The Gossiping Gourmet: Orchid offers generous taste of Persian food

If you are looking for a great deal and some interesting food, we suggest you try the buffet at Orchid in Costa Mesa, served both at lunch and dinner every day but Saturday. It might be a nice introduction to Iranian — or Persian — cuisine if you are unfamiliar with it.

Of course, you can order from the regular menu as well. The weekends offer more than just food, as there is live music and belly dancing until 3:30 a.m.

As you enter off the strip mall, you find yourself in a foyer with elaborate decorations, including golden lions, ornate chandeliers and two impressive orchid displays. The very large open dining space is designed to accommodate big parties beneath its pillars and arches. Done in earth tones, the décor is surprisingly modest compared to the entrance. On one end of the room is an expansive copper hood over an open grill and a tandoori-type oven, all surrounded by the commodious buffet.

Many of the appetizers are yogurt dips or eggplant spreads to be eaten with flatbread. More substantial are the Persian-style grape leaves stuffed with meat, rice and split peas. We chose the sanbouseh, a samosa-like pastry with a thin deep fried crust filled with a spicy potato spinach mixture. The cumin-scented potato mixture was quite tasty; we just wished there was more of it. The crunchy exterior was a bit greasy.

Borani bademjan is a fried mashed eggplant spread mixed with yogurt onion, garlic and herbs, and served topped with fried onions. It had very little eggplant flavor and was too sour. The best part was the fried onions.

A very generous portion of tasty white fish filet was seasoned like a kebab and grilled. It was moist, flavorful and tasted extremely fresh. It was impossible not to finish every last bite. This, like all the other entrées, was served with a mountain of basmati rice — easily three cups. In this case the pilaf was punctuated with lima beans and seasoned with lots of dill. Also on the platter was a dish of tabouli salad, notably heavy on the parsley and very light on the grain, which was a version that we thought was one of the best we've ever eaten.

Although chicken kebabs are often dry and boring, the Adas polo with chicken, a Cornish game hen dish, was surprisingly juicy and deliciously flavored. Garlic, spices and hints of the grill made for some excellent eating. We took the manager's suggestion and ordered it with his most popular pilaf, studded with raisins, dates and lentils. This one was excellent, but there was no way to finish it in one sitting.

Fesenjan is one of the classics of Iranian cuisine, featuring poultry, in this case tender chicken, cooked in a sauce of pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts. This intense tart/sweet sauce needs to be eaten with lots of rice, which we certainly had in abundance.

We also tried another stew, ghormeh sabzi, veal shank off-the-bone, long simmered until very tender in a sauce based on parsley, with red kidney beans. The complex seasonings included something very lemony and salty. The cooked parsley ended up tasting like an Indian spinach sauce.

Ice cream for dessert always seems boring but neither of us had tasted the Persian variety. What a delightful and delectable surprise!

Bastani is rose water saffron ice cream with pistachios. It has an incredibly creamy mouth feel with a slightly gooey yet pleasant texture and an intriguing flavor.

Even better is faloudeh, made from thin cooked rice noodles frozen in rosewater sugar syrup that becomes a sorbet with a bit of texture. Garnished with sour cherries and their syrup and finished with fresh lime juice, it becomes totally addictive and incredibly refreshing after a heavy meal.

ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ were in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at


Where: 3033 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa

When: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday


Buffet: lunch Monday through Friday, $8.99; weekend buffet, $10.99; dinner, $10.99

Appetizers: $3.99-$9.99

Entrées: $6.99-$23.99

Desserts: $1.89-$7.99


Bottles: $19-$65

By the glass: $5-$9

Corkage Fee: $10

Information: (714) 557-8070,

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