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Milad Bistro brings Persian fare to the southwest

SANTA FE, N.M. — One step inside Milad Persian Bistro and you realize what the Middle East and Santa Fe have in common: adobe. Milad’s thick adobe walls and arched doorways could be straight out of Iran.

We started with a house standard: hummus ($6) with a side of green chile. It was everything you would expect of this dish: a nice, garlicky puree of chickpea, with carrots and celery for scooping and a side of fresh, hot pita wedges for those dedicated to carbs. I didn’t taste the chopped green chile on the side, but it must have been good — it disappeared among my three guests in short order.

The appetizer menu included stuffed dates, an interesting salad and various cheese and herb combinations. I would have liked to try nearly all of them, but we opted for one of the more unusual: jigar, or liver slices with pomegranate sauce ($7). This was excellent — tender slices of liver, grilled to nearly rare perfection, and served with a sweet and intriguing pool of pomegranate juice. We gobbled it up.

Entrees were listed as kebabs and ranged from beef and lamb to chicken, fish and vegetables. None of these were what we would think of, conventionally, as kebabs — all our choices were served without the skewer. But they were kebab-like — namely, grilled.

The lamb ($16) was voted best of show. Very tender and just barely rare slices of lamb arrived on a pile of basmati rice with a dribble of saffron, and a side of salad — we’d call it a kind of salsa, featuring diced tomatoes, onion, cucumber and fresh herbs, including mint.

The beef ($18) was filet mignon, thinly sliced, grilled perfectly and served with the same accompaniments. I opted for the fish ($16) and was more than happy, even though the waiter apologized that it wouldn’t be the listed mahi, but rather salmon. It was perfectly cooked — just on the rare side of completely done, and very fresh and nice.

Just to quibble, I would say, instead of the plain rice, lightly flavored with saffron, that Milad serves with all its kabobs, I would have been much more intrigued with a dish I’ve read about but never tasted: rice cooked to a crust on the bottom, a festive component of holiday Iranian meals.

Dessert, in American or European terms, is not a feature of Middle Eastern cuisine. But sweets — as opposed to pastry — they do have. Thus you’ll not find pie or cake on the menu, but Milad has variations on custard, or the less rich panna cotta. We sampled a couple of these ($5 each) and were pleased with the pomegranate and vanilla flavorings. Better yet was an exquisite rosewater and lime ice cream (also $5), very subtle and truly the best thing we’d tasted in a long time.

The service at Milad’s was excellent — our meal was nicely paced, including time to linger after lunch. There’s a patio, but in the winter chill, we were pleased with the comforting warmth of thick adobe, blazing fireplaces and stylized Persian art from a climate not so different from that of our own high desert.

MILAD BISTRO

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