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Celebrating Persian New Year

Our Royal Foodie eschews St. Patrick's Day and instead gets into the spirit of Norooz.

OK, enough with the Irish soda bread, shepherd’s pie and Guinness—that's old news. The real holiday this week is Persian New Year.

Nowruz or Norooz, the Persian New Year celebration, traditionally starts on the first day of spring and lasts 13 days. Norooz—“new day” in Persian—is a celebration of family and friends of all faiths who hold ancient Mesopotamian civilization in high esteem. The celebrations can include bonfires, singing, dancing, park excursions and many traditions and food that—by coincidence—starts with the  letter “S”:  Seeb — apple, Sabze — green grass; Sabzeh, wheat or lentil sprouts; Serke — vinegar; Samanoo — a paste made out of wheat; Senjed — a berry native to the region; Sekke — a coin; and Seer — garlic.

In honor of Persian New Year, it’s only fitting that I checked out , a restaurant featuring Persian cuisine right here in Concord. Didar is nicely appointed with white and red tablecloths and the restaurant is decorated with traditional Persian tapestries and prints as well as the customary fountain for purity and good fortune at the entrance of the dining room. There is a stage for a live band in one corner that comes to life on weekend nights when belly dancers perform on the dance floor and encourage diners to join them.

The host starts you off with an amuse bouche of imported Feta cheese, fresh mint, green onion and radishes alongside a basket of pita bread.

My wife and I couldn’t decide on an appetizer so we opted for the combination plate. It comes with Kashk Bademjan, a roasted eggplant puree sautéed in onions, garlic and mint; Mirza Ghasemi, roasted eggplant puree with scrambled egg, garlic, tomato, onions and Persian herbs; and Mast-O-Musir, yogurt with crushed shallots. All were a perfect accompaniment to the pita bread. All of the dishes also are available as individual appetizers.

Lunch platters include of a variety of meats on a skewer—kebob—accompanied by lavosh bread or basmati rice, a diced cucumber, tomato and onion salad or yogurt with diced cucumbers and dried mint. Skewers can be ground beef, marinated filet chunks or marinated boneless chicken chunks. For the less adventurous, there is a Persian Koobideh wrap, boneless chicken chunks wrapped in lavosh bread and served with the diced vegetable salad or the yogurt mixture mentioned above. The two vegetarian options feature the roasted eggplant puree from the appetizer menu served with basmati rice or Baghali Ghatogh, a baby lima bean, garlic and dill weed medley served with aromatic basmati rice.

Main dishes also center around the kabob concept with options such as lamb, salmon and jumbo prawns added to the meat options available in the lunch platters. They are served in a varying combination of skewers with a couple of roasted tomatoes and fluffy saffron basmati rice. I chose the Didar Special #3, which came with a skewer of tender chunks of lamb fillet that melted in your mouth. The lamb was well seasoned and not overwhelmingly gamey, as some lamb can be.

The table is adorned with a mysterious shaker that holds a seasoning that resembles chili powder. I tried it and was surprised to discover it definitely wasn't. It was not overwhelming in taste or heat. When I asked our server what it was, he said it was dried baby grapes. They are dried and crushed to a powdery consistency and used as a condiment to the nicely spiced food.

Lunch platters are an economical option, ranging from $6.95 to $9.50. Main dishes cost from $11.50 to $23.95. Desserts range from the predictable Baklava, flaky layered phyllo dough loaded with pistachios and honey, to the traditional Fallodeh, ice noodles in sugar and rosewater, or Persian Bastani, rosewater flavored ice cream with pistachios. Beer and wine are served, no hard liquor.

As I mentioned, on weekends the dance floor comes alive with belly dancing and a live band to entertain diners and provide an authentic Persian experience. Come celebrate the Persian New Year with a group of friends or make a fun date night out of it with your special someone.

Didar Persian Cuisine
4436 Clayton Road
Concord
925-689-3432

Hours

Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m to 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Didar will celebrate the Persian New Year on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visit the website for more information.]

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