Gohar: Nostalgic food for Iranian-born Israelis - review

If you like exotic flavors and a very warm and hospitable environment, you will love Gohar.

 Gohar (photo credit: ALEX DEUTSCH)
(photo credit: ALEX DEUTSCH)

For Iranian-born Israelis, nostalgic for a taste of home cooking, the place to find those childhood flavors is at Gohar in Kfar Saba. This Persian restaurant is run by Sabra Yisrael Nulyan, who is helped out occasionally by his 86-year-old mom, who came to Israel in 1956.

We’re not ex-Persian, we’re ex-Brits celebrating our 50 years of aliyah, but still very happy to taste the offerings at Gohar, which was established in the Kfar Saba industrial zone more than 20 years ago.

The restaurant is small with inside seating for about 15 people and more outside. When I asked Nulyan for a menu, he said that there isn’t one; it’s everything you can see. Sure enough, a tempting array of freshly cooked Persian goodies is lined up under the glass-topped counter.

What's on the menu?

For starters, he brought us fresh salads, coleslaw, tomato and cucumber, and tehina, all very standard Israeli salads. But each had its own twist, adding the Persian touch, such as loads of herbs, a piquant lime dressing, and a touch of sweetness to the cabbage that had been marinated and garnished with dried fruits.

Nulyan also brought a central dish of the two kinds of rice he serves – majadra, which combines basmati rice with green lentils; and plain white rice with hints of a yellow spice, turmeric perhaps. Also on the plate were fresh runner beans and tomato segments.

The taste of Persia (credit: ALEXANDER SHNEIDER)The taste of Persia (credit: ALEXANDER SHNEIDER)

The first main dish, named “Ali Baba,” was a ball of fried dough dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried. The filling was a tasty mix of chicken breast, Swiss chard leaves and diced potato, with some spices that included cumin and coriander. On the side, he served Dijon mustard (NIS 69 for two). Since we both like spicy food, we found this a very satisfying dish.

Next was “kufteh berenji,” a meat and rice ball in a plate of consommé. It was full of spices and very good, although the cumin dominated (NIS 59 for two).

Yet another meatball dish came to our table, this one quite peppery and the meat slightly rare. The beef had been mixed with eggplant but was still very meaty and we liked the spiciness in it (NIS 69 for three).

Finally, more meatballs – this time in a beautiful purple sauce that Nulyan explained was made with beetroot. The sweetness of the dish was created with the addition of tamarind sauce. Nulyan also revealed that he grinds all the meat himself.

Vegans can also eat well at Gohar. Nulyan sent over some delicious homemade stuffed vine leaves and vegetable rissoles that were hot and spicy. According to Nulyan, vegans and non-vegans come from far and wide for his dolmas.

We asked about desserts and were told that Iranians don’t really eat them. We were about to say our goodbyes when Nulyan remembered that we hadn’t tried his sambusak (NIS 25), made from filo pastry and smoked meat. Unable to eat another crumb, we took it home and enjoyed it the next day.

If you like exotic flavors and a very warm and hospitable environment, you will love Gohar.

Gohar26 Hata’as St.Kfar Saba(09) 766-4533Open: Monday-Thursday, noon-4 p.m.Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.Kashrut: Kfar Saba Rabbinate

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.