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Meaty Treats

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Shirin wants to be the king of West Valley Iranian restaurants, and it’s a grand and handsome place, though I find the marble floor and pink granite tables a bit chilly. Literally chilly--I’d like to see someone stoke up the fireplace here.

You start out with the usual Iranian basket of warm lavash bread and raw onion (yes, you’re supposed to bite right in). The appetizers are amazing bargains, especially tah dig, the deliciously crusty rice from the bottom of the pilaf pot. You can have it topped with two hearty stews for only $3.95, a meal by itself.

Recently, I wanted to try the okra stew and the celery stew, but only two of the menu’s six stews were available: chicken fesenjan, the famous dish stewed with walnuts and pomegranate juice, and a veal and eggplant stew with yellow split peas. Both were wonderful.

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Next came grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice. They arrived with a bonus dollop of mast-o musir (thick yogurt mixed with chopped shallots), and I’m sure I would have loved them if they had been more than lukewarm.

I wouldn’t give particularly high marks to the salad Olivier, either. This potato salad is ordinarily made with plenty of chopped chicken, green peas, eggs and pickles, but Shirin’s version seems all potatoes and mayonnaise--the other ingredients barely register.

When it comes to the kebabs, though, we are back in bargain territory, with huge platters of rice and grilled meat. The rack of lamb is really a whole platter of lamb chops, available either on or off the bone, and the meat is tender and blackened around the edges. There’s a chicken kebab of moist, spicy, finely ground meat--two foot-long skewers of it.

My whitefish kebab had way too much lemon juice, so much that it was hard to tell exactly how fresh the fish was. But all the beef kebabs were excellent. They’re made from organic beef containing no hormones or preservatives.

The restaurant’s name literally means sweet, so you won’t be surprised that there are excellent Persian desserts. They also go perfectly with hot tea.

There’s baklava--dense, sticky cylinders of filo pastry stuffed with crushed walnuts and gently perfumed with rose water. Zulbia is a squiggly tubular fritter drenched with honey.

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Shirin also makes a rose water ice cream. I’ll consider getting a dish as soon as they turn up the heat.

BE THERE

Shirin, 21826 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. Open Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight. Full bar. Valet parking. All major cards. Dinner for two, $27-$42. Suggested dishes: tah dig, $2.95 with one stew/$3.95 with two; rack of lamb, $9.95; ground chicken kebab, $7.95; baklava, 95 cents.

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