Pomegranate is where to find homestyle Persian food and a rotating list of deeply flavourful regional Iranian eats.
Colourful stovetop sews, barbary flatbread and heaps of basmati saffron rice are on the menu at this longtime restaurant on College Street.
At a time when takeout containers of kabab koobideh dominated public perception of Persian cuisine, husband and wife Alireza Fakhrashrafi and Danielle Schrage decided to leave a life of academia to open Pomegranate in 2003.
Since then the restaurant’s tiled exterior has become a fixture for celebrating sit-down Persian food that tastes just like Alireza’s mom would make at home in Tehran.
The interior feels like a celebration of Persian culture, from the colourful GoloBolBol tiles to scripture of old Farsi poems on the walls.
At Pomegranate, the focus is showcasing the diversity of Persian food. Over the years Alireza, the head chef, has cooked dishes ranging from the northern province of Gilan, bordering the Caspian Sea, down to spicier dishes from the Persian Gulf. Both Alireza and Danielle, who met at U of T at Iranian Studies and ran an Iranian print publication together for years, can spend all day chatting about dish origins and the cultural significance of each.
No matter what you're ordering, you can rely almost every dish to be a party of nuts, berries and spices imported from Iran and some seasonal Ontario contributions.
Zeitoun Parvardeh is a starter that, for $6, gets you a huge portion of green olives from Rudbar marinated in pomegranate walnut sauce, garlic and mint sauce. It’s served with flatbread.
Kashk-e Bademjoon ($10) combines charred eggplant mashed with walnuts, fried onions, sauteed mint, and Kashk, or Persian whey.
For more smoky eggplant, the Mirza Qasemi ($10) is a puree of charred eggplant with garlicky tomato sauce.
A side of Iranian yogurt dip is an obligatory dish that’s as delicious as it is decorative, with cucumber, dried mint and roses.
A Pomegranate signature is the Fesenjaan ($17.50), a chicken breast stew with ground walnut and pomegranate reduction. It’s topped with dried barberries, slivered pistachios, almonds and served with saffron basmati rice.
From the southeastern province of Kerman is Boz Qormeh, a creamy stew with Kashk, eggplant and beet.
From UNESCO heritage site, Yazd: a fruity stew called Khoresht-e Aloo Beh, a lamb dish with sautéed quince, slivered almonds and dried plums.
Shirin Polo ($20) is commonly known as wedding rice thanks to its celebratory colourway of slivered orange peels, saffron basmati rice, pistachios, almonds and dried barberries all together. It’s served with halal braised lamb shank and yogurt.
Pomegranate is a warm getaway for delectable Persian food that's as much a feast for your eyes as it is for your belly. Alireza and Danielle also run a sister restaurant called Sheherzade next door and Takht-e Tavoos for brunch.