BANGKOK — Most days of the week, an Iranian mining mogul has his employees pick up his dinner from one restaurant – his own.
“I don’t care about profit. My main income is something else,” Fillip Sharifi says dismissively as he twirls his fingers – one of which is ringed in 10-carat tsavorite mined from Kenya.
Sharifi is an Iranian-born billionaire who fled to the United States after the 1979 Revolution, and describes Persian House – a restaurant located on Pan Road off lower Silom – as his own dining room. There, generous heaps of saffron rice and lamb kebabs are served at palatable prices as part of the 69-year-old’s quest to introduce Thais to loubia polo ba mahichen gosfand (rice with lamb shank).
“Sixty years ago, Thai people didn’t know what pizza was. But then someone introduced it to the market. My primary objective is to introduce authentic Persian food to Thai people,” said the restaurant owner and CEO of mining conglomerate Dove Group.
Be prepared for hearty, sharable shovelfuls of saffron rice at Persian House. It boasts a large vegetarian selection, including masto khiar (80 baht), a refreshing yogurt and cucumber appetizer, as well as the incredibly creamy kashk e bademjan (200 baht), an eggplant dip topped with fried onion, a perfect match with the Iranian naan (60 baht). The adasi (100 baht) is a lentil soup that might be too heavy and bland for Thai tongues, but the tabouli (150 baht) is a tangy mound of zest.
Rice lovers, rejoice with the loubia polo, or saffron rice with string beans (220 baht). Get that with lamb stew khoreshte gousht (500 baht) in which an entire shank comes swimming in sauce and falling off the bone. Or skip the mutton and go with the khoresht ghormeh sabzi, a beef stew served with dried limes, kidney beans and fenugreek (250 baht).
Lamb at Persian House is noticeably less what Thais call kao, or a raw, gamey odor.
It may take several people to finish off the family-size loubia polo ba mahichen gosfand, which is a pile of saffron rice with a lamb shank buried inside (750 baht). The mixed kebab (650 baht) is also good for sharing, offering a row of barbequed chicken, lamb and beef with grilled veggies.
For a lighter meal, try the sturgeon: whether as a grilled fillet with rice (sabzi polo ba mahi sefid, 450 baht) or kebab (mahi sefid kebab, 390 baht).
The salty yogurt doogh drink (40 baht/glass, 70 baht/bottle) might be an unfamiliar flavor for Thais. Finish everything off with a fragrant, black Persian tea (40 baht/cup, 70 baht/pot). The only dessert is a saffron rice pudding topped with cinnamon, sholeh zard (60 baht). It’s light and worth a try.
Indeed, forget what you know about Middle Eastern food in Bangkok when eating at Persian House. Having lived in Thailand 30 years, Sharifi wrinkles his face in distaste at the mention of Soi Arab, comparing it to “Thai food in New York.”
“These owners want to make fast income, so they cut down the quality of the food. One of them sells for 250 [baht], so the other pushes down their price to 240 [baht],” said Sharifi, who made his wealth selling mining equipment, gold and gems and is now looking at diversifying into products such as pistachios, herbal viagra and dates.
“It’s not a sophisticated mentality,” he added, slightly shaking his head in dismay.
If not grown on the restaurant’s rooftop, all ingredients for Persian House are shipped by air from Iran – from the basmati rice and saffron to the sturgeon.
“What I have built here, I don’t forget it. I live in this country, I love this country. I want to give back to Thailand. I want the best for Thailand,” he said.
Persian House is open 11am to 10pm every day except Monday. Located on Pan Road only a few hundred meters from Wat Kaek or Wat Phra Si Maha Utama Devi, it’s about a 10 minute walk from BTS Surasak. This take on Persian House was based on a single hosted vis