Lavash Deserves All the Love

The Inner Sunset Persian restaurant is back to serving up Iranian classics following a two-year closure.

Lavash serves its plates of rice with a saffron heart drizzled into them. 

It’s a small, sweet touch that is (intentionally or unintentionally) reminiscent of the romance behind the Inner Sunset Persian restaurant, which reopened recently after a 50-year history filled with changing and new businesses, a rose-filled proposal, and a fire that forced owners Saeed and Nazila Talai to close Lavash’s doors for two years in 2018.

But now Lavash is back, and things have more or less stayed the same, including its warm interior with a lover’s corner in the back and the same Iranian dishes that became hits among Lavash fans.

Start your dinner at Lavash with something refreshing to get your appetite excited — try the sabzi panir ($12), a plate of squares of Lavash bread, feta cheese, cucumber, and tomato. Paired with a healthy heaping of fresh herbs, the sabzi panir takes simple ingredients and elevates them to an aromatic appetizer. If you’re looking for something with a bit more punch, the Shiraz salad takes a few of the same ingredients — cucumber and tomato — and tosses them with olive oil and lime dressing. You could eat this for a long time and still be invested in every summery, sweet, tart bite.

For an appetizer in colder weather, try the kashk-e bademjan, a crowd favorite consisting of soft, warm roasted eggplant decorated with yogurt, mint flakes, and saffron. Roasted garlic pieces on top lend the dish a dynamic texture. It’s served with the same Lavash bread from the sabzi panir that the restaurant is named after.

The kashk-e bademjan is warm and homey, as is the fesenjan, a chicken and walnut stew served with basmati rice. The pomegranate sauce is strong, so it’s definitely a sweeter dish. If you’re dining with a guest (or on your own, we support this), order the Lavash Special ($46), which contains two pieces of shishlik (lamb), a skewer of joojeh (chicken), and a skewer of koobideh (beef and lamb). It’s a really great way to sample multiple kabobs from Lavash’s menu, and each piece is melt-in-your-mouth tender. The joojeh is marinated in lime, olive oil, and saffron seasoning, and has an almost crispy top; the shishlik carries similar spices and flavors, but is wonderfully gamey. The Lavash Special also comes with a skewer of vegetables: bell pepper, onion, tomato, zucchini: There’s light charring around the edges, but most of the attention goes to how the vegetables already have strong flavors and textures that don’t need a lot of help from seasoning.

Lavash is also known for its chocolate baghlava (baklava). Dubbed “choclava” ($7), the dessert is your standard baklava with a layer of chocolate and the same honey sweetness. They also serve traditional baghlava ($7), which comes with a thick, crunchy layer of pistachios instead. Personally, I preferred the pistachio baghlava, because pistachios are amazing and having the extra texture is a really great complement to the baghlava’s flakiness. If you really like pistachio, or have even moderate feelings toward the nut, you have to try the bastani ($7) — Persian gelato with rose water, saffron, and pistachio. Lavash gets their ice cream from a maker in San Jose, and the rose water makes a strong case that every pistachio-flavored ice cream should have rose water in it — it’s beautifully fragrant. I know that I’m going to take the N line back to 7th and Irving just so I can sit by myself with a slice of baghlava and a scoop of bastani. (I know I’ve said similar things about other desserts, but I am really passionate about this one.)

Lavash serves wine and beer, but its non-alcoholic beverages are definitely worth ordering. The teas are sourced from all over the world (Nazila used to run a tea lounge called Rose Tea on the same block as Lavash) and come in a pot stuffed with mint leaves and a stick of rock candy. Try the rose or saffron ($6), or disregard teas entirely and order the pomegranate kombucha ($6) instead: It’s served in a large wine glass and is lightly sweet and fizzy. 

Lavash, 511 Irving St.

Grace Li covers arts, culture, and food for SF Weekly. You can reach her at gli@sfweekly.com.

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