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Persian Preferences

The number of Iranians at restaurant speaks for menu's authenticity.

October 22, 1998|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What's the surest sign that a restaurant serves authentic ethnic food?

If you answer, "Ethnic customers," go to the head of the class--and check out Green Cottage restaurant in Woodland Hills.

Houman "Tony" Nemati and his family opened this place last spring, and on any given night half of the customers at Green Cottage are Persians who come for the spicy, aromatic dishes that make the cooking of Iran so special.

The other half are folks who share no special ethnicity, but rather the sense that if you want to know how people eat elsewhere in the big wide world, trust those who know the real thing when they see it--or rather eat it.

In plain English, if you want authentic ethnic food, rub elbows with ethnic people--Chinese people in a Chinese restaurant, Mexicans in a Mexican restaurant, Greeks in a Greek restaurant, Iowans in a Denny's, and so on.

"We make real Persian foods here--barbecued kebabs, stews, and fish dishes," Tony Nemati says. "I'm the chef, and this is a family restaurant. I'm partners with my father, Ezzatollah Nemati, and my brother, Nick.

"My family left Iran 20 years ago, first for Copenhagen and now to the United States. We were in the restaurant business in Copenhagen for 12 years, and we opened this place up about six months ago.

"At least 50% of our customers are Persian--which shows that we make authentic traditional Persian foods. The big sellers here are the humus, the kebabs, and the baba ghannouj--grilled eggplant with yogurt and spices."

Also on the menu:

* Khiyar shoor--pickled Persian cucumbers;

* Shirazi salad--diced tomatoes, onions, cucumber and parsley with a dressing of lime juice, vinegar, sour grape juice and olive oil

* Chicken and beef kebabs;

* Baghala polo--chicken served with lima beans and basmati rice;

* Gheymeh--veal stew with onion and yellow split peas in a saffron tomato sauce.

If you feel adventurous, for dessert you may have a confection called faloodeh--iced noodles in sugar and rose water--or Persian ice cream made with pistachios, rose water and saffron.

Prices for most entrees range under $10.

Green Cottage restaurant serves lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. It is at 20022 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 888-8815.

*

Gaetano Palmeri celebrates the 18th anniversary of Gaetano's Ristorante in Calabasas' Old Town this month with a host of specials reflecting the change in the seasons.

This being autumn, and calabasas being the Spanish word for pumpkins, it comes as no surprise that Palmeri's specials include pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage, a hot pumpkin soup, a pumpkin vegetable puree to accompany the daily special entrees, and a pumpkin cheesecake to finish your meal.

Palmeri's trademark bruschetta, in contrast, contains no pumpkin at all, but if you mention that you read about the pumpkin specials in this column, you get a free helping.

Gaetano's Ristorante is at 23536 Calabasas Road, just west of Valley Circle Drive in Calabasas, (818) 223-9600.

*

Karen and Saad Ghazi serve combo tandoori chicken specials at their Canard de Bombay of London restaurant in Universal City.

Saad Ghazi, the chef, prepares the new combos as he prepares all his foods--with no animal fat, preservatives, red dye or ghee, the clarified butter commonly used in Indian cooking.

The tandoori combos go for $4.49, with two pieces of chicken and one side dish, or for $9.95 for half a chicken with two side dishes--a green salad, mixed vegetables, rice or nann bread.

And if the tandoori combos don't appeal to you, you can choose from about 200 other dishes on the long menu at this place, all cooked with special attention to healthfulness.

Canard de Bombay of London serves lunch weekdays, dinner weekdays and Saturdays. It is at 4101 Lankershim Blvd., Universal City, (818) 752-2879.

*

Fans of the Sherman Oaks place Cafe Bizou--especially those who commute to work in Los Angeles--will want to know that the restaurant's former head waiter, Benoit Lesure, has opened his own lunch place on East 7th Street downtown.

It's the French Garden, and the early signs indicate that Lesure and his partner, Cyril Kappes, have a hit. Lesure does the cooking and Kappes runs the eating area, which seats 40 inside and another 100 outside on a patio under an olive tree.

The restaurant serves a soup du jour, pate, a quiche Lorraine and a quiche Provencale, five salads, three pastas, half a dozen sandwiches, and grilled steak, chicken, and salmon.

Prices for the grilled items are under $12. Nearly everything else on the menu goes for $8 or less.

Chef Neil Rogers and his partner, Phillippe Gris, who run Cafe Bizou, helped Lesure and Kappes get their new place up and running.

The French Garden offers lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays. Parking is free. It is at 1936 East 7th St., between Alameda and Mateo streets in downtown Los Angeles, (213) 623-4028.

* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at jhoveygte.net.

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