Farsi is one of the best all-round Persian-Iranian restaurants in Dubai. Sister of the famous, Tehran-based catering enterprise (of the same name), where their team of chefs are trained, Farsi offers a taste of authentic Persian-Iranian cuisine, with a distinct Central Iranian and Tehrani bias. This modestly decorated restaurant is based in Cluster R of JLT, and is well known to JLT residents as well as the much of the Iranian community throughout Dubai.
Farsi offers an exciting menu of classic Persian-Iranian dishes. For starters (literally) avoid the Hummus, Tabbouleh, Mutabal and Fattoush – none are remotely Persian or Iranian. Instead, if you’re in the mood for soup, try the Soup-e Jo (Barley Soup) or Āsh-e Reshteh, a thick herb and noodle soup; both are hugely popular throughout Iran, the latter dating back to the Persian Empire.
Unique to the Farsi starter menu are Kotlet (cutlet or côtelette) and Salad Olivieh (Olivier salad), both imported to the Caspian Sea provinces and Tehran by Russians fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution in the early part of the century. Kotlets are breaded minced meat patties, similar in look (but not taste) to the Indian Shami Kabab. Salad Olivieh on the other hand is the Iranian adaptation of that age-old Russian classic, Olivier (potato) Salad. Farsi does both exceptionally well.
Vegetarians take note, everything else in the starters section is pure Veg. There are two eggplant based dishes, Mirza Ghasemi and Kashk-e Bademjan, both of which are the perfect accompaniment with any of the rice dishes as a main, i.e. Kashk-e Bademjan goes extremely well with Baghali Polo. Pescetarians too will find more for themselves on the Farsi menu than in other similar Persian/Iranian restaurants; the hugely popular Sabzi Polow (steamed rice with fragrant herbs) and fried fish is a must try.
In typical Tehrani style, Farsi offers a ‘chef’s special’, otherwise known as the dish-of-the-day; basically a dish only cooked on that specific day of the week. I recommend inquiring what their dish-of-the-day is when ordering because Farsi offers some real classics. I particularly liked their Loobyâ Polow, an autumn-coloured rice dish with sautéed green beans and bite sized pieces of meat (traditionally lamb). It’s taken me back there twice already. Have this with Shirazi salad or a little plain yogurt on the side, mixing small amounts of whichever with the rice as you would a gravy or sauce. But don’t limit yourself to the Loobyâ Polow, all their rice dishes are special. For those with a bit of a sweet-tooth, I recommend the Shirin Polow, a distant cousin of the much-loved Afghani Kabuli Polow. But if you’re looking for something really different, try their Âlbâloo Polow, which is made with caramelized sour cherries.
Farsi stews or Khoreshts are well worth trying, most notable being their Ghormeh Sabzi, Khoresht Karafs and Fesenjān – each a masterpiece of Persian cuisine. Check which is available on the day you visit.
And then there are the kababs which are, for some unfathomable reason, listed under BBQ rather than kabab. Tikka Masti and Joojeh Masti are not central or northern Iranian specialities and therefore best avoided. Go to the South Iranian restaurants like Al Ustad (Ostadi) or Caspian for them. Instead try a kabab indigenous to the north, the Kabab Torsh (Sour Kabab), which gets it tangy, tartness from the pomegranate molasses and crushed walnut the meat is marinated it – outstanding.
And then there is the Iranian national dish, Chelo Kabab. Farsi serves several interesting combinations, most notably the Chelo Kabab Soltani and their own, Chelo Kabab Makhsoos Farsi, the later basically translating as Farsi’s Special Chelo Kabab. The significant difference between the two is that the Soltani uses beef fillet and the Makhsoos uses lamb. I prefer the lamb.
Deserts are represented by some all-time classics such as Sholeh Zard; a saffron-infused rice pudding sprinkled with slivers of pistachio and almonds, Faloodeh (my favourite) vermicelli sorbet, and rich and creamy Akbar Mashti saffron ice cream. I recommend the Faloodeh but note, unless you are overtly fond of rose water, ask them to go easy – a drop or two is more than enough. Ask also for some fresh lime, a half squeeze will make all the difference.
Almost as an afterthought, service at Farsi is warm, friendly and attentive. All staff members speak fluent English, and some even speak Persian.