Lala Rokh brings authentic Persian cuisine to Beacon Hill
97 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston.
By Shawdee Eshghi and Anders Hove
Good Persian cuisine is hard to come by stateside. So, in spite of Boston's flair for ethnic food, you might not expect to see an authentic Iranian restaurant here - particularly not on Beacon Hill. Lala Rokh bucks these expectations: The food is relatively authentic and the decor is certainly tasteful as far as Beacon Hill goes. Prices are a little on the high side, but not unreasonably so. Without a doubt, this establishment is a fine addition to the area's gastronomic repertoire.
Lala Rokh is tucked away in the basement of typical Beacon Hill brownstone on Mount Vernon Street. The name "Lala Rokh" itself means lily. Perhaps that explains the plain, subdued decor, marked only by an arrangement of tasteful, traditional Iranian paintings. The fine linen tablecloths, unfortunately, are covered with white paper sheets. The general atmosphere reflects a quiet and attractive elegance. Perhaps it is the atmosphere, then, that draws the mostly white, affluent, Beacon Hill crowd, although the room is dotted with a few Iranians of various ages.
The service at Lala Rokh can be described as attentive. The attention starts, however, when you sit down; don't expect them to notice you waiting in the foyer. The cheerful waiters are eager to tell all about the menu, the chefs, and the history of the establishment. They will also describe a number of specials, which in some cases are not regional dishes, but merely contemporary items.
Lala Rokh does not boast a very extensive wine list, but does provide a reasonable variety. The prices on the wines available are decent, but beware of the Riesling. As for the menu, entrées range from $12 to $20. Many of these dishes are regional specialties from around the country. Both hot and cold appetizers run around $5, with the exception of the $20 renowned Caspian Sea caviar. There is also a range of side dishes, all priced at around $2 to $3.
For appetizers we ordered Kotlet-e-Gusht ($5), two spicy medium-sized cutlets of moist beef in grated potatoes and spices; and Mirza Ghasemi ($5), a melange of grilled eggplant, garlic, egg, and tomatoes.
For entrées, we ordered the Ghormeh Sabzi ($15), boneless leg of lamb in a stew of dried lime, kidney beans, and a bouquet of greens, whose quantity was somewhat overstated on the menu. We also ordered the Sultani Kabob ($16) which includes Barg (strips of sirloin) and Kubideh (ground sirloin spiced with turmeric and saffron). The Barg and Kubideh are also offered separately on the menu. Both are served with Basmati, a tasty, long-grained rice prepared in the traditional fashion - steamed and seasoned with butter and Soumaq, a Middle Eastern spice. Both dishes were tasty and quite authentic. We discovered, however, that the meat was laced with fat, and somewhat tough in places.
For dessert we sampled the Baklava ($4.50), which was exquisite. The Iranian style of baklava is made with pistachios, almonds and sugar water flavored with rose water, as opposed to the more common Greek style, which uses walnuts and honey. We then capped off the meal with a cup of Persian tea, served steaming hot.
In general, we recommend Lala Rokh highly for providing an impressive variety of authentic Iranian dishes in a pleasant if simple atmosphere.