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The Gossiping Gourmet: Orchid offers generous taste of Persian food

July 27, 2011|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Multiple offerings on the buffet at The Orchid restaurant in in Costa Mesa.
Multiple offerings on the buffet at The Orchid restaurant… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

If you are looking for a great deal and some interesting food, we suggest you try the buffet at Orchid in Costa Mesa, served both at lunch and dinner every day but Saturday. It might be a nice introduction to Iranian — or Persian — cuisine if you are unfamiliar with it.

Of course, you can order from the regular menu as well. The weekends offer more than just food, as there is live music and belly dancing until 3:30 a.m.

As you enter off the strip mall, you find yourself in a foyer with elaborate decorations, including golden lions, ornate chandeliers and two impressive orchid displays. The very large open dining space is designed to accommodate big parties beneath its pillars and arches. Done in earth tones, the décor is surprisingly modest compared to the entrance. On one end of the room is an expansive copper hood over an open grill and a tandoori-type oven, all surrounded by the commodious buffet.

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Many of the appetizers are yogurt dips or eggplant spreads to be eaten with flatbread. More substantial are the Persian-style grape leaves stuffed with meat, rice and split peas. We chose the sanbouseh, a samosa-like pastry with a thin deep fried crust filled with a spicy potato spinach mixture. The cumin-scented potato mixture was quite tasty; we just wished there was more of it. The crunchy exterior was a bit greasy.

Borani bademjan is a fried mashed eggplant spread mixed with yogurt onion, garlic and herbs, and served topped with fried onions. It had very little eggplant flavor and was too sour. The best part was the fried onions.

A very generous portion of tasty white fish filet was seasoned like a kebab and grilled. It was moist, flavorful and tasted extremely fresh. It was impossible not to finish every last bite. This, like all the other entrées, was served with a mountain of basmati rice — easily three cups. In this case the pilaf was punctuated with lima beans and seasoned with lots of dill. Also on the platter was a dish of tabouli salad, notably heavy on the parsley and very light on the grain, which was a version that we thought was one of the best we've ever eaten.

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