I met a colleague for lunch today at Chatanoga, a Persian restaurant in a Santa Clara strip mall on the intersection of Bowers and El Camino. My lunch partner being from Iran, I followed his advice and tried the baghala polo ba morg, which I had with lamb. The baghala featured an abundance of dill and basmati rice.
I'm told that with Persian dishes the rice is a main attraction and is not considered a side dish. Authentic preparation involves a vigorous boil followed by a long simmer. When the heat is turned down to begin the simmer step, oil is added for flavor. Cooking time is about 45 minutes and results in a longer grain rice due to water absorption. The rice crust--that crisp layer that interfaces with the rice cooker--is considered a delicacy by some and is often supplemented by cooking the rice with thin unleavened bread.
For my taste, though, the rice dominated the dish by its sheer quantity. The restaurant offered the boiled lamb--as tender as it was--as a mere afterthought. Also, the rice was drenched in dill, clumps of which could be found throughout the platter. So much butter was used that in recalling my meal the flavor that stands out most is that of buttered rice. My co-worker ordered the same dish, but with a chicken kabob. His plate offered a much more balanced dish between meat and starch.
We finished with a Persian tea, which I'm told actually often includes tea from India. It was actually quite delicious and aromatic, especially with some sugar.
If I go back it will be for the chicken, but it will be awhile, as this restaurant runs over my typical budget. The entree, tea and a tip on the generous side came out to $20 per person. Salad bar was included.
2725 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051-3000