California

Asal Bakery & Kabob: Sweet & Savory at Brainy Persian Bakery

By Joshua Lurie | November 1, 2010 5 comments
Asal Bakery & Kabob: Sweet & Savory at Brainy Persian Bakery
Asal Bakery & Kabob
20008 Ventura Boulevard
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
818 436 2353

Date of Visit: October 31 & November 8, 2010

Persian Restaurant Los Angeles
It wasn’t my intention to eat brains on Halloween, and despite a certain blogger’s accusation on Twitter, I’m not actually a zombie, but I did enjoy a bowl of lamb’s brains (and tongues) at Asal Bakery & Kabob, it wasn’t nearly as ghoulish as you might imagine, and I’d do it again.

The Persian restaurant has no sign out front, but after only three months, they’re already drawing lines like a bear to “honey,” which is what the name means in Farsi. The good word has clearly spread throughout the vibrant Middle Eastern community on the western wing of the San Fernando Valley.

Bakery Los Angeles
The look of the long and lean room is fairly simple, with orange banquette seating along the eastern wall and a trio of pastry cases loaded with dozens of different cookies. What’s clear is that the action revolves around the gleaming stainless steel oven, which resides near the entrance and features twin portals. A baker hand-forms dough and slides it into one trapezoid, it rotates on an a lazy susan, passing through an inferno on its way to becoming bread. A second employee pulls the sheets of bread through a second trapezoid and lays it on a tiered rack. A good number of customers come to Asal just for the sanjak, which is stacked on white butcher paper, folded over and handed to customers to take home. Sanjak comes in golden brown, sesame studded sheets. Asal also bakes a thicker torpedo-shaped bread called barbari.

Bread Los Angeles
Cousins Mike Riazati and Reza Abdollahi, both from Tehran, utilize plenty of family recipes (and family members) to operate Asal. A lot of customers order kabobs, salads and soups, but on the weekends, the cousins really open up their playbook. On Saturdays and Sundays, they offer dishes like haleem (a turkey-fortified, spice-dusted porridge) and the dish that interested me most: Kalleh Pacheh.

Persian Food Los Angeles
Kalleh Pacheh (14.99) is a traditional Persian breakfast stew involving lamb’s tongue and lamb’s brain. At Asal, they keep it as simple as possible, boiling whole tongues and chunks of brain in water with only onion and pepper. The firm, whitish-tan chunks of brain become firm and some of the tongues hold together entirely, while others break apart and contribute to the offal debris.

Persian Food Los Angeles
Since a lot of people are going to want to see a close-up view of the lamb’s brain, I took a photo, but really, if you put aside the unmistakeable look of the ridged lobe, this was just good eating, even better than the tongue, which the boiling process rendered chewier.

Persian Food Los Angeles
They have vegetable soup, but that’s available every day, so I opted for barley, which was viscous from the starch, stained yellow with turmeric and studded with minced carrot and dried mint. It’s a good idea to dip the thick, fragrant soup with swaths of crisp-crusted but plenty pliable sanjak.

Persian Food Los Angeles
The chunks of lamb offal were fairly rich on their own, but paired well with Asal’s amazing torshi, quite possibly the best dish of pickled vegetables in any Middle Eastern restaurant in the city at the moment. The cousins lavish tiny cauliflower florets, thin-sliced carrot and a mysterious mush that Abdollahi swears was eggplant in a jar of vinegar for an entire month until it achieves optimum pungency. It’s hard to imagine any food that would be rich enough to shout down the screaming acidity in Asal’s torshi.

Cookies Los Angeles
With all those cookies, it was impossible to leave without swinging by the pastry cases to load up a plastic container. The cookies were almost all good, including a finger of baklava stained yellow with saffron, thin cookies lined with thin layers of jam and almond scales, a raisin cookie, and a seemingly basic shortbread cookie flavored with rosewater.

This was a great initial scout, and there will most certainly be additional trips to Asal to devour the haleem, kabobs and of course plenty of sanjak.

Comments

  1. jonathan says:

    This place is great! nuff said..(: lol btw im 14, im always asking my mom to bring me there and she never says no because she loves it too!

  2. Jill says:

    I have often wanted to try a lot of different foods. I go to festivals so I can. I have never tried brains before but I have tried ox tail and it was wonderful. If I ever get up that way, I will try to visit the restaurant if they do not have a waiting list that you have to get on with a wait of a year or longer.

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  4. I do love the rest of the lamb. I’m not so sure about brains though. But between your lamb innards eating at Farid Zadi’s and now your pig and lamb brain consumption, you may be the brain eating champion of Los Angeles.

    • Savory Hunter,

      The title of Brain Eating Champion would no doubt go to Eddie Lin at Deep End Dining. If people had the power to absorb intelligence based solely on brain consumption, his IQ would easily top 300.

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