Persian food in the Greater Boston Area

We’ve several Persian eateries in town (some clustered in Watertown), so I think it justifies a dedicated thread.

Inspired by this post

I had food delivered from Cafe Vanak a few days ago. Their saffron chicken kebabs (joojeh) were very good, although not the best I’ve had, as was their beef koobideh. The salmon was a little dry. The star of the show was the simply described “lentil rice”, which turned out to be a flavor bomb of caramelized onions, rice, lentils and raisins. The pomegranate and walnut chicken stew was interesting with distinct tastes of both pomegranate and walnuts, but it was on the sweet side for me.

The accompanying pita bread seems to be packaged, but a bigger concern for me was the rather tight connection between the cafe and the market. The lentil rice, the yoghurt-cucumber side, and the saffron rice-pudding were all prepackaged with labels affixed with price, sell-by dates, etc. When one orders from a restaurant one expects some attempt at freshly cooked food.

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Thanks for this report. I immediately thought of the late, great Lala Rokh restaurant when I saw this topic. Miss that place.

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Yes, I had Lala Rokh on my mind, too, when I started the thread. LR and Biba were the first two “nice” restaurants we ate at when my wife first moved to Cambridge for good in the mid-1990s and I began my dual-city existence.


By the way, an important omission in my report is that there’s a separate category on the Grubhub delivery menu simply called “Lamb Head”. If you click on it you get the intriguing, if short description “Full Set”, priced at $49.99. I’d go for it myself, but my immediate family would not only disapprove, they’d vociferously object. (I have to keep my occasional brains on the down-low.)

@tomatotomato , a hungry onion-nation turns it’s lonely appetites to you.

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I experienced some degree of cognitive dissonance in seeing you quote one of Tatsu’s posts while attributing in no small part Tatsu’s departure to your responses.

If you visit Cafe Vanak in person, you may find many items in the cold cases at the counter while ordering, not so much at the market next door. The number of tables in the cafe is actually relatively limited.

It seems that several of the items you ordered for carryout would not have been “freshly cooked” anyway.

So you would have been happier if the “very good,” “ flavor bomb,” and “interesting” food had been delivered in generic to go containers?

Listen, if I’m paying nearly 7 hard earned bucks for a serving of albeit delicious food, I have every right to expect it to be freshly scooped into a container. What’s next? Allow the butler to serve it without polishing the silver first? A forum like this is for helping restaurants evaluate and grow. Hopefully this post leads them to do a little introspection.

I’d like to clarify the kind of place that Cafe Vanak is. They are approved for 16 seats. You order at the counter. Here’s what the counter looks like:

It’s a pretty small operation. The silverware is pre-wrapped with a paper band around the paper napkin. Plastic cups for water, so we brought our own reusable water bottles to reduce single use plastic waste. I get the feeling they do a lot of carry-out. I have also been to the market next door, and they don’t have all of the items in the refrigerated cases in the cafe.

We have been a few times eating in at off-hours to reduce risk of COVID exposure, but I have a friend from LA who went when they were busy and a little overwhelmed. We all enjoyed our food a lot. For more of a sit-down experience, I’d suggest Hafez House of Kebab, from everything that I’ve heard, though I haven’t been yet, so I can’t comment on their silverware, napkins, or takeout experience (we’re partial to the older Molana, since that’s the first place we had Persian food, and it’s closer to our house, and we also used to go to Shiraz when my parents lived in Belmont but haven’t been since their second year of operation, since my parents moved). Roksana is also carry-out.


Thanks for the photo! That’s pretty cute.

Oh, credit goes to Dave Cook. Check this website for full-sized image and also of the offerings in the fridge cases:

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We’ve eaten at Cafe Vanak a half dozen or more times. We put in a takeout order, then shop at Super Vanak next door. After stocking up on medjool dates, rice, fresh herbs, tea, halvah, sour cherry jam, tiny walnut cookies, Persian ice cream, and other goodies, we pick up the take-out dinner and head home. The cafe food is great! The lamb shank with dill rice is our favorite. The saffron chicken and rice with barberries is another good choice. The kebabs are good. The extra grilled tomatoes are worth having with your kebabs. The Vanak salad is refreshing and comes with lots of little nuts and garnishes that make it more than the usual takeout salad. Unlike the takeout at many restaurants, the dishes here are packed carefully so the presentation is nice when you open the boxes.


Trying not to insert myself too much here, but just wanted to say that the Tatsu/@passing_thru episode really bummed me out. I miss both of their presences.


On the flip side, I always thought tatsu’s analysis of whether takeout packaging meets diners’ expectations was lacking. For example, in that entire, epic A Lee 88 thread filled with incredibly descriptive paragraphs about the food and the people behind the restaurant, I don’t recall a single comment about whether the fortune cookies were wrapped to order.


I think I sense your sarcasm here @Kennyz. Either that, or I have had such little adult interaction that I am completely off-base.

In any case, nice to see you here. I need to ramp up my contributions.

And we all need to laugh more!

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I did not see any comments from “the people who eat for a living” on the to-go packaging.

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You are my new favorite person.

I had lunch at Vanak a couple of months ago. It was good. Not amazing. They weirdly would not let us eat our lunch at the tables outside on the sidewalk without first re-packaging it to go. For me, as I’ve commented elsewhere, disposable packaging is a major bummer and definitely detracts from my food experience. I just got back from L.A. and damn near everything is in styrofoam which is so depressing.


@Parsnipity You and I are drummers in the same rock band.

That is so surprising to hear about your SoCal experience. I always think the left coast is more progressive than ours. I have no data to back up what I’m about to write, but I have a feeling the yucky takeout containers (ie, styrofoam, black plastic) are probably cheaper than compostable ones. I imagine for small operations, that’s an untenable situation.

Edited to add: Just read your SoCal post. Definitely some gems in there. California has been on to-do list for some time. Thank you!


Regarding the food experience, for example, we have no plans to return to Penang Waltham anytime soon specifically because they were using disposable plates, cups, and utensils for dining in when we ate there during a COVID lull earlier this year.

@Parsnipity, if it’s not too much information, I actually keep a small insulated lunch bag in my car with a few of those black containers, which we reuse over and over until they crack, just in case we want to package up leftovers whenever we eat out, as well as chopsticks and some inexpensive metal utensils, including spoons, so that we can reduce our use of disposable ones, like when we go out for ice cream.


I thought similarly, but CA is huge and different areas are different. LA area seems to be pretty bad. I was horrified a few years ago while attending an ocean plastics pollution conference, to be served tacos on Huntington Beach in styrofoam, and then wrapped in plastic bags, with plastic utensil and straws which I didn’t even need. Now, San Fran area and Santa Barbara were much more progressive with regards to packaging. I understand styrofoam is cheap, but so is a piece of brown paper, or a paper plate. There’s simply no need for a clamshell styrofoam container to eat a taco on the beach.