Ive been wondering about this place for a few months, seeing the Persian script on the signage whenever Ive passed this stretch on El Camino. Last week, I owed my brother a dinner and suggested we try it. He had already been and recommended the ground meat kebab sounds promising already.
Our next challenge was figuring out the name of the place. We already knew where it was (note: the address listed on zabihah.com is incorrect), and William referred to it as the Persian restaurant next to Piccolos. The signage visible from the street at the entrance to the parking lot shows the name in Persian writing with Traditional Persian Cuisine underneath. The building is set back from the street on the right side is Piccolos restaurant and on the left the sign on the building is again only in Persian. The first time you see Hozkhouneh is not until you step inside, so have faith youre in the right place. The menus state Hozkhouneh-Piccolos Restaurant and our server said the two restaurants share ownership. The website calls it Hozkhouneh Traditional Persian Cuisine and states Formerly Piccolos Restaurant.
Anyway, back to business. At the entrance, you walk past an enclosed patio that it shares with Piccolos. Theres a small outdoor bar, lots of space heaters, and raised reclining booths carpeted with Persian-type rugs. Id heard about the sheshah (hookah) parties on the patio and, naturally, was disappointed that the patio was deserted and it wasnt set up on Thursday night. Inside the vaulted ceiling, trickling fountain, tile floors, and warm cinnabar walls create an atmosphere that some describe as Old Persia. There are a few big tables for large parties and a full bar. We were the first ones, but as other patrons started to show up, I whispered to William, were the only non-Persians here. I began to feel a connection to the experience of non-Chinese who wonder if theyve found an authentic Hong Kong-style restaurant.
We asked out server to recommend an appetizer for us, and he suggested the #1 kashkke bademjan ($4.95) which was a mild flavored stewed eggplant served cold and topped with a criss-cross of caramelized yogurt and some toasted garlic shavings. For entrees we shared #11 koubideh and chenjeh ($16.95) and #21 khorak maheecheh ($10.95). The #11 is a mixed kebab plate with a skewer of highly seasoned ground beef/lamb and a skewer of a strip of flank steak served with fluffy rice and roasted tomatoes. I tried to remember Fatemehs instructions for how to tackle this, and smooshed the two grilled tomatoes into the rice and sprinkled the powdered sumac over all. The koubideh was nicely spiced made of good quality meats with a strong roasted onion note and stayed nice and juicy. It reminded me of the version at Rose Market which we later learned shares the same ownership. The chenjeh was poor, as the beef was stringy and dried out and had no seasonings or much flavor. The #21 was a large braised lamb shank served with plain boiled potatoes and carrots. This was also a miss. While the shank was of good quality and was cooked to the right degree for my tastes, this was one of the blandest things Ive ever been served. The sauce reminded me of a less flavorful Campbells cream of tomato soup, and the vegetables had not been seasoned at all. Salt and pepper helped, but could not save this one. I had ordered dough ($2.00), an herb-flavored yogurt-based drink, and its strong savory flavors actually showed well against the bland blank slate of the lamb shank.
The dough was impressive with a complex yogurt culture, many different fresh and dried herbs, and I especially liked the refreshing bits of juicy cucumber and the occasional thick and almost cream cheese-like blobs mixed in the blend. For dessert, we had the pistachio and saffron ice cream ($3.50). Nearly a half pint size portion, this was served in a tulip glass and was more than enough for two people. We went nutty over this one the flavors and mouthfeel were very rich and heavy and the pistachios had a fresh roasted taste. The texture of the ice cream had some ice grains and had an definite elasticity when you pulled your spoon away. Adding more surprises for the mouth were inch-long chunks of frozen cream. We asked our server where we could buy this and he suggested we check at Rose.
In summary, we liked the eggplant appetizer, the ground meat kebab, dough and the luscious ice cream. Theres enough right that Id go back to try more from the menu and dining on the patio.
Hozkhouneh-Piccolos Restaurant [Peninsula]
4926 El Camino Real
(between Rengstorff and San Antonio)
650 962 9999
M-F: 11:00AM to 11:00PM
Sat & Sun: 8:00AM to 11:00PM
(serving Persian breakfast)