Persian cuisine shines with good food, great friends
By Greg Sabin
Maydoon Persian Cuisine serves classic foods of Persia from a hip, accessible Midtown location. Open for nearly two years, the restaurant features Iranian favorites such as flame-grilled kabob and pita, rice and flavorful stews, and bright dips and sauces.
I’m a stranger to this culinary tradition. From the recipes to the dining culture, my knowledge of Persian food is scant. So I enlisted the help of an expert, my friend and fellow Sacramento Comedy Spot board member Dr. Sara Aghamohammadi.
Sara’s family emigrated from Iran to the U.S. when Sara was a child. Today she’s a pediatric physician at UC Davis Medical Center. Growing up in California, she enjoyed traditional Persian cooking by her mother, aunts and family friends. She was eager to introduce me to its delights and brought her friend Nima to make sure we got the full experience at Maydoon.
We started with small dishes: A dip of yogurt with cucumber and mint. A wonderfully pungent spread of smashed eggplant and spices. A plate of tahdig—hard, crispy rice scraped from the bottom of a pot. The plates left me refreshed, impressed and a little confused.
“Rarely will a Persian order tahdig at a restaurant,” Sara says. “This is definitely one of those things everyone prefers from their mother’s kitchen, where mom saves the bit of oily, delicious, crispy rice at the bottom of the pot for a treat.”
I know what she’s talking about. Whether it’s getting to lick the beater from a freshly mixed batch of cookie dough, or having that first crispy cut of roast, getting a special bite from your family’s kitchen can’t be duplicated in a restaurant.
Sara and Nima chose dishes to provide the best tour of the menu. They took their time. It’s a joy to have someone order for you.
They selected kabobs, steak, ground beef and chicken, and all the fixings. Mounds of saffron rice, roasted tomatoes and yogurt sauce filled the table.
The food was totally approachable for my American palate. The dishes were not aggressively spiced. The chenjeh (ground meat kabob) made my mouth happy and reminded me of an upscale slice of meatloaf.
“I’d call it a meat log rather than a meat loaf,” Nima says. “But I totally agree.”
The chicken kabobs were my favorite, juicy, tender, delicately touched with flame and a tangy marinade. Matched with the roasted tomatoes, they were an engaging mouthful.
The portions were sizable and we ate ourselves silly. We finished with one Persian dish I knew—rose water ice cream. The iconic dessert with saffron and pistachios refreshed and amused everyone at the table.
Maydoon’s food, modern environs and easygoing yet attentive service made the evening enjoyable. The company made it blissfully memorable.
Sharing a friend’s culture and cuisine, listening to stories of the Persian experience in America and opening myself to the food of another culture made the evening one of my favorites.
By some measures, Sacramento is among the most diverse cities in the U.S. The dining scene reflects it. On any day you can sample cuisines from six continents (maybe seven if there’s an Antarctic pop-up nearby). Yet many of us, me included, don’t take enough time and effort to try the unfamiliar.
This year, I’ll explore cuisines from Afghani to West African without leaving town. I hope you’ll follow along and walk some paths you might not have otherwise tried. Here’s to a delicious and adventurous 2022.
Maydoon Persian Cuisine is at 1501 16th St.; maydoonrestaurant.com; (916) 382-4309.
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous reviews can be found and shared at InsideSacramento.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.