It’s always struck me as interesting that Iranians often refer to themselves as ‘Persian’. I can understand why though, since ‘Persian’ brings to mind expensive carpets and poetry, while ‘Iran’ brings to mind nuclear weapons and revolutions.
Vatan Restaurant has 2 branches along the main road in Auburn, the hole-in-the-wall next to the iconic Mado, and another ‘fancy’ one down the road. I went to the ‘fancy’ one, and let me tell you, there is nothing that screams class quite as much a blaring wide-screen television.
Seriously though, it’s quite decent-looking for Auburn. There are some pretty mosaics on the wall and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Every time I’ve come here I’ve been intrigued by this brick configuration on the wall. See if you can figure it out!
My friends and me spend a while tossing up what to get. Not that the menu is extensive by any means-it’s basically different permutations of grilled lamb, chicken and mince kebabs with a few Persian staples thrown in for good measure. If the phrase ‘Persian staples’ means nothing to you, look up Zeresh Polo and you will see that it is a Barberry and Saffron Pilaf with Braised Chicken. If that still means nothing to you, it’s probably best to stick with the grilled meats!
We all stick to the grilled meats and chicken because I’ve been here before and can attest to their deliciousness. We also get a Masto—Khiyar (yogurt with cucumber) to accompany our meats. The yogurt comes out first, together with a complimentary serve of bread and mint. The bread would be nicer warm but it’s good enough for scooping up the yogurt. The yogurt is deliciously thick and creamy, with bits of crunchy cucumber to break up the consistency.
My friend’s Joojeh (Marinated Chicken in Saffron) comes out first. The chicken is amazingly tender and juicy and full of flavour. It comes with fluffy rice flecked with a chunk of butter, as well as grilled tomato and a chilli. Together with the yogurt, it hits all the right places i.e. the place that can lead you to gross over-eating if you aren’t careful. For $12, this is one filling meal.
Because I’m blessed (or cursed, whichever way you want to see it) with a large appetite, I get the Shahi, which is a combination of the Joojeh and Barg, the latter being marinated lamb fillet. I’m not a huge meat fan, but the lamb melts in the mouth. This is $17 I’m happy to fork out.
My friend gets the Shahi, which is Joojeh and Koobideh (lamb mince). I prefer the lamb fillet, but the Koobideh is nice enough.
The last time I came here I had the Persian icecream, Bastani, which had pistachios, saffron and lime. It was an unusual and beautiful combination of flavours, so I was happy to hear that they had it again. However, the icecream that came out this time was something which both looked and tasted different to what I had expected. When we first tasted it there was something off-putting and odd about it. We tried analysing exactly what we were eating but the best we could come up with was some sort of honey or thick syrup combined with chewy icecream cubes, topped with almonds and pistachios. However, the taste slowly grew on us and within no time we’d polished it off. We asked the waitress what was in it but all she volunteered was saffron.
The bill for the three of us comes to a very respectable $53. If you’re not afraid to try something different, take a ride on the magic carpet that is Vatan.