If you have never been to Kasra, come expecting nothing. That is the best way. Enter the atrium oasis with its splashing fountain (yes, its base is a statue of a bucolic, Bo Peep-looking shepherd boy and girl. Don’t ask). The vast room with its stone arches fills with families, 25 to a long table at times, but you feel as though you are in someone’s home, the owner’s teenage daughter occasionally making rounds to check on people.
Here, rendered faithfully, are the flavors you simply do not find in any other cuisine. Gormeh sabzi, a dish that’s dark emerald with herbs and greens—parsley, spinach, coriander, fenugreek—hides the dried lime that makes it so enchanting.
Koobideh, ground beef kabobs, are finely seasoned, their meaty complexity accompanied by saffron-striped basmati rice. Bites pulled from any of the char-kissed kabobs, in fact, accented with grilled onions, dabbed with chile sauce, and wrapped in the Afghani flatbread that is wordlessly and regularly replenished, is more or less heaven.
There is hummus, rich with tahini and dusted with sumac; cool, minted yogurt; the simple Iranian salad of cucumber, tomato, and red onions. Tabouleh is of the Iranian variety, a brilliant flurry of herbs. Afghan pilaf is fragrant with cinnamon and carrot; Persian pilaf savory with dill and dried favas. They make an excellent version of kashk-e bademjan, the silky, rich eggplant and grilled onion dip topped with whey. The bread is warm and pillowy. A glass of the yogurt drink doogh is plain, but refreshing.
This is not “Mediterranean” food, or what is often carelessly bundled under the name Middle Eastern. It is far more specific than that, though it brushes up against the Kurdish, Uzbek, Turkish, Afghani. But the secret is always the fesenjan, chicken stewed to tenderness in a paste of walnuts and pomegranate molasses, rich, sweet-tart, and mesmerizing. These are the true Persian classics. They nail them, capturing that particular gift of Persian cuisine to comfort and excite.
The servers will bring you tea with lumps of sugar. End the meal with its soothing fragrance, sipped from gold-rimmed glasses. Talk, sip, with the spoils of the meal around you—stray grains of rice trailing, the table stained with fesenjan.