If you’ve driven through Ryde you’ve probably seen Farsi Restaurant. It’s unmissable – even beyond the five-plus different signs, there’s that incredible entrance. It’s down a private alley, which with all the clay-coloured tiling and vine-covered walls, looks like the passageway to a secret garden. Then there’s a great wooden door revealing something equally surprising.
Inside it looks like an old-fashioned hotel. One you might imagine in an Italian coastal town or in rural Iran. The latter, of course, is the inspiration. Amir Masoumi Nejad, the owner here, has been working in hotels all his life. When his wife asked him to move to Australia for their daughter’s education, he took his first step out of the hotel world and opened a restaurant.
“The important thing for my father is to provide the best service for his customer,” says Masoumi Nejad’s daughter Yasamin who works at the restaurant along with her aunt and sister. To create the same feel, Masoumi Nejad has gone all out, everything – from the salt-and-pepper shakers to the glassware and crockery – has been imported from Iranian hotels.
Not the food though. Back in Iran, Masoumi Nejad was serving more westernised fare but here it’s strictly traditional. As is typical in Persian cuisine, the menu is dominated by charcoal-roasted meats. Each of the plates comes with a gargantuan mound of fluffy rice, a couple of charred tomatoes, a roasted long chilli which is as sour as it is hot, and a long strip of meat. There’s barg kebab, (soft lamb-backstrap pieces marinated in garlic, onions and saffron); joje (chicken rubbed in lemon and minced onion); and probably the best of the bunch, the koobideh kebab (juicy lamb minced with onion and various spices).
“The recipes are all from my dad, from his experience in hotels and from learning as a kid at family restaurants. All his family were in hotels and restaurants around Iran,” says Yasamin.
Before the meat though you should try the Iranian dips. Instead of babaganoush here they have kashke bademjan, a grilled eggplant spread topped with crispy garlic, mint leaves and yoghurt whey; and aykra, another eggplant puree that has a golden-orange colour from being blended with onion and tomato.
If you go on the weekends, there’s an extra menu of more regional specials, such as the fesenjān, a chicken stew that’s slow cooked in pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts, and the gheymeh nesar, a Ghazni-style chicken and tomato stew served with rice and a sprinkling of barberries, pistachios and dried orange. Regardless of the time, day or clientele (it’s most older Persians), every table will finish with the same thing, saffron-and-pistachio ice-cream, which chef Nastaran Salek makes in-house.
20A Church Street, Ryde
(02) 8095 0039
Tue to Sun 12.30pm–3.30pm, 5.30pm–9.30pm