16 April 2013
Vatan ~ Persian - Auburn
Vatan have two stores on Auburn Road. We walk past the first Vatan and also check the second Vatan on the other side of the road, which turned out to be a bit more formal. Tablecloths scare us so we went back to the first cafe style store.
There's a calming, pleasant vibe in here, which we attribute to the ladies who run the front of house, they have some of the most welcoming smiles in Sydney. If you're a bit nervous about trying a new cuisine then these ladies will put you at ease, they are more than happy to explain dishes and make suggestions.
The menu is a mix of grills, meat'n'rice and saucy meaty stewy dishes. The meat'n' rice dishes often have a light flavouring to them. We sense they are cooked without a lot of spices, just lightly braised in broth. The saucier dishes have real flavour thanks to the preserved lime. The grills are a good meaty mouthful and subtly spiced. Order a side dish of yoghurt dip if you want some extra creaminess and flavours. The flavoured rice is spectacular: light, longrain and perfectly spiced, with a naughty knob of butter on top. Every meal comes with flat bread the size of a small car tyre. On each of our three visits we rolled out stuffed to the gills because we couldn't stop eating that amazing rice and bread.
There's a few signs when you sit down this isn't your regular food joint. There's sumac in shakers on the table and lumps of sugar in a container to sit between your teeth and sip your tea through.
Some of the dishes are prepared and are served from the bain marie of delights at the front counter. They seem to change so check out what's fresh that day, it may not be on the menu.
Torshi or Pickled vegetables $4 - a mix of cauliflower, carrot, garlic bulbs and cabbage in a vinegar heavy quick style pickle.
A huge piece of flat bread arrives along with a plate of lemon, mint leaves and raw onion. The mint leaves are eaten before the meal to help refresh your palate while you wait patiently for your goodies.
The bread is amazing, the top looks like the surface of the moon. Underneath it's crisp and brown. It has a neutral, slightly sweet taste that reminds us faintly of old fashioned ice cream cones. The bread is baked out the back and attracts a constant stream of takeway punters who often buy half a dozen bags at a go.
The stand out entree dish is the Kashk-E Bademjan, grilled eggplant with sour cream and dried mint for $6. The eggplant is slightly pureed and super smokey, with the sour cream giving a balance.
Yoghurt drink or ayran is usual in these parts, you can buy by the glass or carafe from the fridge. The top of the glass has a light sprinkle of dried mint.
The big difference between this food and most of the other mixed grill joints in Auburn are the house specials. Ghormeh Sabzi is a lamb dish with red kidney beans and spinach ($12). It's like a saag, but preserved lime is used to add a sour tangy flavour to the sauce. Fluffy basmati style rice is served with a giant knob of butter on top that melts through and gives a buttery flavour that makes the rice irresistible. We waddled out of here often because of it.
Hidden under this glorious pile of rice covered in tiny sweet barberries is a piece of chicken. Zereskh Polo ($12). More butter.
Shish kebab - lamb mince with salad - $12. Persian rissoles on a stick, awesome! These are simple and perfectly cooked, not overly salted. Very happy. The salad has a chilli flavoured yoghurt dressing.
Alison spies this dish in the bain marie of delights. It's a lamb and lentil dish with...chips on top! Ghaimeh ($12) is also flavoured with preserved lime, and the yellow split peas add some texture and hearty bulk to the dish.
Lamb hunks and fried potato strips, served with the same fluffy rice.
We sense the Persians like to hide their food under piles of rice. This Bagheli Polo ($12) hides a big lamb shank under dill flavoured green rice and a sprinkle of saffron rice. Knob of butter, of course.
Vatan's popular Sunday special is a mix of sheeps head and hooves called Kaleh Pache. Its a plate full of odd bits of meat and brains, lots of bones and unrecognisable bits. There's plenty of soft flesh and lots of different tendon and fatty like textures. You take some of the bread and rip it into small pieces for a float around in the salty side soup. Then you take pieces of meat, wrap them in more bread and dunk and scoff. If you like offal this is your dream dish. Alison really likes the texture and flavour of the brains, Shawn isn't as big a fan. He like playing "guess the body part" though.
Vatan Restaurant Menu.
Vatan Restaurant Menu
Vatan Persian Restaurant is at 65 Auburn Road, Auburn. There's also a fancier version across the road and up the hill a little bit at 64 Auburn Road. On our visits the takeaway was busier plus it has the "just like overseas" vibe that we love so much.
Don't forget to buy some bread on the way out.
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