A new Persian restaurant in Clovis is inspired by a dinnertime squabble.
See, Persian food (from present day Iran) is eaten with a lot of rice. And you know how the rice at the bottom of the pan sometimes gets crispy and a little more delicious?
That’s the good stuff, called tah deeg, (sometimes spelled tahdig) and it’s at the center of this restaurant at Sierra Vista Mall. The crispy rice is called Tah Deeg, the words literally translating to “bottom of the pot.”
It’s “very crispy and nice, and at any dinner table, there’s a fight over this piece,” said the restaurant’s co-owner Abdi Ghafari.
Tah Deeg is also the restaurant’s name and its menu is centered around it, in a way that’s not typical in Persian cuisine.
A large helping of the rice is served with kebab meat on many of the entrees.
The multi-step process of cooking the rice takes hours. Toward the end, the rice is mixed with a sauce made from yogurt, oil, salt, pepper and saffron, an herb that lends a subtle flavor and a bold orange color to the rice.
Each serving is cooked again individually in a 5-inch pot and flipped onto your plate. You can get it with lamb chops, beef filet, chicken, and kebabs made from ground beef or a mixture of ground lamb and ground beef.
There are also stews served with tah deeg, like the braised chicken leg in a pomegranate and walnut sauce.
The stews and kebab plates range from $14 to $26.
If you have leftovers, take them home. Tah deeg is one of those foods that tastes even better the next day.
The menu also has more affordable wraps, and appetizers like hummus and eggplant dip. For dessert, there’s vanilla ice cream flavored with rose water and saffron, which gives it a yellow tinge, and sprinkled with pistachios.
If you’re new to Persian cuisine, or this restaurant, here are few more things to know:
1. Persian food isn’t spicy. It’s well spiced.
That means you’ll find plenty of saffron, cumin and turmeric in the food, but it’s typically not spicy hot.
In fact, Persian food has a sort of yin and yang, a balance of what Ghafari calls warm and cold. He’s not referring to temperature, but the nature of the food. Yogurt would be cold, for example. Walnuts and spices in a sauce would be warm.
“You have to cook it in the way that there is a balance between warm and cold,” he said. “You cannot find any recipe that’s spicy hot or too sweet.”
2. This restaurant is a month old. It’s been busy ever since it opened its doors and it’s still looking for employees.
Things can get a bit crazy sometimes, so be patient. If you want to avoid a wait, go during off hours.
3. There is joy here. Though it may be a little hard to spot in the hustle and bustle of mealtime, the people behind this restaurant are doing a lot more than slinging kebabs.
Co-owner Ghafari, whose background is in architecture, loves seeing people take pictures of their food. And when they tell him they love the food? Even better.
“This is so rewarding, no money can buy that,” he said.
In the kitchen, co-owner Fred Ghiassi forms handfuls of ground beef and lamb around a skewer on what will become a kebab.
He’s run Persian restaurants before in the Bay Area. He moved here for a slower, easier life.
He smiles as he waxes poetic about the secret ingredient in his food: Love.
“We give everything we can from the bottom of our hearts,” he said. “We want to connect to people. This is one of the the tools we use.”
Details: 1250 Shaw Ave., Suite 109. Tah Deeg is in the outdoor portion of Sierra Vista Mall near the theaters.
It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and from noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. (559) 321-8442.