Best Persian Food in Vancouver? You Make the Call!

Photo credit: Gaby Av | Flickr

Photo credit: Gaby Av | Flickr

Vancouver gets lots of praise for its abundant sushi options and authentic Chinese restaurants. But one international cuisine that’s consistently overlooked is the city’s outstanding Persian food.

Persian restaurants – serving the traditional food of Iran – are concentrated in North Vancouver (where there’s a large population of Persian descent) and also scattered throughout the downtown area. Outwardly, at least, Persian food has much in common with more familiar Lebanese and even Greek cuisine.  The mainstay of the menu is skewers of beef and chicken, marinated and grilled over open flames. Pita bread plays a central role, too, as do starters with ingredients like eggplant and grape leaves.

But I’m far from an expert on Persian food, which is why I need your help.  Do you have a favourite Persian restaurant in Vancouver. Let us know by leaving a comment below. 

I’ll start things off with one of my favourites, Cazba, which has locations on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver and on Davie Street downtown.

I stopped by the downtown location recently, located on Davie Street at Thurlow. The first good sign: On a Saturday night, Cazba was packed with Persian families and there was a wait for a table. It’s a big restaurant, but casual and simply decorated. (There are none of the cliched trappings of some other Middle Eastern restaurants: hookahs, belly dancers, etc. ).

Photo credit: Alpha | Flickr

Photo credit: Alpha | Flickr

The menu is straightforward, too.  There are a few appetizers, including the popular kashkeh bedemjoon, a deep fried eggplant dish served with pita bread.  But the bulk of the menu is kebabs: skewers of marinated chicken, lamb, AAA beef or koobideh (spiced ground beef), paired with basmati rice and grilled tomatoes.  I should also point out that prices for the kebabs – and, well, everything – are ridiculously cheap for downtown Vancouver. A chicken kebab platter will set you back all of $11.

For a bit of a variety, I opted for the vaziri platter ($13) – one skewer of marinated chicken breast and one skewer of koobideh.  The first thing that stood out to me was the quality of the ingredients: fresh, juicy chicken breast and flavourful beef.  The other thing that struck me was the quantity: There was enough food for two meals on my plate.

Photo credit: Roozitaa | Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Roozitaa | Wikimedia Commons

Alas, I had also ordered another Cazba specialty, the gheimeh stew ($9).  Hearty, heavily spiced stews – featuring eggplant, beef, peas and various beans – are another staple of Persian cuisine.  The gheimeh consisted of yellow peas, tender braised beef and tomatoes, flavoured with a preserved lemon and other seasonings.  It was an unexpected surprise and  the highlight of my meal.

Actually, the highlight may have been the bill. The total for two mains, two Greek salads and two beers (with tax) was $36.58.  I was reminded (yet again) that Vancouver’s culinary sweet spot – that point where incredible food and incredible value meet – lies in its many authentic ethnic cuisines.

Do you have a favourite Persian restaurant in Vancouver? Let us know below. 

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