A food-nerd friend of mine recently remarked, "The flavors of Persian food are subtle; nothing hits me with a 'Wow!' or 'Kapow!', but everything is tasty and comforting." I'd go further, calling it a highly underrated cuisine, doubtless in part because of that subtlety. Boston is fortunate to boast a number of worthy budget-priced Persian restaurants, among which Jasmine Taste of Persia, located in a stretch of Watertown thick with indie restaurants and Armenian bakeries/grocers, has to rate highly.
For starters, a large appetizer combination platter ($9.99) offers a choice of three dishes that include old Middle Eastern friends like creamy, fresh-tasting hummus, and typically Iranian dishes like torshii, housemade pickled vegetables, and kashk bademjan, a warm, coarse puree of eggplant, onions, and mint topped with a dollop of kashk, a sort of Persian sour cream, plus a stack of warm pita for scooping. Aash reshteh ($4.99), Persian noodle soup, is thick with fresh greens, vegetables, legumes, and aromatics, and substantial enough to make a light meal. The sandwiches that fly from the takeout counter at lunch are similarly hefty, like a chicken shawarma roll-up ($6.99), pita rolled around a generous amount of marinated grilled chicken breast sliced into chunks, bulked out with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and tahini. Well-proportioned salads are fresh, uncomplicated affairs, like the shirazi ($4.99) of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, raw onion, and mint, simply dressed in olive oil and lemon juice. Entrées are big enough for two meals for modest eaters, built around piles of seasoned rice adorned with nicely charred grilled onions, tomatoes, and green peppers. To this filling centerpiece, lamb soltani ($19.99) adds two large skewers, one of perfectly cooked kebabs of marinated lamb, another of beef kubideh, which resembles a well-spiced beef meatball stretched out like a 14-inch casing-less sausage. Adas polo ($14.99) replaces the more simply seasoned rice of the kebab and kubideh plates with a fragrant pilaf of basmati, lentils, golden raisins, and sautéed onions, faintly tangy with yogurt, crowned with two groaning skewers of gorgeously saffron-tinted chicken-breast kebabs.
Drink options include cardamom-accented black Persian tea ($1.49) and doogh ($2.99), a savory, lassi-like yogurt drink, as well as American soft drinks and bottled juices ($1.99). The sunny, 24-seat dining room is prettily decorated with Persian textiles, atmospheric with recorded Iranian folk music, and comfortable with unstintingly friendly service. For newcomers, Persian food combines familiar ingredients and techniques with an array of seasonings, spices, and herbs that many Westerners will find tantalizingly novel. Jasmine Taste of Persia offers a hearty, frugal introduction to the pleasures of this unsung cuisine.
JASMINE TASTE OF PERSIA, located at 580 Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown, is open Monday–Saturday, 11 am–9:30 pm, and Sunday, 12–8:30 pm. Call 617.923.2999.