Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Many an evening spent biking the college stretch has found me looking into the mysterious glow of The Pomegranate restaurant. It’s not that the blue walls and fine tapestries have scared me from visiting until now. Like more than a couple people I know, I have had the unfortunate problem of trying to call them a visit for lunch- this is a dinner only establishment.
Knowing that, we arrived at 8, well after open, but also well before close.
I knew this place was going to be a five star for atmosphere. The walls are draped with ornate rugs, tassels dangling. Photos and paintings show women and men in traditional Iranian clothes. The place did not lack for colour or lighting. Patterned lamps hung down casting patterns on the cerulean wall, making us feel under water. There were hand-painted tiles inlaid on all the walls. We felt comfortable.
To start we ordered a bottle of Argentinian wine, Trapiche, a malbec reserve. Pomegranate only serves two kinds of meat from what I can tell. Mostly it’s lamb, and one or two dishes have chicken, or are vegetarian. Thus the red choice- and it was a delicious wine which I will be certain to purchase again. Between myself and my two guests, we ordered four dishes.
Maast-o Khiar - $4.25
A blend of English cucumber, walnuts, raisins and rose petals in a rich creamy herbed yogurt.
This appetizer was served with warm Barbary bread- and by warm, I mean HOT! Wrapped in a warm cloth, it tasted incredibly fresh, while crusty on the outside. I firmly believe this was fresh baked. The mast-o khiar was spooned out onto our separate plates. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t taste much of the rose petals, which were actually more like a fine powder on top of the dish. Eaten on top of bread or by itself, the dish was mild, the raisins and walnuts adding the most texture and flavour. It was refreshing, and thus served well as an app, but wasn’t terribly memorable.
All the main dishes were served with a salad of mixed greens and a happy helping of basmati rice. There was also a small bowl of something that reminded me of pico, with mint. My companions dishes were served in metal bowls with the gravy filled right to the edge, but mine came with a proud and large shank of lamb front and center.
Daily Special - Seared Eggplant with Lamb - $14.95
I tried a spoonful of this saucy, savoury dish with some of my basmati rice. Pomegranate knows a thing of two about making a winning sauce. As the Pomegranate was my second blog to review, I made a rookie mistake- I forgot to take my notebook. Finding standard menu items on the Pomegranates website was easy, but I don’t have the details on what was in this stew. It was rich, with thick and mushroomy gravy. The eggplant was not too noticeable, but the charred flavour hung around underneath the bold lamb aromas. For a cold and wet day, it was a great choice.
Aloo Gheysi - $13.95
A stew of bokhara plums and dried apricots in a saffron sauce with boneless chicken pieces
The plums have pits in them. We were warned about this twice by two different servers. I’m a firm believer that every bit of an animal, plant or fruit contains essential flavours, even if it’s just a bit of an addition. Of the three dishes, we all agreed that this was the most flavourful. I love sweet dinners because they’re different from what one usually gets, but my friends both said they aren’t historically fans. All of us loved it. Even though there was a variety of fruit, the chicken and saffron did a lot to keep the dish from being too sweet. Again, Pomegranate showed a skill for sauces. Unlike other saucy middle eastern dishes I’ve tries, this was not too buttery, but full of natural taste.
Morasa Polo - $14.95
Jewelled rice – slivers of Seville orange peel, almond and pistachio with diced carrots and barberries blended in saffron basmati rice served with a braised lamb shank
I am not much of a lamb eater. I’m not opposed to it, but I tend to lean towards vegetarian dishes. So the times I’ve eaten lamb can be counted on one hand. This was...superlative. Can I use that word for a hunk of meat on a big bone? It was great. It tasted strictly of meat. There was no sauce, and the spices were very simple, almost not there. But please, let me describe its tenderness. I had a piece on my fork, and I bit that piece. Half stayed on the fork, just falling away. I don’t know if I’ve ever had something so tender! Beautiful lamb.
The rice that came with my dish was also different from what my friends had with their dishes. This ‘jewelled rice’ was full of chips of candied orange peel, crisp nuts, and carrots. It was as colourful as confetti, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The basmati was so light and fluffy that it didn’t sit heavily like rice usually does.
The desserts were very tempting, and I saw the tables all around us ordering the same thing, but we all agreed that we were too full to venture into desserts - this time.
My guests this evening were my roomate Molly and her man, Pietro.