The past several months have been abuzz with the US-Iran talks that helped broker a nuclear deal, limiting Iran’s nuclear activities.
Now that certain sanctions are lifted, things are bound to change for the Iranians—economically, for sure; and maybe culturally, too.
Now, it’s been more than 30 years since we last held hands with the Iranians—but, oh, how we used to party! Remember when we partnered with British intelligence to oust Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953? Or when we used to eat caviar and drink champagne all night at one of the Iranian embassy’s infamous parties? Or when Elizabeth Taylor and Iranian ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi had a well-documented fling? Oh, yes, we used to be tight.
In light of our new, budding relationship, let’s get to know one another again by having a meal at one of many Persian restaurants in the metro area, and smoke a hookah (known in Iran as ghalyun) at one of DC’s many hookah bars.
As is the case with so many international cuisines, the suburbs of DC have Iranian food on lock—though DC does boast a couple of Iranian restaurants, too. Here are four top picks in the DC area:
Located in McLean, Amoos serves both traditional Persian and Persian fusion dishes. The food looks very fresh and carefully prepared—and it gets rave reviews on Yelp, even by the self-proclaimed kabob snobs. Always a good sign.
Perhaps the only drawback is that it’s a little pricey, but for a nice night out, I don’t think you could go wrong at Amoos.
Opened in 2007, Rose Kabob is located in Vienna and is both family owned and operated. The menu features appetizers like Taah Deeg: fried crunchy rice with Persian spices and topped with Ghormeh Sabzi or Gheymeh; mains like Fesenjoon stew: a combination of pomegranate molasses, chicken parts and ground walnuts over Basmati rice; and desserts like Sholleh Zard: a Persian safron rice pudding. Which is to say, there aren’t many restaurants around serving this kind of menu.
Located in Rockville and opened in 1979 (originally as a small grocery store), Yakta Kabobi is branded as the oldest Middle Eastern market and kabobi in the DC area. The restaurant serves authentic Persian food and specializes in kabobs cooked on an open flame grill. Meanwhile, the attached Iranian and Middle Eastern bazaar boasts delicacies including grape leaves, sesame paste and a variety of meats, nuts and cheeses.
If you’ve lived in DC long, you’re probably familiar with the hookah, aka narghile, okka, shisha, hubbly bubbly (yes) and waterpipe. Hookah originated in India in the 1600s but was quickly adopted and loved in Iran. If you enjoy a little tobacco smoke and a good cup of tea, try one of these five local hookah bars.
Zeba 3423 14th St NW Washington, DC 20010
Chi-Cha Lounge 1624 U St NW
Soussi 2228 18th Street, Northwest
Prince Cafe: 4627 41st street
The Iranian Embassy
Since 1980, when the US broke diplomatic ties with Iran over the Iran hostage crisis, the Iranian Embassy has sat vacant. The Islamic Republic still owns the tax-exempt property, as well as a Georgian-style ambassador’s home next door, but the State Department maintains it—barely. Paint is peeling, 40 year old security camera hang from the exterior and the interiors are somewhat frozen in time.
While the reopening of the embassy (and the reinvigoration of embassy parties on par with those of the 70s) will take some time, curious culturists can visit the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran, located within the Pakistan Embassy.
Finally, for your viewing pleasure: