After hearing good things from our foodie friends about the menu at Atlas Specialty Supermarket & Persian Cuisine my boyfriend and I eagerly anticipated our first visit. Excited by the opportunity to feast on a wide range of Iranian delights we came armed with healthy appetites and a yearning for foreign flavours.

Stepping into the main foyer on a sunny Sunday afternoon we peeked into the small market space adjacent to the restaurant. Stocked with a variety of bulk spices nuts and preserves like fig jam and pomegranate paste we knew we were in for an authentic dining experience.

The space is simple and casual. Ornate archways divide the restaurant from the marketplace and the room is adorned with traditional Persian art. Featuring vinyl banquettes and many large tables the room is set up to accommodate large groups and families.

Once seated our cheerful server came by to take our order and answer any questions we had. I noted an extra spice paired with the salt and pepper and she told us it was derived from sumac berries. Popular in Arabic cuisine sumac spice is often used as a substitute for lemon or vinegar due its favourably tart and tangy flavour.

We started with an array of appetizers. The first was a serving of masto mosir (small $3.99) a yogurt-and-shallot dip served with pita bread. The dish was similar to tzatziki but replaces the Greek staple’s predominant cucumber flavour with aromatic shallots.

Along with the dip we had the saladeh shirazi (small $3.99). Featuring diced cucumber tomato and onions in a fragrant olive oil and lemon vinaigrette this simple salad was fresh and lively.

A main category on the menu is koresht — slow-cooked stews that typically include a myriad of unique ingredients. We chose the classic fesenjoon ($6.50) a chicken stew that combines walnuts slightly sweet pomegranate paste and slow-cooked onions. This tangy stew was a little bowl of heaven with multiple layers of rich and tangy flavours.

For our mains we chose a selection of kabobs. Each kabob entree comes with saffron rice roasted tomatoes and onions. According to the menu the most popular dish at Atlas is the koobideh kabob ($11.50) two flame-broiled mildly spicy ground-beef kabobs. Reminiscent of a butterflied beef sausage the kabob was both juicy and crispy.

We also sampled the barg kabob (striploin) and joojeh kabob (chicken) on the ultimate combo platter ($22.50). The striploin kabob cooked to preference was pleasingly salty and tender. For the chicken kabob guests can select a spicy or traditional saffron-and-lemon marinade we chose the traditional style. Also tender the savoury chicken was my boyfriend’s favourite of the three.

We were impressed with our visit to Atlas. This spot is definitely a hidden gem. It has generous portions friendly and personable service and an amazing array of dishes.

Atlas Specialty Supermarket & Persian Cuisine 100-1000 Ninth Ave. S.W. 403-230-0990.

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