chickpeas and beans), “Dolmeh” (grape leaves wrap) and “Masto Khiar” (creamy yogurt with mint and cucumber).
Since kebabs are taken very seriously in Iran, our menu included Bustan’s mixed “Grillteller” consisting 4 different preparations of grilled chicken, beef and lamb.
The making of Persian rice is a complex process, and one can taste the fragrance in each and every fluffy grain. We got to try 2 different types of “Polo” – Bustan’s popular “Zereshk Polo” (barberry rice with chicken) and off-the-menu “Shirin Polo” (rice with pistachios, almond slivers and candied orange peel). We also got to sample some “Tahdig”, the crispy part from the “bottom of the pot”.
A Persian dining experience would not be complete without stews – comfort food served with basmati-saffron rice. Our menu includes the iconic “Khoresht Fessendjan” (pomegranate walnut stew with chicken) and “Ghormeh Sabzi” (tender lamb stewed in a green herb sauce). We also tasted “Mahitsche” – specially-braised lamb shanks.
After this generous menu, we still managed to make space in our tummies for dessert – the saffron ice-cream “Bastani Akhbar Mashti” was sweet but surprisingly refreshing, and went very well with sweet frozen rice noodles in rose water “Falude Shiraz”, and chocolate “Cake Bastani”.
From “Kebabs” to “Khoresht”, it was an incredible culinary journey through Iran! Except for “Shirin Polo” and “Tahdig”, the dishes listed above are available à la carte at Bustan.
Bustan Restaurant, Seckenheimerstraße 4-6, 68165 Mannheim
Looking for more ideas on where to dine in the Rhein-Neckar region?
Check out other reviews of places where Food Explorers have eaten.