Desert Companion

Eat this now! Zereshk polo at Zatyoon

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zereshk polo
Christopher Smith

3655 S. Durango Drive, 702-685-1875, zaytoonlasvegas.com

If your only experience with Persian food is fesenjan, that dark-hued stew of chicken, walnuts and pomegranate molasses, your eyes will be absolutely dazzled by zereshk polo. A house specialty at Zaytoon, a bustling little restaurant-market combo on the west side, it’s one of Iran’s national pilaf dishes. It begins as a mound of ivory-white basmati rice as a base. This is gilded with a layer of golden-yellow, saffron-infused oryza sativa. Dried barberries — the zereshk to pilaf’s polo — glisten like tiny rubies on top. Raw barberries have an acidic, astringent quality that falls somewhere between lemons and cranberries. Desiccated, they are somewhat like craisins. On the side comes a skewer of mildly savory grilled chicken. The plating is rounded out with grilled tomato and fresh lemon wedges for condiments, plus a gorgeously charred flatbread. Try this Fertile Crescent masterpiece with some emerald-green tarragon soda from Armenia — it’s sweet and licorice-y.

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