10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs and sandwiches to ice cream and spiced cookies

A mazeh plate, center, and other dishes at Cody Ma and Misha Sesar's new Persian restaurant, Azizam, in Silver Lake.
A mazeh plate, center, and other dishes at Cody Ma and Misha Sesar’s new Persian restaurant, Azizam, in Silver Lake.
(Ethan Benavidez / For The Times)
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On an early evening in mid-March, I relaxed into a dinner that has become an annual tradition.

The meal — celebrating Nowruz, the ancient rite of the vernal equinox, rooted in Zoroastrianism and observed as the most important event on the Persian calendar — began with sabzi khordan, a platter arranged with halved walnuts, sprigs of herbs, radishes and a small rectangle of feta alongside warm barbari, the flatbread that is equal parts crunch and plushness.

Triangles of baked kuku sabzi, one of the consummate Persian egg dishes, popped with their forests of greens. The fragrance of dill, parsley and cilantro preceded each bite. Dishes of maast-o-mousir (the yogurt dip with dried wild shallots), bright pickles, chunky Shirazi salad and herbed rice surrounded the centerpiece, roasted branzino stained with saffron.


It was the third spring I’d savored a traditional Nowruz spread prepared by the hands of Cody Ma and Misha Sesar via their Azizam project. In 2022 I ate at home when they packed the food as a takeout feast. Last year Ma and Sesar served the dinner from the kitchen of the recently closed Konbi in Echo Park.

The third time particularly charmed, because the setting was the restaurant that the couple had opened in Silver Lake days before.

What makes Azizam particularly special

From the kofteh Tabrizi — a.k.a. the giant meatball — that combines the family recipes Ma and Sesar both consulted for their version, to the comforts of turmeric-braised chicken over rice dotted with fava beans, to the use of produce that bridges the Californian and Iranian growing seasons, the cooking at Azizam has always honored the Persian home repertoire. “Homey” can sometimes be coded derogation when appraising someone’s skill in a professional kitchen. This is assuredly the opposite.

The Azizam experience is particularly exceptional in a city abundant with Persian restaurant options, at which menus have a purposeful sameness focused around fire-singed kebabs and cloudbanks of seasoned rice. “We’re still a fairly young immigrant community — around 40 years — and many of us were forced to relocate in distress,” Naz Deravian, the Los Angeles-based food writer and author of “Bottom of the Pot,” told me in 2019.

Cody Ma and Misha Sesar at Azizam
Cody Ma and Misha Sesar in the dining room of their Silver Lake restaurant, Azizam
(Ethan Benavidez / For The Times)

“The majority of the population came to escape or to set up a better life,” Deravian said. “They started businesses to make money. Restaurant owners designed their menus for universal appeal.” She added that a certain homogeneity helps attune expectations. “Everyone will have their own opinions about how a dish should be made, especially if you’re Persian.”

I all but say in this week’s review that Azizam, in its transition from pop-up, has instantly become my favorite Persian restaurant in Los Angeles.


Also, as Deravian references, Southern California has the largest Iranian population outside Iran. Community estimates count 400,000 to 620,000 Iranian American residents throughout the region, including 138,000 people of Iranian heritage who make Los Angeles their home. Unquestionably there are culinary depths. I have a couple of go-to kebab houses, and I’m always looking out (and taking suggestions) for less-seen specialties that illuminate the vast aspects of Persian cuisine. Here are some favorites.

10 of Bill’s favorite Persian dishes across Los Angeles

Herb-filled kelaneh from Kouzeh Bakery

Late last decade, pastry chef Sahar Shomali embarked on a personal project: making barbari that tasted like the chewy-crackery version she ate with meals growing up in Tehran. Her initial quest led her to research regional bread styles across Iran. Her pop-up bakery Kouzeh became Shomali’s full-time focus: Her lineup includes 16 or so sweet and savory flatbreads, filled breads and pastries. She sets up at Melrose Place Farmers Market on Sunday mornings, Beverly Hills Market & Deli on Fridays and, with notice and a small fee, delivers on other days across the metro area. Browse her online store for what most appeals to you. I always come back to kelaneh, a circular variation beloved in the mountainous western Kurdistan province that’s rolled so thin it’s translucent. Raw herbs often comprise the filling, but Shomali prefers sautéing a mix of scallions, garlic, cilantro and parsley before layering them into the dough.

