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Mediterranean food is not only healthy and nutritious that even the staunchest non-dieter will enjoy but it is incredibly flavorful and down-to earth satisfying. The cuisine has reached a level of popularity of gastronomical proportions everywhere. And here in Metro Manila, one will find a plethora of excellent choices when it comes to restaurants in Metro Manila that offer good Mediterranean food. Greek, Lebanese, Syrian, Moroccan, Turkish… and, yes, even Mediterranean French and Italian. And there’s also Persian. It may seem that the dishes are all similar — kebabs, hummus, falafel, moussaka, the ubiquitous pita bread — yet there are differences, though subtle. All good and delicious!

And when I’m in the mood for really good home-style Persian food, one place I like to go to is Persia Grill. Owned by the Kazemi family who serve up delicious and authentic traditional Persian dishes acquired from their own Iranian grandmother’s recipes, Persia Grill has been around for many many years and has expanded to 9 branches (and counting) all over the metro. Despite their growth and popularity, the family is hands-on still in the kitchen and in operations, to ensure that the authenticity of their dishes, especially in taste and in ingredients, are maintained. My favorites are the Peshgaza platter (a combination of hummus, baba ganoush, salad oliviyeh, and must o’khiar), the Chelo Kebab Kubideh, and the Vegetable Moussaka. And, yes, despite having an abundance of pita bread, I still order their Persian Rice, which is claimed to have a lower glycemic index than our regular rice.  (Not sure if it’s due to the variety of rice or the cooking technique — someone please enlighten me.)

The first time I tried Persia Grill, a long long time ago, I had the good fortune to meet with the very charming and voluble owner, Mr. Kazemi. We chatted over delightfully soothing lemon tea, made with fresh Persian sweet lemons (similar to Meyer lemons) which his mother would send him from Iran, and he told me his story. Although the Kazemi name is more recognized for his Persian carpet business — Kazemi Persian Carpets at the La’O Center on Arnaiz Avenue — he decided to put up the restaurant as a graduation gift for his son, Kian. At the time, Kian Kazemi was still part of the Pinoy Big Brother show. So his father operated and managed the restaurant until his son was free and could focus on it. And now he is. And Persia Grill has grown into a successful enterprise.