Anahita: The Best Persian Invasion Since Xerxes
Athens’ oldest Persian restaurant Anahita is a great jump-off point for first-timers to discover the fragrant flavours and novel textures of Iranian food. Insider shortlists a few must-try dishes in order for you to fully savour this marvelous exotic cuisine.
You’d have imagined that with the reams devoted to the Persian invasions in Marathon and Sparta, Greeks would be on familiar terms with Persian cuisine too. Strangely – or perhaps understandably – the saffron-and rosewater-scented history of the Persian palate has remained largely off-piste in Greece. Worse, its textured and delicate concoctions, aromatic rice pilafs, garnished with dried fruits and nuts and perfumed stews flavored with cinnamon, mint, and pomegranates have long been passed off as ‘Middle-Eastern’ fare. Only too eager to set the record straight is Majid Mirkhosravi, the owner of Greece’s oldest Persian restaurant Anahita.
Named for the Persian goddess associated with fertility, healing and wisdom, Anahita has been serving Persian food since 1990 at the same spot in Halandri. A quintessential restaurateur, Majid has kept his regulars coming back for more of Chef Nasreen’s fragrant cuisine (she has been at the helm for the past 27 years), despite challenging times.
“Anahita is not just about great Persian food, it is about having an emotional connection with our customers.”
The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a ‘family restaurant’ in Tehran with requisite Persian touches of hookaks and narguiles lining the walls, maroon carpeting and elaborate metalware – a novel-for-Athens dining concept that has also proved popular for corporate events. And as like at any neighbourhood favourite in Tehran, Majid also guarantees halal-certified meat to his loyal regulars.
Seven dishes we’d recommend you order at Anahita
- Kashke badamjan – Fried eggplants with a walnut garlic yoghurt dip.
- Krafs Salad – A delightfully light and crunchy salad with green apples, celery and radish, topped with a lemon dressing.
- Fesenjoon – Stewed pomegranate puree, ground walnuts, chopped onions, chunks of poultry or balls of ground meat.
Pomegranates are a big deal in Persian cuisine. The tart flavor from ‘the fruit of heaven’ combined with savory spices creates one of the most uniquely Persian dishes.
- Ghormeh Sabzi – Iran’s most widely eaten stew, this robust dish of stewed greens with parsley, spinach, leeks, coriander, kidney beans, dried lemons, dried fenugreek leaves and turmeric-seasoned lamb or beef is a staple at any Iranian dinner table.
- Koubideh Kabob – The pride of Persian cuisine and found everywhere from cheap street vendors to fancy restaurants, it is essentially long strips of minced lamb, chicken, or beef grilled over a fire and served alongside charred tomatoes, rice sprinkled with sumac, parsley salad, and flatbread.
- Pilaf Zaferani – Saffron infused steamed rice with red currants and pistachio, the cornerstone of every Persian meal.
- Bastani – Traditional Persian Saffron icecream with pistachio and rose water (even Alexander the Great is known to have confessed a weakness for it).
Anahita, Chrysostomou Smyrnis 3, Halandri. T: +30 210.689.1222