Iranian breads from Kouzeh, Sahar Shomali's cottage bakery.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

Tehran Plate Special at Taste of Tehran

Among the kebab houses that line the streets of Westwood, I favor tiny Taste of Tehran. Chef and owner Saghar Fanisalek’s mix of dishes — marinated meats ringed in flames and served with rice, yogurt and eggplant dips as tart as they are rich — emerge from her kitchen cooked with surgical finesse. An ideal amount of grated onion sharpens the beef koobideh, which is expertly shaped in undulating patterns on the skewer; the chicken kebab has deeply absorbed its lemony marinade. The Tehran Plate Special bundles these with an ever-pleasing filet mignon kebab for a satisfying trio of flavors and textures. It easily feeds two. Bonus suggestion: Among the short list of stews that rotates through the week, the standout is Fanisalek’s silky fesenjoon, compellingly taut in its contrasts of pomegranate molasses and walnuts. 1915 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 470-0022,


Lunchtime tahchin at Shamshiri Grill

Among the larger, older-guard Westwood kebab houses, I gravitate to Shamshiri Grill, where chefs tend skewers over flames behind a glassed-in grill. The menu sprawls, as does the dining room, so I like to zero in on the several specials available only a few days a week. The best of them: tahchin (also commonly spelled tachin), a savory rice cake stained with saffron, mixed with yogurt and egg, layered with chicken or lamb, baked and crowned with crimson barberries. It’s available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., In its piercing fragrance and frank richness, tahchin doesn’t need much more than a lemony Shirazi salad alongside to make a substantial lunch. 1712 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 474-1410,

Chicken tahchin at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood.
Lunch is the time for chicken tahchin at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Beef tongue sandwich at Attari Sandwich Shop

The sandwich shop founded by Parvin Sadaghiani is more than a Westwood mainstay. It’s a marker of community. He opened the shop originally as a convenience store in 1978. Tehrangeles, as the surrounding stretch of Westwood has long been nicknamed, began to take shape in the 1960s; it was cemented by the newcomers who fled Iran in response to the country’s scarring 1979 revolution. The block on which Attari resides received an official designation as “Persian Square” by Los Angeles in 2010, an acknowledgment of how deep the local Iranian American roots are entrenched.

Settle for lunch in the restaurant’s courtyard, a nostalgic retreat for some Iranian Americans with its balconied buildings and wrought-iron fence, for sandwiches made in more than a dozen variations. Among them: eggy chicken salad, fried potato cutlet, chicken kebab and Persian cold cuts. Beef tongue is a longtime specialty, the meat simmered in saffron and other aromatics, sliced thin and paired with extra-vinegary pickles for bracing contrast. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 441-5488,


Khaleh pacheh at Vanak

Kaleh pacheh — a delicious, bolstering soup featuring varied cuts from a lamb’s head, and often the trotters, traditionally served for breakfast in Iran — can be found at several Persian restaurants throughout the San Fernando Valley. Vanak in Reseda is the one I recommend. Come with a group to tackle the platter of meltingly tender meat, subtle in its perfume of garlic and sweet spices, that arrives with a separate bowl of broth and sides of lemon and onion. Customize to your taste, and compose ideal bites cradled in shards of sangak (crackling, handsomely pocked flatbread). The menu also includes a typical array of kebabs and sandwiches, but I’m here most for a morning meal, near the hour when the restaurant opens on weekends at 9 a.m. 6740 Reseda Blvd. East, Reseda, (818) 342-4956,

Ab-goosht at Nersses Vanak

The marquee dish at this Iranian Armenian restaurant in Glendale begins with a question, often from co-owners Robert Abediyan or Romik Abediyan: “Do you want to mash the ab-goosht, or would you like us to do it?” The tomato-laced lamb and chickpea stew also can be called dizi, named for the traditional vessel in which to serve the meal. There is ritual: Start by draining the stew’s broth into a bowl, and then mixing in torn pieces of accompanying flatbread. Then, with a masher made to fit the size of the dizi, smash the lamb and beans into a texture somewhere between coarse and smooth. There’s no one correct consistency, but the process and the flavors are uniform in their pleasure. They might not always have it, but ask the owners for a side of seer torshi — small whole heads of pickled garlic, a specialty of coastal Gilan province in northern Iran. Its intensity will cleave straight through the stew’s heartiness. 6524 San Fernando Road, Glendale, (818) 550-7800,

