It is not often that I get to report on a restaurant within my own nieghbourhood. Therefore, I was more than excited to visit the new Persian restaurant, Suren within the Burnaby Heights area. They are a welcomed edition considering there is nothing like the sort and not much diversity overall in the area.
Opened nearly 9 months ago, Suren was previously home to a Greek restaurant, that I had visited once before. The then cramped and dark space has been given a new life with a fresh coat of paint and a renovation to look like a modern home. And has been decorated with minimal elements over the gas fuelled fireplace. I especially appreciated the ideal lighting offered by the clean skylight overhead, on this clear overcast day. Although as clean and modern as the space felt it does not read authentic Persian cuisine, nor does the DJ booth staged at the ready by the door.
We visited on a Sunday within their advertised brunch menu available. However, thought it best to order from off of their regular menu for our first-time taste. Truthfully the menu is a poor representation of the cuisine, the way the dishes appear in this printout does not do it justice, and the description means little for the inexperienced. This is the kind of menu you need to be familiar with in order to be able to order off of.
The following is what we had, as highly recommended by the owner and the staff. As we were not that familiar with the cuisine type, we were more than happy to take their advice.
To start with, they have two different eggplant dips, so don’t get them confused. The first is just called “Eggplant dip” it is made with deep fried eggplant, caramelized onion, mint, and whey. Of the two, this is the fresher option and my favourite. It had dimension with the added creaminess of the fresh whip topping, transforming it to a layered dip. And the addition of crispy fried onions and the slightly acrid but saucy mint gave it added depth. The latter did not hinder the dip in any way, but instead gave it its own character instead.
The “Smoked eggplant dip” is made with grilled eggplant, tomato sauce, and eggs. If you didn’t read it, you couldn’t tell there was any egg in this, it just ate fuller bodied than the dip before. As for taste, it was familiar with the use of smokey and sweet tomato, but hard to place. This and the other eggplant dip was served with a hard sesame crusted bread that was composed of hard and soft sections. I liked it for its fragrant sesame and chewy bits, but would have liked a softer dough to best parallel the texture of the dips they were to hold up.
One of Suren’s signature dishes is this Lentil rice and Lamb. It is a rice dish seasoned in special spices with caramelized onion and pieces of lamb hidden within the mound of perfectly cooked, longer grain rice. It was homey and comforting, with the texture of the extra-long grains of rice really adding to the mouthfeel alongside tender pieces of lamb. This was finished off with a generous number of raisins and deep-fried shallots. Given their appearance in Chinese-style fried rice from time to time, I was familiar with the sweetness of raisins in rice. And I must say, they were a lot more complimentary here in this dish, in contrast to the pungent spices. They give dinner a nice salty meets sweet plate.
Just as interesting was their stews. Walnut stew is typical and popular in Persian cuisine, but Suren’s signature is made with almond nut instead. This is Almond stew with silvered almonds, lamb, and saffron. The almonds are a soft sort of crunchy, you don’t get its taste, but do have its texture. The flavour reminds me more of a tomato and lamb stew, but with the curve ball of berries. Said berries grow in Iran and were described to us as being sour. Although I found them on the sweeter side and similar to cranberries. So their tart sweetness was added to this interesting mix. As a whole, this was not my favourite for their unfamiliar texture and taste.
The following is typically served as a platter of meat over rice, however an exception was made for us, and we were able to order 2 servings of their different types of rice and 4 different proteins to have with it, family style.
Starting with the rice, it was the same long grains as before, but the regular rice came with saffron and the flavoured one a mix of fava bean and dill on top of saffron. The Plain rice was ideal for more flavourful meats, as a neutral base. Whereas the flavoured mix offered textures and a zesty essence for those meats that could use a little tang and pop.
The Steak kabab (barg) was marinated grade AAA top sirloin beef and sadly it was disappointing. The meat was overcooked and dry, there was no added seasoning or flavour, especially comparing to everything that was so full of life before and after. It needed a longer marinade or a jus or sauce of some kind. This we had with the fava bean and dill rice to help create some excitement in each the bite.
The Chicken kabab fared better, the saffron-marinated chicken breast was a lot more tender, and if all chicken breast was like this I would order it more often. This was best with the dill in the fava rice, as both flavours are subtle and complement each other well.
Surprisingly the Koobideh, ground beef kabab was my favourite. I typically give ground beef a bad rep as a cheaper product of lesser quality, but here it had a great charred hamburger patty quality to it and was the most flavourful out of our 4 meat strips. This was ideal over the plain rice.
The Torsh is marinated lamb loin in pomegranate paste and walnut. Like the almond stew, this was just as interesting and foreign to me. I have never had meat marinated so sweet like this, and it caught us off guard. Not my ideal marinade, I would have liked it similar to the ground beef above in char and savoury profile. The meat was also a little tough, but nothing a bite full of their fabulous rice could not remedy.
Overall, a great option for some delicious and authentic Persian cuisine that I will definitely crave again. And they will see me return for the eggplant dip and rice alone.
Suren Persian Cuisine
4624 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2K5, Canada