Essentially unrepresented among Edmonds restaurants and underrepresented elsewhere in King and Snohomish counties, Persian cuisineboasts rich tones of spice, sweetness and tang. This week I had the pleasure of visiting not one but two establishments serving up Persian fare, both located just a short trip from Edmonds in the Lake City neighborhood of northeast Seattle.
Having read several glowing Yelp reviews of Pacific Market on Lake City Way, I was eager to check out the tiny market/café. Though the market's proprietor at first seemed slightly skeptical of my snapping photographs from across the street, he turned out to be an absolute delight. The soft-spoken gent advised me that Pacific Market has been in business for 15 years, and while they draw customers from as far away as Bainbridge Island and Bellingham, not many Lake City locals are regular patrons.
The locals don’t know what they’re missing, as this place is a gem.
I am the first to admit to not being an expert in Persian fare and my previous experiences with the cuisine have all been in the homes of Persian friends. Scanning the menu, I recognized familiarkebab, khoreshte (stew) and polo (rice) dishes. The proprietor didn’t strongly steer me towards any one plate, noting, “They’re all good.”
My first selection was the chicken stew khoreshte fesenjan ($8.99). In all honestly, my initial impression of the dish was that it looked wholly unappetizing. I dubiously eyed the mud-colored stew, spooning it over a bed of rice bright with yellow streaks of saffron. Looks would prove deceitful. The khoreshte fesenjan had a fruity tang from pomegranate molasses, one of its key ingredients. There was a slight sweetness to the sauce, its texture coming from finely ground walnuts and dissolved pumpkin.
My second selection was baghala polo ($10.99), braised lamb shank paired with rice filled with dill and saffron and studded with fava beans. The rice alone was exquisite but the lamb shank was also quite pleasing. The perfectly stewed meat was tender and mild, easily pulled away from the bone with a gentle prod of the fork.
The proprietor explained to me that the tray of baklava pastries on the counter was in fact a Lebanese variety, made locally for Pacific Market. Sticking strictly to my theme, however, I purchased a tray of Persian baklava ($7.99) to take home. Though hardly local (the pastries originated in southern California), the baklava contained no artificial preservatives or other sketchy additives. Honey-saturated phyllo dough encased finely ground almonds and pistachios—the perfect sweet, gooey finish to a meal rich in spice.
Incidentally, as I was en route to Pacific Market, I initially went the wrong direction on Lake City Way and ended up a block north of my target destination. The error was fortuitous as it led me to Minoo Bakery, which specializes in Persian pastries. For $3.50 I filled a small box with the likes of flakyzabun and crumbly chocolate bereshtook. Flavors of cardamom, rose water and pistachio abound in the orderly display cases at Minoo.
For those uninitiated in the realm of Persian fare, a quick trip to Lake City will expand palates into the fare of the Middle East. Particularly ambitious diners may wish to seek out Najmieh Batmanglij’sNew Food of Life cookbook to try Persian cooking at home.
Whether in your kitchen or in an unassuming market/café, the flavors of Persian cuisine satisfy and enchant.