Corona, CA: Poetic Justice for the Senses

Rumi’s Restaurant delivers a renaissance of gustatory pleasures

If something about Rumi’s Restaurant sings songs of the familiar, think back to Darya Fine Persian Cuisine in Orange County. Owner Bashir Hassanzadi has brought much of the same elegance and sophisticated refinement of a Darya into horse country, albeit in a more accessible and amiable format than that indulgent palace for fine rich wives. Add to that the legions of loyal fans that followed Hassanzadi east and north to his humble digs and renewed interest in light and healthy Mediterranean cuisines, and Corona has scored an instant winner.

Rumi’s main draw comes from locals—equal parts Persian, Asian and whites—who trust Hassanzadi to indulge their gustatory senses with the lush poetry of flavors and textures. The menu offers a genial variety of meat and vegetarian options, all halal, to suit a wide dearth of palates. Lunch for two might start with a house favorite, the kashkeh bademjan ($4.99). It’s a mix of creamy, sautéed eggplant (the Iranian “potato”) mixed lightly with mint and topped by a bed of sweet sautéed garlic and onions. Kashkeh bademjan delivers a delicate balance between sweet and savory, mellowed by a tangy infusion of homemade yogurt that melds nicely against warm and flaky lavash bread. Whereas kashkeh bademjan strokes sensuous chords, dolmeh strikes at the center of the gut. Dolmeh ($4.99) could be considered the appetizer for “the man”—cooked grape leaves envelop a hearty and dense pulp of spiced ground beef, split peas and fresh herbs, brightened by a strong current of citrus.

Kabobs win the popularity contest when it comes to entrees. Shish kabob ($10.99) of filet mignon is fork-tender and earthy, seasoned just right with ground parsley and chopped onions, and partnered with a smattering of charbroiled vegetables and served over a generous helping of basmati rice topped by saffron. Larger groups might consider splitting one of five combination plates to sample the variety of kabobs Rumi’s has to offer, some of which come with koobideh, a combination of seasoned ground meats (usually beef, chicken or lamb) and a must-try among kabob enthusiasts.

The Fesenjon stew ($7.99) is considered by most Iranians as a go-to comfort food. Hassanzadi’s fesenjon combines finely grounded walnuts and pomegranate juice to create a nutty and pasty-like sauce that flavors a bed of boiled chicken. Fesenjon carries a fragrant aroma and sweetness undercut by a fruity tanginess. This very simple dish, while not a pretty sight on the eyes, does pack a flavorful punch (especially when basmati rice mops up the sauce). A light, but hearty enough meal that can be enjoyed without the corresponding carb-induced coma.

While dinner prices have the tendency to hover a dollar or two above the regular lunch values, prices are still entirely reasonable without costing an arm or a leg, especially for a restaurant of this quality. Hassanzadi himself extends that same air of kindness and hospitality that made Darya such a hit. First timers need not worry. With Hassanzadi leading the way, Rumi’s Restaurant is a worthy venue for first dates and much more.

Rumi’s Restaurant, 718 N. Main St., Suite 102, Corona, (951) 898-5400"

Sun-Thurs, 11AM-9PM. Fri-Sat, 11AM-10PM. M, V.

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