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Iranian cuisine at Parsian Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria

Friday night I took my first taste of Iranian cuisine, and I think I’ll be going back for more at Parsian Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria.

Growing up in Dearborn, Mich., where there is a large population of Lebanese and other Middle Eastern people, I had eaten Middle Eastern, particularly Lebanese, foods before. I love a good hummus with fluffy pita bread, fattoush salad and shish taouk.

Iranian cuisine was not a far stretch from the other Middle Eastern dishes I’ve eaten, but there are some different spices used. I noticed saffron was one of them.

Mmm, hummus.

Mmm, hummus.

At this King Street restaurant, my roommate Amanda and I began our meals with a shared hummus appetizer. Made with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, this mashed chick pea dip was served with a thick pita bread. Of all the Middle Eastern restaurants we have eaten at in the Washington, D.C., area, this was the thickest pita bread we’ve had. Amanda also called it the best hummus in the area, but I prefer slightly less olive oil in my hummus.

Other appetizers available included a sauteed eggplant dish mixed with grilled onions and garlic and boiled yogurt, all priced lower than $6. The menu is heavy on kabobs, but it also includes salads, wrap sandwiches and soups. For the less adventurous eater, Mediterranean favorites like Caesar and Greek salads and gyros are also available.

For our entrees, we both ordered kabobs. Amanda went with a combo of marinated chicken and ground sirloin kabobs served with a bed of rice and a grilled tomato. While I’m not a true vegetarian, I tend to order non-meat dishes. Luckily, that is pretty easy to do at Middle Eastern eateries — except for when I’m craving a chicken shawarma pita, of course. So, I selected the veggie kabob, which included grilled onion, zucchini, squash, green and red peppers, tomato and mushrooms. It was served with a choice of the house rice or an herb rice.

Veggie Kabob at Parsian Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria

Veggie Kabob at Parsian Restaurant in Old Town Alexandria

Overall, I was pleased with my meal choice, though admittedly it was a bit bland until our waitress — who was incredibly helpful navigating us through our first Iranian dining experience — brought out the “green sauce.” She described it as a mixture of cilantro and jalapeƱo peppers with olive oil. It tasted like a Middle Eastern salsa minus the tomatoes or Iran’s answer to guacamole without avocado. I’m not even sure this is truly Iranian, but I’d put this “green sauce” on tortilla chips, pita chips, vegetables, pretty much anything. And, I can! I liked the sauce so much that the waitress sent me home with two small containers of it.

Magical "green sauce" that may just make everything taste better!

Magical “green sauce” that may just make everything taste better!

In addition to tasty sauces, Parsian Restaurant offers fairly well-sized portions at affordable prices. Our entrees were under $15 each. If we had paired our meals with a glass of wine, our bills would still have been less than $25. In the Northern Virginia suburbs of D.C., that is a normal cost for dinner at a non-chain restaurant. We both left the restaurant full and satisfied, ready to walk down the block to our next stop.

That’s the beauty of Old Town dining. There is such a wide variety of options — low cost to expensive, casual to upscale — with cuisines influenced from around the world. You can park for free along the neighborhood streets — I recommend trying Queen Street since it’s a couple blocks removed from the hustle of King Street — or pay for a garage or metered spot. If you are coming from Washington, you can take the Metro’s Blue or Yellow lines to the King Street station and hop a trolley ride to the restaurant.

Parsian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wish you were here,

Erin

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