Ever since I dined at this restaurant with the Afghan trainees at my previous job, I just can’t get enough of Persian food. For me, Persian food = Arya. It’s certainly one of the most recommended places where authentic Persian fare can be had like you've never had it before. Don’t give it a second thought, here’s a roundup of some of the dishes you shouldn’t miss on your visit to Arya:
First up is the Salad Irani. It’s a fresh assortment of tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber. If it’s not the crunchy greens that will wow you, it’s definitely the way it is complemented with the exquisite collaboration of the feta cheese and the delicious tartness of the mustard dressing that goes with it.
Next up is the Deep-Fried Sambuseh. There is this certain crunch once you bite into its paper-thin wrapper, much like soda crackers or thin wafers. What follows after the crunch is a welcome burst of softness and creaminess from the mashed potato filling infused with goat cheese, cilantro and cumin. The Sambuseh is drizzled with a perfectly-matched tangy, tamarind chutney.
People who frown on most vegetables can be willing converts once they have a sample of the Kofteh Badenjan. This dish, which literally means “smashed eggplant,” is one of my favorites. This interesting dish looks just like meatballs with tomato sauce. Inside these tender, flavorful and chewy morsels is a surprise cheese filling. These meatballs are simmered in a thick, aromatic paste of fresh tomatoes and mashed eggplants.
A perfect accompaniment to the delightful dishes is the Basmati Rice. Basmati, as the owner of Arya eloquently describes it, is a “white, tall and handsome” rice. The rice is cooked in saffron, pronouncing a wonderfully, earthy taste to it. The texture of Arya’s saffron-infused Basmati is fluffy and balanced perfectly to tease the palate.
Upon first bite out of their Chicken Biryani, I noticed a distinct spiciness. I was told that the special kick to the dish was made out of a potpourri of more than 20 different herbs. Cumin being one, apart from lemon, onions and garlic, form part of the list that make up the memorable dish.
Zeresh Polo Ba Mourgh or Wild Berry Rice with Chicken is a famous Iranian heritage dish. The chicken is sautéed in herbs and then simmered in a tomato-based reduction along with vegetables and herbs that are slowly cooked to lock all the flavors in a very well blended ensemble. This comes with Basmati rice, only this time the rice greets you with a pleasant crunch from the generous addition of pistachios and almonds in it.
When you have a craving for authentic Persian food, I highly recommend Arya for a truly unique experience!
Arya Persian Restaurant branches are located at Greenhills Promenade, Unit L-9 Ortigas Ave. Greenhills San Juan; Level 2 Midtown Wing, Robinsons Place Manila, Pedro Gil, Ermita and Level 1, The Podium, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center.
* photos by Tanya Mariano