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Albany - Zand – Behold the Persian mortadella sandwich

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Albany - Zand – Behold the Persian mortadella sandwich

rworange | Sep 23, 2005 02:30 AM

I’ve been diverting other posts with info about Zand, a charming Persian market/deli on Solano Avenue, so here’s all the info in one place with a few new things.

While I liked almost everything at Zand, there were a few stand outs and lots of very goods. The stand outs:

- the shop itself
- the mortadella sandwich
- the pints of creamy scallion yogurt
- the Iranian ice cream and falooda

The peppery scallion yogurt has only a sticker on it with one word … in Farsi. Silky, smooth and elegant like French yogurt, it is great as a dip starter or lovely mixed with fresh cucumbers or whatever you fancy … expensive at $4.99 a pint but worth ever penny.

But my, that Halal Mortadella with pistachios, garlic and mint on a crusty roll with the right touch of mayo and crunchy cucumbers is addictive. It tastes like everything good about mortadella. Those crisp cucumber pickles, finely chopped are great, almost like half sours in flavor. They are also in the chopped tomato salad and the yogurt dip (with lovely fresh dill and creamy yogurt). Sandwiches come with one side and a little salad with olives. Huge bowls of olives line the top shelf of the deli case.

The flat bread selection from every Mid-Eastern bakery in California (or so it seems) is pretty impressive with some breads as big as a tabletop with names like tantoon, barbari bread and sangak, in addition to the more common lavash and pita.

This link has info about Persian breads with pictures.

http://www.persianmirror.com/cuisine/...

What really captivates me about Zand is that it is the least foreign ethnic store … of any ethnicity.

It is a sunny, clean, well organized shop that is interesting without being intimidating. It invites you to linger at one of the six small round tables topped with bud vases with fresh roses. It is quite pleasant sipping a Persian tea or Turkish coffee while nibbling on one of the many baked goods or enjoying a lunch plate. Persian music plays unobtrusively in the background. There is a selection of music that can be purchased.

A few grocery shelves hold Mid-Eastern groceries and some supplies. There are a few silver salamanders for tea and lovely Turkish coffee cups.

Wicker baskets by the window hold a variety of flatbreads from so many different bakeries – Tabrizi Barbari, Caravan, Wheat Valley and an unmarked bread from Davis. There is a bakery counter chock full of cookies that are house made, imported or from various California bakeries like Burbank Bakery. There is a selection of chocolate bars with Farsi writing.

Everything is looks super fresh including the many nuts and dried fruit.

Next to the baked goods is a case holding pans of feta, cheeses, meats and smoked fish. The deli counter is filled with plates of fresh house-made selections. A frozen food case holds the ice cream and other items.

There is a dairy case with juices, drinks and tubs of Salud yogurt. Thicker than Greek yogurt, a knife plunged into the center will stand up straight.

In addition to sandwiches and deli plates, Zand has a 7 bean soup which I liked very much. It has a thick consistency like a split pea with a grain, perhaps barley. It tastes of mint and other fresh herbs and has a slight sour edge like sorrel. It is even better if topped with a dollop of yogurt.
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The prices are good. Soup is $2.99 a pint and sandwiches are $5- $6.

On the weekend, there are dinner dishes for $12.99 which include an entree and two sides with a pita bread and one of Zand’s house-made desserts or Iranian ice cream.

I tried the Fesnjanl, a pomegranate stew made with chicken and walnuts and served on Basmati rice with saffron. It seemed the wrong order, the pomegranate dyed the chicken so that it looked like beef. Long-stewed, the chicken was shredded and the stew consisted of a thick sauce made of the ground walnuts with pomegranate. There was an interesting play of sweet/sour/tart taste. Interesting to try once. The excellent rice was very long grained, fluffy and buttery.

There is a sampler plate where you get a small sample of everything.

Zand is noted for their Falafel and another poster, Morton the Mouse, says to make sure to ask them to fry your falafel fresh, they only do it on request

There are other standard mid-Eastern items in the sample plate in addition to Persian dishes. My favorite of these was the Spanakopita with buttery flakey filo and a generous feta to spinach ratio. The tahini and hummus were pleasant, very smooth and so light as to seem almost whipped. Dolmas were minty with soft rice that was almost a mashed potato consistency.

Other than the Persian mortadella which I am in love with, other Persion dishes I tried were:

Kookoo Sabzi - parsley and dill veggie soufflé This is very nice and light and herby. Tart red barberries are on top.

Kotlet - ground meat, potatoes, and bread crumbs. Thin and flat with lots of ground beef. While it wasn’t an instant favorite, it has more and more appeal. Almost a cross between a cold chicken fried steak and very thin meatloaf.

Tah-Cheen . This was a square piece of saffron rice, almost like a slice of lasagna, it had some fine chicken pieces in the center and was topped with tart barberries. It was dry and with not enough flavor.

Olivieh - Persian style potato salad with chicken. This was unpleasant to me. The consistency almost of mashed potatoes with either finely chopped or ground chicken it had a strong poultry and egg taste.

In the link below about the wonderful falooda, there are other links about Zand. Almost universally, not many people liked the olivieh. One of those acquired tastes.

The house made desserts are lovely and the custard is excellent. The Napoleon is a light version, made with airy layers of filo with a dab of custard in the center and dusted with powdered sugar. The pastry for the éclair and the cream puff is soft and pillowy. Slightly bittersweet chocolate topped the custard-filled éclair. Some desserts like the chocolate roulettes and cakes are available by special order only.

I sampled two of the four house-made baklava - the Greek, with honey soaked layers of filo topped with large walnut pieces, and a dense Persian almond that was slightly lemony and perfumey. The almond baklava is serious dessert

Here’s the link to the website.

http://www.zandpastry.com/

The site has an old Oakland Tribune review that tells the inspiring story of owner Moniar Attar (her married name was Zand). After running a pastry shop in Iran for over a decade, in 1979 the government demanded all woman in the shop to veil themselves. Attar refused and the shop was closed by the officials. She decided to move her family to the United States where she opened Zand in 1988.

The link below is about the falooda and the Persian Ice Cream which I liked very much.

Thanks Robert L for mentioning Zand as part of the thread in this link. I had lots of fun trying this place … and found a great place to get a mortadella sandwich.

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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