Restaurants & Bars

San Francisco Bay Area Berkeley Kebabs

Pomegranate in Berkeley - Where the Hummus Is Yummus, the Pita Can’t Be Beat-a, and the Joojeh Kebab Is Foojeh Kebab. What?


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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area Berkeley Kebabs

Pomegranate in Berkeley - Where the Hummus Is Yummus, the Pita Can’t Be Beat-a, and the Joojeh Kebab Is Foojeh Kebab. What?

katya | | Sep 14, 2005 02:14 PM

I’ve been eating at Pomegranate for the past five years or so, and felt it was time to finally post about it since there is hardly any talk about it online. We hold the Persian food at Pomegranate in such esteem that it was the restaurant my boyfriend chose for dinner the night he received his PhD.

Pomegranate calls itself a Mediterranean restaurant, and indeed the menu has a lot of traditionally Greek dishes, as well as an amalgam of salads, pastas, and pizzas, many of which have Mediterranean influences. While I haven’t tried the Greek dishes, I always focus on the Persian food, and believe that the chefs must be Persian because they carry harder-to-find Persian dishes than that of the generic Greek variety.

First of all, when ordering stick to the Persian stuff (all around $15 for entrees). Don’t get cute and try a pasta (I think I had the chicken linguini the one time I made this fateful mistake). My old standard here was the pomegranate chicken, which is a marinated half chicken topped with a pomegranate sauce, and served with wonderfully creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. The only problem with this dish is that while the sauce is a nice and interesting addition, the sweet taste becomes cloying.

Here’s what you should order: Barg and joojeh kabob with zereshk polo. However, that’s not what they’re called in the menu, so it may be a little tricky. I believe their barg (unfortunately not pronounced “barrrrrrrg” as though you’re a pirate) is called “filet kabob.” It consists of several pieces of supremely tender filet mignon pieces, with a lovely light spicing, served with saffron-touched basmati rice. My only complaint last time was that the accompanying green beans, carrots, and broccoli were too buttery.

Their joojeh kabob with zereshk polo is called something generic here like “chicken kabob” or possibly “joojeh kabob” (though it might be with Cornish game hen instead of chicken so be careful). This dish consists of large pieces of moist breast meat that has been skewered and marinated so it’s a lovely yellow color. The zereshk polo (or “rice mountain” as we call it) is a stellar basmati pilaf with barberries, sliced almonds and other goodies (I forget what else is in theirs now, but currants and orange peel are good guesses), providing little explosive nuggets of flavor.

Wonderfully warm house bread is standard, and on our most recent visit the server brought us a complimentary order of hummus. On one visit we scored a free order of baba ghannooj but I don’t think this sort of swag is typical. I’d love to be wrong though. The hummus was perfect, or should I say – yummus, with a nice roasted chickpea flavor. This is in start contrast to the hummus on Mivan’s menu in Burlingame that tasted like a homeless man’s armpit.

Service has always very professional and attentive, with the exception of our last visit. The boyfriend and I sat for half our meals with empty water glasses, trying unsuccessfully to get the attention of our server. Yet each time she’d fly by us not making eye contact. She appeared to be the only server that night for 15 tables.

The restaurant is pretty and elegant with sponged yellow walls. The boyfriend and I have vague memories of there being a piano in the first room, but we can’t remember if anyone played it while we were there. (Then again, we’ve always been seated in the second or third rooms).

There are locations in Walnut Creek and Concord. We’ve eaten at the Downtown Walnut Creek restaurant, which is much smaller but has an eating area in front of the restaurant which is nice on warm nights.

My Ranking of Bay Area Persian Restaurants

1. Khayyam’s – Albany (the master – now closed - against which all Persian restaurants will forever be judged)
2. Pomegranate – Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Concord (great barg and joojeh kabob with zereshk polo; pomegranate chicken is good but sweet taste can be cloying)
3. Rose Market – Mountain View (rated so highly because of the value; need to re-evaluate because I only had a small sample of food)
4. Yas – San Jose (really impressive selection of polos – “rice mountains” but other food is just OK)
5. Bijan – Fremont (food too oily, and stews either too sweet or too ketchup-y)
Visited and have trouble remembering, but not near the top of the list:
Kabob House – Pleasant Hill
Papa’s - Berkeley

On my list to try:
Maykehdeh – San Francisco
Shalizaar – San Mateo
Alborz – San Francisco (though I worry the food here will taste exactly like Bijan’s food, since Bijan was formerly an Alborz location)

Pomegranate Mediterranean Cuisine
1585 University Ave. (near Sacramento St.)
Berkeley, CA

M-F: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Daily: 5:00 p.m. – 9:45 p.m.
Prices are several dollars lower on this site than they are now. Not all dishes on current menu are included (such as the ones I recommend).