Ah, Valentine’s Day: a big night for couples, traffic, and overbooked restaurants. According to a relative of mine in the restaurant business, this occasion is a major day for revenue if only for all the couples, families, and even groups of friends celebrating this holiday dedicated to the expression of romance. So this year, for Team Glasses’ first Valentine’s Day out, we decided we’d have to look beyond the lists of ‘romantic restaurants’ in the city. We eventually chose to go to an old favourite, Persia Grill.
Luckily for us, there are several branches of this restaurant located in Metro Manila, with one of them found in the Greenbelt area. We arrived here in the early evening, before the dinner time rush. Right away, we were charmed by the restaurant’s cozy interior that still had distinctly Persian touches such as the elegant colored glass lamps hanging from the ceiling, and a small collection of traditional art prints on one wall. The overall effect was welcoming and classy, without resorting to Middle Eastern stereotypes just to make the restaurant live up to its name.
We decided to try out the Peshgaza appetizer, which was a sampler platter of four dips and bread. The dips were salad oliveyeh (potato with chicken, herbs, and pickles), baba ganoush (roasted eggplant in olive oil), must o’ khiar (yogurt, cucumber, mint and onions), and hummus. The servings of this particular appetizer were generous enough for three to four people, or perhaps just two very hungry ones. All of these dips were flavourful yet not overpowering; in particular the must o’ khiar was perfect for cleansing the palate as a prelude to a hearty main course.
I was determined to have Lee try out the gormeh sabzi, a favourite dish from some of my previous excursions to Persia Grill. This stew of slow-cooked beef, beans, and pickled gherkins is touted on the menu as a ‘national dish’. One bite was certainly enough to explain to us why this dish would be a worthy candidate for the title. Although the beef was not yet tender enough to melt in one’s mouth, it had been cooked long enough to pick up the flavours of rest of the ingredients. The stew itself was aromatic and spiced well without being too hot on the tongue, something we certainly appreciated during our leisurely dinner. We also opted to have Persian rice on the side, served still warm with butter on top.
Unfortunately this was still the busiest night of February, and by the time we thought of having dessert, we could see the place already beginning to fill up with couples and groups of friends also eager to celebrate. One of these days we’ll have to head back there to try the baklava and yogurt, among other concoctions on their menu. But that is another tale.
The Food Score: 5/5. Whether this is ‘authentic’ Persian food is still up for debate, but it doesn’t change the fact that the food in this restaurant is filling, tasty, and very friendly to diners who may not be as accustomed to Persian or other Middle Eastern cuisines. The spices go further than simply hot chilli, and employ a whole range of flavours to tickle one’s curiosity and fancy. The serving sizes are meant for sharing, so this is perfect for group or family nights out.
Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5. This particular branch of Persia Grill was a bit small, thus limiting the number of diners who could enjoy this place at any given time. Although some traditional Persian music was played on the speakers to add to the ambiance, the occasional selection of European classics occasionally detracted from the mood. The set of colored lamps are a nice touch, which caused Lee to reminisce his Friday rest-day adventures in the Middle East.
GERD Score: 4/5. While there are some dishes that could and perhaps will trigger one’s heartburn from their menu, a couple of advantages are that most of their meat options are grilled, and that they have a wide variety of food options to prevent burping episodes.
Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Perhaps the one drawback about this place is that it may not be easy for a diner to request for a dish to be made without ingredients that could trigger or aggravate seizures. However the menu offers a wide range of food and drink options, thus giving one a better opportunity to avoid trigger foods. The restaurant’s ambiance is relaxing and far from a sensory overload, thus reducing the likelihood of having a seizure induced by too much light or sound.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5. We’re not picky about whether this is ‘authentic’ Persian food; we just love to eat and tell people about it. And this place fits the bill of ‘food to share’, both in terms of size and quality. Now, time for dessert.