Arts and Entertainment

Persepolis: Koobideh, Every Day

With its flavorful appetizers and standout entrees like koobideh and fesenjan, Persepolis offers a taste of authentic Iranian cuisine.

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Situated on a vibrant stretch of Second Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets, Persepolis is a bustling hub of authentic Persian cuisine in New York City. The restaurant’s interior is long and dimly lit with warm earthy tones; the space is understated but has an inviting ambiance. Persepolis is owned by Kaz Bayati, a former goalkeeper for the Iranian national soccer team, and a substantial photograph of the entire team taken in 1969 dominates the right wall. Other than that, the restaurant’s interiors are similar to those of the other neighborhood restaurants in the Upper East Side. 

Similar to those offered at other Middle Eastern restaurants, the appetizers at Persepolis include hummus, baba ganoush, dolmeh, several yogurt specialties, and salads like tabbouleh. The appetizers average $8 to $10. The eggplant mirza is a smokey, spiced eggplant dip with an intense sweetness. Distinctively different from the bland yogurt offered at grocery stores, the artisanal yogurt at Persepolis is rich and creamy, enhanced by the sharpness of the Persian shallots. Another fan-favorite appetizer is tahdig, an off-the-menu dish that is not always available, and only in a limited amount. Tahdig is the crispy golden crust that forms at the bottom of a pot of rice as it cooks, served with a stew of your choice. The dish is rich, savory, and slightly nutty. Tahdig is an Iranian staple—an Iranian cook is judged by their ability to create a perfect piece of tahdig. 

Despite its satisfying appetizers, the entrees are the stars of Persepolis’s menu, honoring the signature dishes in Persian cuisine: various grilled meats and unique stews over rice pilaf. One of their best offerings is the beef koobideh, a ground sirloin kebab. The meat is tender, juicy, and distinguished by its delicious onion flavor. Blackened flawlessly, the koobideh is skillfully grilled to impart a subtle smokiness and a crispiness along the edges. Another charred delicacy, the Cornish hen, is a saffron-marinated chicken with a savory aromatic flavor. The fesenjan is also a must, a sweet and slightly tangy shredded chicken stew with a pomegranate syrup-infused walnut sauce. All the dishes are served with rice pilaf, a staple of Persian cuisine. You have a choice of plain, saffron, or cherry rice. While the plain rice goes well with the stews, the best flavors can be found by combining koobideh with polo abalo, a sweet basmati rice with sour cherries. The Shirazi salad is a sharp, limey mixture of cucumber and tomato, and also serves as an excellent complement to the meat dishes. The main courses range on average from $25 to $30. For dessert, a glass of perfumy Persian tea and sweet sticky baklavas, composed of layers of flaky phyllo dough, nuts, and sweet syrup is a perfect finish to the meal. 

Besides its flavorful appetizers and delicious, authentic entrees, the staff are always affable and humorous while still preserving an effortless air of formality. If you ever feel inclined to draw on the paper-covered tables, the waiters never hesitate to give you the pen from their pocket. Persepolis is well worth a visit.