Whether it’s bad luck, weak management, or dreary fare, some addresses just refuse to sustain good restaurants. We’ve all noticed—those locations where eateries die a lingering death every couple of years, forgotten the moment the next victim arrives.
That’s how I found Baran Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar. After watching three yawners come and go at this site in a meandering Anaheim center, I gave the newbie a test drive and something unusual occurred—I returned. Five times at last count.
The location is, to be polite, challenging—buried in the farthest corner of a center adjacent to busy train tracks. But it is freeway-close and steps from a 10-screen cinema. Early snooping in June yielded little background about the freshly open Baran Mediterranean Restaurant. A rudimentary website and a few dubious Yelp raves were all I dug up before trying dinner on a weeknight. The first shock was a tasteful end-to-end makeover starring roomy booths, glittering chandeliers, and a dramatic wall mural that extends across the ceiling. This dining room never looked so chic.
Navid and Elnaz Daneshpour plus partner Kyle Naderi are the team behind this sweeping transformation. They also recast the so-so patio as a walled garden with fountain, twinkle lights, and scrolled iron gate. It’s a laid-back wonderland for friends and families sharing kebab feasts on sultry nights. Clearly, this trio taps into north county’s Persian community, though all are welcomed with gracious hospitality.
Straight-up classic Persian cuisine is the draw here. Expect zero fusion fare. Don’t rush taking in the vast menu, just order a drink to accompany the gratis warm lavash and cold butter as you nibble and narrow your choices. Several traditional hot and cold appetizers beckon, leading with the straightforward panir sabzi—a finger food array of walnut halves, chunks of smooth feta, and a bouquet of fresh herbs for bundling. Vibrant house-made hummus is addicting and seems to complement everything on the table. Dolmeh—slow-simmered grape leaf bundles of rice, ground beef, split peas, and herbs—are even better dunked in maust musir, yogurt with chopped shallots. Zeytoon parvardeh are a rare menu find in O.C., green olives stuffed with garlic, pomegranate, and ground walnuts. Each olive is tart, sweet, savory, smooth, and crumbly. Splendidly complicated.
Two salads stand out—the fresh chopped Shirazi salad, a glistening heap of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and onions; and the Baran house special of crisp greens, tomatoes, fresh corn, lentils, cranberries, and feta. If you’re not into vinaigrette of lemon and olive oil, there’s a balsamic vinegar option. No ranch or honey mustard on this menu.
All roads eventually lead to fragrant stews, elaborate rice, and, of course, succulent kebabs with grilled vegetables and a profusion of fluffy basmati rice. Kebabs are straightforward affairs: There’s little to no intervention before various meats are threaded on skewers. That puts a lot of pressure on both the kitchen’s grill skills and the fundamental quality of the featured proteins. Not a single kebab was under- or overcooked. From giant shrimp to flavorful chicken to the lavish filet mignon, every meat was luscious with expertly singed edges. Even the koobideh (beef and chicken)—those long, crimped planks of spiced ground meat—remain succulent.
Though available all year, stews are especially alluring right now. Hearty gheymeh bademjan, a tomato-y blend of sauteed eggplant, yellow split peas, dried lime, and chunks of tender veal is a winner. One visit, the vegetable-rich ghormeh sabzi was over-simmered into a texture-free sludge—far better is the baghali polo with its tender lamb shank in a soupy broth with lima bean rice on the side. Four more mixed-rice dishes can be ordered as sides or entrees, each featuring a star ingredient, say sour cherries or lentils. Entree portions include braised chicken, or, in the case of my favorite lubia polo, green beans and diced filet mignon.
Leaving with leftovers is inevitable given the generous portions. Sweets fiends should save room for fabulous options. L.A. has many premium purveyors, which allows Baran to select the silkiest saffron rosewater ice cream and delicate baklava. Four delectable non-Persian specialties come from an off-site patisserie. Midweek lunch specials include a few sandwiches and popular kebab plates, reduced in size and price. Follow lunch with 30 percent off any drink at happy hour and voilà, an ace excuse for exiting the office early on Fridays.
After a decade of slow fails, this quirky corner at last has a keeper. A stylish makeover, appealing fare, and gracious hospitality have a way of building repeat business. I hope Baran will anchor this location for a long and happy tenure.
5645 E. La Palma Ave.
5 BEST DISHES
- Zeytoon parvardeh
- Baran or Shirazi salad
- Lubia polo
- Any kebab
- Saffron rosewater ice cream
Lunch, $12 to $18 Dinner appetizers, $7 to $14
Entrees, $21 to $36 Desserts, $5 to $11
Baran means “rain” in Farsi.