Zaferan is one of Dubai’s newer Persian-Iranian restaurants. Located in the outdoor courtyard of the China Court in Ibn Battuta Mall (opposite Zaroob), Zaferan’s interior is uncluttered, handsome and modern, and thankfully devoid of any reference to the ancient Persian Empire – thank God. It’s also owned and run by a woman. Why is this important? Because a woman’s touch can make all the difference.
The food at Zaferan (which is the literal way Iranians pronounce the word Saffron) is as close to home cooked as Niloo’s was when it first opened. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, owner Jaleh Aryaeinejad, herself an accomplished cook, still insists on making the Kashk-e Badenjan with her own hand.
Kashk-e Badenjan is one of Iran’s most popular appetisers and is made by combining fried-till-soft, skinned and mashed eggplant (Badenjan) with a little whey (Kashk), topped with crisp slivers of browned onion (Piaz Dagh) and drizzled with fried, powdered mint leaves (Nana Dagh). It is the epitome of rustic chic and the most popular of many eggplant-based dishes served in Iran. Kashk-e Badenjan is also one of a number of vegetarian dishes served at Zaferan.
No self-respecting Persian-Iranian restaurant would be worth its salt without a decent range of kababs, and in this regard Zaferan does not disappoint. The mixed grill is the obvious choice as it allows you to sample most of their delicious kababs, but if you want to single out one specific kabab to try on its own, I recommend the Kabâb-e Torsh.
Kabâb-e Torsh, which literally means “sour kebab” is something of an exotic. Originally from the Caspian Sea regions of Gilan and Mazandaran in the North of Iran, this traditional kabab is made by marinating bite-sized pieces of beef tenderloin in a rich paste of crushed walnuts, tangy pomegranate puree and garlic. It is then skewered and chargrilled gently before being served on a steaming hot bed of rice. Of course, you can have it without the rice too. Irrespective, make sure you inform the kitchen you want your kabab juicy and medium rare, because, like the Turks, Iranians too tend to overcook their meat.
Service is a Zaferan strongpoint; the entire waitstaff are friendly, polite and extremely accommodating. They all speak fluent English and are well versed on their menu. So, if you’re a first-timer, don’t panic, there’ll be someone there to take you through the menu. And if their passionate owner is there, I am sure she will come and spend a few minutes at your table. Zaferan joins old-timers Hatam and Noon-O-Kabab as the third Persian-Iranian restaurant at Ibn Battuta. In my mind there’s no competition, Zaferan is in a different league and much, much better. In fact, it’s one of the better Persian-Iranian restaurants in Dubai today and well worth a visit.
Waste NOT. Want NOT.