East Watertown is a rather interesting neighborhood for food that is often overlooked by diners for one reason or another. This is a shame, as there are all kinds of restaurants and markets in and around the area that feature Mediterranean, Armenian, Middle Eastern, and Persian food, among other cuisines. And it is Middle Eastern and Persian that are featured at a tiny restaurant on Mt. Auburn Street called Jasmine Taste of Persia, which is a friendly dining spot that is very easy to miss but which also happens to be one that's a favorite among some of the locals who live in this vibrant neighborhood.
Jasmine looks almost like a sub shop from the outside, but it is rather pleasant inside, with comfortable (though limited) seating, curtains on the windows, and warm lighting. A grill resides along the back of the dining area behind the counter, and a small kitchen is located in the back of the restaurant. Jasmine does have table service, though many people who go there opt to do takeout, mainly because there is so little in the way of seating.
The menu at Jasmine features a number of traditional Iranian dishes as well as more familiar Middle Eastern items. In the former category, the aash reshteh, or Persian soup, is mild but tasty, with noodles, onions, chickpeas, lentils, mint, and black-eyed peas. The shirazi, or Persian salad, is another Iranian dish, with mint, onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes mixed with lemon juice and olive oil. The khoresht ghormeh sabzy is a kind of Persian beef stew, with beef, kidney beans, and a variety of vegetables. And the beef kubideh rollup is yet another Persian dish, this one featuring deliciously spicy flame-grilled ground beef with tahini sauce and vegetables. For Middle Eastern dishes, the menu includes some of the smoothest and creamiest hummus you will ever taste, as well as a strong tasting baba ghannoush, a hearty, meaty falafel plate, and stuffed grape leaves that are decent though not outstanding. One item on the menu that is a real winner is the chicken shawarma; this extraordinary dish features flame-grilled pieces of chicken that are marinated in cardamom, sumac, and other spices, giving the chicken a sharp, biting taste that is different from most shawarma dishes that this writer has had. Side dishes at Jasmine include baghali polo, an earthy, mild basmati rice dish with lima beans and dill, and zereshk polo, another rice dish that includes tart barberries and saffron.
Jasmine is not a well-known place at all, but it certainly isn't because of the quality of the food; both the Persian and Middle Eastern dishes that are served here are fresh, tasty, and delicious, and while the prices might be just a tad high, it is well worth it, as this little dining spot near Belmont and Cambridge features some dishes that are not only excellent, but also nearly impossible to find elsewhere in the Boston area.
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