There are few dishes in the universe that could accurately be described as "haunting," but fesenjan, the Persian walnut-and-pomegranate stew, is one such dish. When done right, there's something about it that is almost eerie in its seductive powers. It tastes like some sort of delicious potion that a beautiful witch might consume to keep herself young.
The world (or at least the United States) is riddled with versions that are too sweet, or that hold back on the bitingly bitter walnut edge. So it was gratifying to find a terrific version at Kashcool Kitchen, a Persian restaurant that opened just a few days ago in Woodland Hills.
According to the restaurant's Facebook page, the business originally opened in Iran in 1969. Since then, they had a stint in Vancouver, B.C., operating from 2000-2011. Now they've set up shop in Woodland Hills, with a light and airy room in the back of a strip mall, as well as a large covered patio. It doesn't look anything like the faux - banquet hall decor that defines many Persian restaurants.
I stopped by for lunch and tried the kashk bademjan, an dense eggplant dip topped with whey and fried shallots. Kashcool's version was almost a little pasty, not quite as intense and stickily gratifying as the (as yet unmatched) version at Attari Sandwich Shop, but still fairly addictive in its own right.
But man, that fesenjan. Dark, sticky, tart and bitter and lightly sweet, the slightly sinister walnut mixing with the bright tang of pomegranate, it made me re-swear my allegiance to this beguiling dish.
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Kashcool's menu is broad, with all the expected stews and grilled kabobs. They're very much still in the throes of opening, and if you stop by, you should ask if they're accepting credit cards before you settle in to eat. The stickers on the door that say they take cards doesn't necessarily mean their machine is working. Whatever - that stew was well worth a trek across the street to the ATM.
Kashcool Kitchen: 20929 Ventura Blvd., Unit 22, Woodland Hills; (818) 883-2665, kashcoolkitchen.com.