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Tuesday
Aug092011

Diana's Persian, Fresno

A hearty greeting from the owner is what I received when I walked in. Always a good start. I told her that I was looking for Persian food, rather than Armenian, specifically koobideh. She seemed to have liked this. I may have also mentioned that I fell in love with a Persian woman and her cooking, so I placed the bar pretty high for her.

I was seated and quickly brought a plate of Persian starters (a nice touch) feta, pita, herbs and vegetables along with my hot Persian tea.

 

I decided to start with homemade lentil soup. The lentil soup had wider variety of seasonings than I could pick out, but suffice it to say it’s a hearty, tasty lentil soup, and certainly homemade (I was reminded of that fact several times).

 

Even though I had my heart set on koobideh, I was talked into having an additional skewer of chicken, even though I really wanted two koobideh as chicken is often dried out. I was thankfully wrong; the chicken was moist and well seasoned. The skewers themselves were generous in portion size. I ate half of each and even two days later, the koobideh and chicken were moist and flavorful.

 

Any Persian cook worth their salt should be able to cook basmati rice in their sleep. Diana’s was no exception. Fluffy, fluffy rice cooked exactly right. The rice wasn’t mushy, each grain separated from the other. Wonderful. Of course, a fine line of saffron rice was placed on top of the length of the basmati rice. When I actually get rice at a restaurant that’s prepared well it’s a treat. I really don’t like seeing rice placed in a ramekin and formed on my plate, often compacting the rice. Rice should be loose, airy, fluffy, set free from the bondage of a ramekin. Risotto is allowed freedom after all, and so should pilaf and Persian rice.

To finish, and at my host’s suggestion, I had a small bowl of homemade saffron-pistachio-rose water ice cream. The ice cream might be overpowering for many in terms of the rose water flavor and sweetness. The ice-cream is Middle Eastern sweet or American South sweet, which is too sweet for me. It’s good ice cream, just way to sweet and floral for my palate. Call me boring but I like coconut, vanilla, and chocolate gelato.

I placed an order to-go of Baba ganoush, yalanchi, and sarma for later in the evening. That evening at home, several of us around the table voted on the take-out  items, with the sarma being the biggest hit. The ganoush had a mellow roasted flavor and a reasonable punch of garlic. I like yalanchi, but the crowd that dined with me could care less.

I enjoyed my experience at Diana’s. It was a welcome break from butter-filled pilaf and dry nuggets of lamb from lesser establishments. While it’s too early to tell, I may have fallen in love with another Persian woman’s cooking (but just the cooking Scheherazade).

Diana's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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