Kid Hit Menu Items: Rice, kebabs, Shirazi salad with diced cucumbers and tomatoes. Part of Persian cuisine’s brilliance is its range that encompasses simple and accessible foods to incredibly complex flavors, techniques and ingredients.
Adult Perks: Javan has become a family favorite, especially for our Christmas Eve tradition, but it took a few years to settle into this preference. That’s because we’d often experience a conflict: whether to chose fresh bread from Flame in Westwood’s tiled oven vs. the less exciting lavash at Javan. It’s very hard to pass over Flame’s soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside thin bread with the charred perforations that’s made right in front of your very eyes (it appears I’m writing their local cable access TV commercials for them). But the meat was more flavorful at Javan. So eventually Javan won out, also because we have a Persian friend who preferred it and it became habit to us. And still all the many Persian places are so awesome and you just can’t go wrong. I can think of few other meals that so succinctly capture a wide scope of texture and flavor contrasts in one sitting. The wine and beer lists aren’t terribly interesting, but they do exist.
Pros: Open on Christmas Eve! Lightening fast service and overall attentive staff that’s always on its toes. Javan has a busy, comfortable family restaurant vibe, and you definitely see kids up way past typical American bedtimes here. People are here to eat heartily and mightily all while talking loudly and having a good time, and that’s a beautiful thing. I always appreciate the jar with Tootsie Rolls on the bar, too.
Cons: Crowds, if you hit it too late.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Below-ground parking lot and elevator that’s located off the alley west of Butler. Watch out, it’s easy to miss. Metered street parking is often available. Otherwise the restaurant is quite conspicuous; just look for the bobbing jolly chefs’ heads on Santa Monica a few blocks west of the Nuart Theatre and the 405.
Other Tidbits: Ah, Javan, with your fancy changing light displays next to the (too few!) big booths, white player piano, soft salmon pinks, profligate use of speckled granite, and other charms. When it comes to the food, our ordering habits don’t change much. Essentials include my absolute favorite, tadigh, literally meaning in Farsi something to the effect of “stuck to the bottom of the pan” — or so I’ve been told. Further evidence that old rice can be used transcendently. Golden fried, irregularly shaped, thin rice patties come topped with your choice of stew; mine is invariably the tangy and rich beef, spinach, herb and kidney bean gormeh sabzih. We then ramp up with Shirazi salad (admittedly of varying freshness quality) and the must-have kashk-e bademjan eggplant dip, crowed with a generous pile of crispy shallots. Sometimes we’ll toss in an order of hot stuffed grape leaves, and pick out a yogurt dip or two out of the several listed on the menu. After the initial fast and furious rush of starters — after which we could quit eating — come the kebabs. Javan’s chicken Soltani combo includes both the chicken breast and ground chicken grilled meats, and then we’ll usually add a lamb and koobideh ground beef for the crowd. These all come with grilled tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and onions. And keep in mind that moderating rice consumption when faced with heaping platters of steaming, fluffy rice combined with saffron, or dill and fava beans, or sweet and sour cherries is not easy. Thick and creamy pistachio rose water ice cream tastes soapy to some, but it’s a satisfying end to the meal if you can stand to eat anything more. No matter what, we know we’ll leave with a stack of to-go boxes and leftovers to look forward to.
Although Persian New Year happens at a different time of year, here’s wishing everyone all the best for 2011, full of fun, delicious, and relatively low-stress eating for all!
11500 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.