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Dining Review: Rediscovering an old favorite

The Olive Branch in La Crescenta has been operating for nearly two decades.

March 03, 2014|By Lisa Dupuy
  • The lamb kabob comes with rice and grilled onions, tomato and pepper at The Olive Branch in the 3600 block of Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta, on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.
The lamb kabob comes with rice and grilled onions, tomato… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Have you ever had a favorite restaurant but for one reason or another stopped going there? Such was the case with the Olive Branch in La Crescenta. Perhaps it was the chipping exterior in need of a facelift that kept me away. Or the fact that I go to dozens of kebab places. But when a friend from Iran said it was her favorite Persian restaurant, I felt compelled to rediscover it. I've been back three times now. I can't get enough of their lunch special.

Sandwiches are fine. Their portability make them an obvious quick lunch choice. However I propose something revolutionary. Take 30 or 40 minutes out of your busy day for a warm, satisfying meal like the ones at Olive Branch. For $10.85 (plus tip) you'll be out the door with a belly full of salad, appetizer, warm pita, rice, healthy stew, and drink (I recommend hot Persian tea) as well as a mind calmed by confident service, linen tablecloths, damask-covered chairs, cantaloupe-colored walls, and large curtained windows framing Crescenta Valley mountains. It's a respite that revives.

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I have two favorite stews. My choice depends on my mood. When I want comfort food, I order fensanjan, a dark, thick, sweet and tangy melange of grated walnuts and pomegranate. It's great spooned over the delicate basmati rice, some tinted yellow from saffron, or sopped up by torn pieces of fresh pita. Chunks of tender chicken only make it more gratifying.

When I'm in the mood for something unusual, I get the ghorme sabzi. It has a flavor like no other. First off, you get 10 times your RDA of chlorophyll-rich foods. The brothy stew is dark green from parsley, cilantro, green onions and more. The red kidney beans and beef chunks (or vegetarian tofu) add substance. What makes this dish special, though, is the dried lime. Or maybe dried lemon. Owner/chef Edik Mirzaian isn't sure which. Showing me the raw product, a 2-inch sphere of hardened, brown citrus, it most closely resembles a Key lime. Research tells me the citrus is salted then sun-dried, fermenting the inside slightly. When reconstituted with water and added to food, it imparts a nuanced sour-sweet-bitter funkiness that wakes up the back of your tongue and leaves you wanting more.

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