We all know that it's nice to get out for dinner with your significant other or a friend, and to avoid a stressful night of cooking followed by a sink piled with dirty dishes. But if you're anything like us, you love food, you love going out, and too often wind up ordering too much of everything and spending way too much money. There are ways, though, to eat an appropriate amount of delicious food, and to go home without a crater in your bank account and an overstuffed belly. While it's easy to get in and out of a total dive for under 30 bucks (after tax, but before tip), it's not as simple when the restaurant has silverware, glasses and a tablecloth. To attempt this feat, we tried our luck at Flame Persian Cuisine on Westwood Boulevard.

Before heading to the restaurant, we did what every smart diner should do — we read what The Weekly's own Mr. Gold had to say about it. Following his advice, we started things off with a plate of panir sabzi ($7), which includes some fresh aromatic herbs, a hard salty cheese, radish, and walnuts. These, by themselves, may not be wildly exciting, but when eaten with their house made flat bread, it's a delight. It is a lot of flat bread for two people, but if you're particularly hungry, a second basket costs just $2. No, paying for extra bread isn't second nature to most restaurant goers, but it's not uncommon when the quality is high, as it is here.

Chicken kabob with salad at Flame Persian; Credit: N. Galuten

Chicken kabob with salad at Flame Persian; Credit: N. Galuten

When you're being budget-conscious, a starter like panir sabzi goes a long way, reminding you of those holiday family dinners where everybody fills up on cheese and crackers, then winces when a 22 pound turkey is suddenly dropped on a table full of dense, starchy sides. So at this point, for many, a simple entree split between the two of you could be more than enough to call it a night. We opted for the boneless chicken kabob ($15), choosing the side of salad over rice (look, we're being healthy). The chicken is flavorful, juicy and cooked quite nicely. The salad dressing has a strong and welcome dill component, giving some weight to the vegetables while also keeping it refreshing.

Certainly for some, a basket of addictive bread, an appetizer and an entrée is not enough food for two, and we certainly don't recommend this penny-pinching tactic on an early date. But for us, on this night, it was a perfect meal to end a long day, where you can leave feeling like a human, able to enjoy your evening rather than just falling into a fat-induced coma. Flame is not a cheap restaurant, and the portions are not as enormous at some other places, so depending on your appetite, you may not be able to get out of here spending so little. Though to be fair, our bill wound up under $30, even after tip.

Flame Persian Cuisine: 1442 Westwood Blvd., West L.A.; (310) 470-3399.

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