For years, local foodies flocked to Middle Eastern Cuisine, a no-frills eatery and hookah bar across from Savannah’s courthouse. But when owner Ali Parsaei’s lease was up, he decided to take his staple dishes, add some fancier menu items and reopen several blocks east on Whitaker Street in the space formerly occupied by Sage. The result is Persepolis, an intimate restaurant and hookah bar with outstanding Persian cuisine and the same welcoming atmosphere that has always kept Ali's regulars coming back.
Persepolis, named for an ancient city in Persia, features two floors of dining space - a bottom level with three tables, a large booth and a hookah bar and an upper level with several additional tables. Persepolis’ dark, cozy ambiance stands in stark contrast to Middle Eastern Cuisine, which (much like the sterile courthouse across the street) didn’t offer much visual stimulation.
Persepolis, on the other hand, feels instantly intimate. The artwork and colorful hookahs that were hard to spot in the old location seem custom-made for the new space.
Persepolis' entrees are accompanied by a Greek salad — Photo courtesy of Amy Pine
Middle Eastern Cuisine aficionados will be pleased to find several popular items have stayed on the menu, including the fabulous hummus and baba ghanoush appetizers, flaky spanakopita and flavorful baked falafel.
Ali has also added several new dishes, which have already garnered praise from his regular customers. The mouthwatering kabob menu features interesting choices such as the Persepolis chef kabob, with marinated chicken and filet mignon and the market vegetable kabob with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, zucchini and squash.
Both the lunch and dinner menus include a KooKoo quiche trio, featuring flavorful quiches made with herbs, zucchini and cauliflower and accompanied by tzatziki sauce.
One of the most interesting additions to the menu is the selection of rice dishes. The basic rice dish, a fluffy saffron polo, combines basmati rice with saffron seasonings. The Adas polo takes that same simple recipe and adds lentils and raisins. Those who like complex flavors will enjoy the Shirin polo, which includes pistachios, sautéed dried orange peel and almond slices, and the Zereshk polo, a nearly identical dish that replaces the orange peel with barberries (a berry commonly used in Iranian rice pilaf dishes).
Desserts include baklava, tiramisu and milk pie - a decadent treat with custard, fillo dough and a simple honey syrup. Diners can wash down their dinner and dessert with soda, iced tea, juice, beer, wine or a flavorful cup of Persepolis’ hot tea.
The hookah bar, a favorite among local college students, features more than 15 varieties of flavored tobacco, including apple, spearmint, pomegranate, peanut butter and rose.
Ali works hard to ensure that the front and back of the house are run smoothly. If you happen to catch him during a slower time, be sure to engage him in a conversation. You’ll leave with a belly full of delicious Persian food and a new friend.