Although I've been in Boston for nearly two years now, tonight was the first time at Lala Rokh. I had been somewhat hesitant, since several friends had given it decidedly mixed reviews, despite the raves on CH and elsewhere.
There were four of us: my wife and I, my mother, visting from out of town, and our one month old daughter, on her first foodie outing. On my online reservation, I mentioned I would come with our infant.
Despite the basement-esque location, the decor was indeed charming, and without doubt, the most elegant Iranian/Persian restaurant I've experienced. It's shame that this is such a revelation, but it does reflect the abysmal state of the others in the genre -- which are either like truck-stop cafes (a la Moby Dick) or ethnic attractions. Having said that, the paper table cloths, and the heavy metal tables, thinly disguised, did give the impression of half measures.
We were greeted pleasantly, and taken to our table. One room was empty, but otherwise the place seemed lively and had a good number of diners, mostly couples. We ordered the mirza ghasemi to start, then the sultani kabab, bareh kabab and morgh polow, with a side of 'mast musir' (shallot yoghurt) and 'torshe sir' (garlic pickle).
The service was pleasant, if a little perfunctory. The food: well, the kebabs were below par -- Moby Dick's are better. My mother's sultani, in particular, was somewhat cold on arrival, and too dry, suggesting it hadn't been cooked to order. My wife's lamb kebab was better. My morgh polow (chicken with saffron, on barberry rice) was the best dish, though not the best I've had by a long way. The starter was probably the best dish. The garlic pickle was good, but the portion was tiny (5 individual cloves for $4!), the shallot yoghurt was bland.
Having said that, the atmosphere almost made up for it. And the very best thing of all, as we we were leaving, I looked for our stroller that we had parked on instruction at the entrance: Babak Bina himself brought it to us, and then carried it up the few stairs to the pavement. It was a humble and sincere gesture, which was all the more appreciated, since I recognised him (he didn't introduce himself). That small act has made me want to go again, and give it another shot: hopefully the food will live up the rest.