Compared to the number of Turkish and Lebanese places to eat there is a distinct lack of Persian restaurants in Melbourne. Sheer weight of numbers has probably got something to do with this but can't be the whole reason, after all there seem to be lots more Afghan restaurants and there can't be that many more Afghanis than Iranians here, can there? Whatever the reason, we were off to try one of the few around, Persian Flavours.
Persian Flavours is a mid-sized restaurant located near the corner of Springvale and Canterbury Roads, Nunawading. It's also in a small group of shops next to an interesting looking Singaporean (Malay oriented) restaurant.
The inside looks recently renovated, very white and clean, almost like it was designed by IKEA. One thing which did strike a bit of a sour note was the TV on the wall playing the second (I think) Shrek film with the sound off.
Given the restaurant was obviously going for a bit more upmarket look than the normal suburban café, the TV playing in the background didn't quite fit in.
I'm not sure whether it's more accurate to say the menu is Persian with a heavy Indian influence, or that Persian cuisine itself is heavily Indian influenced. It certainly contained lots of familiar sounding curries combined with some grilled meat from the Tandoor, as well as a few unfamiliar dishes we gravitated towards. One thing which both Ironman and Ms Calories noted, is that the food wasn't as rich and fruity as the Iranian restaurants they'd been to in LA.
First dish up was the Zereshk Polow, rice with pomegranate seeds. This was Ms Counting her Calories first experience with polow rice and she enjoyed it very much. Large grains, fluffy and individually separated, in some ways it reminds me of briyani with its emphasis on the rice rather than the rice accompanying a curry or other sauce. In particular the delicate flavour of the pomegranate seeds came through when the rice was eaten by itself, but was somewhat overwhelmed when mixed with the other dishes.
Ghormeh Sabzi is apparently an extremely widespread and popular dish in Iran, with lamb cooked with lime juice, spinach, parsley and red beans. While the lamb was very nicely cooked, soft enough to break with a fork only, it wasn't particularly to my taste. I'm not a huge fan of spinach and got a big mouthful of sour eating one of the dried limes, not recognising it under a thick layer of sauce. If you love everything you try I always think that means you're not being adventurous enough in your ordering, but this was a miss for me.
Ms L chose the mixed stir fry vegetables with lemon sauce. These were surprisingly good. Still crisp carrot, cauliflower, red capsicum, green beans and onion with a nice tangy flavour.
Last of the mains was the tandoori chicken. Going for the whole chicken I think ours may have been some sort of mutant, quartered and coming with three legs and one wing! While I thought it could have used a few more spices the meat was tender and flavoursome.
To go with our meal we ordered the garlic naan and dough. The naan was large, fluffy and very hot, arriving at the table with a real wiff of garlic. Very nice.
The dough is a yoghurt based drink with a touch of pepper added. My choice was the mango dough. Taste wise it's similar to mango lassi with a slight kick, but unfortunately I found this version a bit sweet.
Nice enough if not quite the dining experience I was hoping for, Persian Flavours falls into that good local restaurant category. Not somewhere that's a must visit but a reasonable option if in the area. In fact, possibly the most memorable thing about the restaurant was the eclectic mix of staff - an East Asian woman in charge, a waitress in a headscarf and another in a Motley Crue T-shirt.
Food - 7
Ambience - 7
Service - 6.5
Price - 6.5
338 Springvale Road
Forest Hill VIC 3131
Tel: (03) 9878 3087