Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Hatam Restaurant ~ Anaheim, California
One of the great pleasures of traveling to Southern Cal is the proliferation of Persian restaurants, something that is almost extinct in the DFW area (there's only one in Richardson that I'm aware of, and I'll do a writeup soon). I'm talking pure Persian restaurants, not "Middle Eastern", "Pan Arabian" or, perhaps even less descriptive, "Mediterranean". For one thing, Persians aren't Arabs, and that's just the sort of thing that sets off neighborhood disturbances. And just in case your history is a little light, Persian refers to the modern country of Iran, which has its own connotations, right, wrong or indifferent.
By all rights, Persian food should be the ideal Regular Joe's kinda food. We're talking meats, saffron rice and veggies - and the latter is optional. Shish Kabob is what most folks know, and it's a combination of various meats and veggies. But there are plenty of other Kabob's which focus on a variety of meats. Take a look for yourself:
Are you licking the screen? That's a good sign.
I had intended on revisiting a Mr. RJG favorite in Beverly Hills called Aram, but unfortunately we arrived too early in the day for dinner, and decided to try one near our hotel in Anaheim. We were staying in a "neighborhood" hotel that had good ratings on TripAdvisor.com called the Pepper Tree, and there were many eateries nearby that would wear the "ethnic" badge very proudly. I hopped on the hotel's computer for a quick look of nearby Persian restaurants, and no surprise, there were 4 or 5 within 15 minutes of where we were staying. I selected Hatam based on the handful of reviews I could find.
One thing Mrs. RJG and I truly enjoy with our meal is wine, but not all Persian restaurants will carry, or allow it, depending on how strict they are (some don't mind at all). I knew that Hatam didn't serve wine, and I was too chicken (I don't know why) to ask them over the phone if they would allow us to bring it in, so what to do? Why of course, walk across the street to Ralph's grocery store, buy a bottle of wine, and drink it on the terrace BEFORE we go to dinner....
Sure enough, we were the only non-Persians in the restaurant - and it helps to have a good buzz in these situations. We dutifully had diet sodas with our meal. I ordered some kabob plate that had seasoned ground beef (known as kofta), filet mignon, ground chicken and chicken breast, with a huge bed of basmati rice covered in saffron. It was RIDICULOUSLY good. The filet was as tender as your favorite steakhouse - the kofta, despite a different seasoning, will make you think of your favorite Italian meatballs. As mentioned prior in one of the Thai threads, I love ground chicken and it was as delicious here as anywhere, and the cubes of chicken breast made me want to create a quick enchilada. And the rice? OMG, the rice... some of the best ever.
This is not the kind of place you'll stumble on driving around - so we really lucked out. It's in a Persian shopping center, buried deep in this non descriptive strip mall area. However, it's easy to get to, as the restaurant is just north of I-5 on Brookhurst. Inside, Hatam is a beautiful restaurant with nice paintings, Persian rugs and gorgeous mosaics.
Never had Persian food before? If you happen to be in Orange County, go to Hatam. This will be a regular stop for Mr. RJG (and Mrs. RJG!), that's for sure.