Romik Abediyan, co-owner of Nersses Vanak in Glendale, holds up a plate and a bowl of food
Romik Abediyan, co-owner of Nersses Vanak in Glendale, is photographed with ab-goosht (also known as dizi), shown in the mashed stage.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Khoresht at Azizam


This list, I’m aware, has a lot of meaty dishes, befitting the strengths of Persian restaurants throughout the metro area. Part of what separates Azizam’s concise menu is the seasonality of its khoresht, a name for a broad category of simmered meats and vegetables or fruits, designed to flow with the seasons, that can transcend the basic Western notion of “stew.” Cookbook author Andy Baraghani once beautifully summarized the approach to them for me. “There are stews made with cardoons and with apples or quinces in the fall, and with peaches in the late summer. The home-cooked dishes have a lot more variation to them than most restaurant dishes; some stews will be made sweeter or more bitter, or richer and fattier, or lighter and leaner. There’s too much room for error for most restaurants to practice these subtleties. It takes time to prep a stew made of fresh artichokes and tons of fresh herbs. Fresh sour cherries, a Persian favorite when in season, need to be pitted. Of course there are short cuts, but the labor of these dishes tends not to work in the restaurant medium.”

In Azizam’s pop-up form, I’ve had a minted celery khoresht that Ma and Sesar served with either saffron-marinated chicken or fried artichokes, chicken braised in sweet spices with butternut squash and plums, and a variation of fesenjoon with a dense, almost fudgy sauce heady with pomegranate. The opening menu has centered a straightforward vegetarian khoresht of eggplant and split peas cooked down with tomato. But I’m training my Instagram algorithm to keep me informed: I’ll be mad if, like recently, I miss of-the-moment specials like a recent apricot khoresht paired with the pot roast-y goodness of lamb’s neck meat. 2943 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 928-2286,

White Moustache yogurt at Eataly

Homa Dashtaki, who grew up in Southern California after she immigrated with her family from Tehran, founded my favorite yogurt brand in America in 2011.I’ve written before about my love of White Moustache yogurt — and about “Yogurt & Whey,” Dashtaki’s cookbook full of heartfelt stories published last year. Eataly in Century City remains the only place to buy her Persian-style products locally. Try the sour cherry flavor to understand my obsession.

Jars of White Moustache yogurt, made locally only at Eataly in Century City.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Orange blossom ice cream at Saffron & Rose


This is another Westwood staple — founder Haji Ali Kashani-Rafye arrived in America in 1974 — that has maintained its standards for decades. I’ve always respected how the shop groups its flavors, by fruit (sour cherry, date and pomegranate, and a refreshing cucumber gets lumped in here), floral (jasmine, lavender and seasonal rose flavors that vary between potent and subtle) and chocolate and nutty (green pistachio, the ubiquitous cookies and cream). Saffron-pistachio or faloodeh, threaded with thin noodles and scented extravagantly with rose water, arguably hew most closely to Iranian tradition. I’m a fan of the orange blossom variation: Once you wander through flowering orange trees you never forget the enveloping scent. A few bites of this ice cream revives my memories. 1387 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 477-5533,

Saffron kolompeh from Zozo Baking

Nearly a decade ago Fariba Nafissi, who had been an executive at Ikea in Burbank, began online sales of a sweet specialty she’d grown up loving in Kerman, a city in southeast Iran on the edge of the Lut desert where dates are a major local crop. The sweet is called kolompeh, a soft, golden cookie filled with dates, nuts and spices; bakers use special stamps to create geometric patterns in the dough. Nafissi’s early efforts found such a fast audience that she established Zozo Baking, which operates out of a space in Simi Valley Town Center. Her online site includes other delicately crafted cookies, cakes and candies from traditional recipes, but nothing makes me as happy like her kolompeh. A box makes a superb gift. 1555 Simi Town Center Way, (818) 900-6644,

Fariba Nafissi demonstrates making the marzipan candy toot at her studio, Zozo Baking.
Fariba Nafissi demonstrates making the marzipan candy toot at her studio, Zozo Baking. She first earned her reputation as a baker selling the Persian cookies called kolompeh.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

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