Persian cuisine, which comes from the area now mostly taken up by Iran, is an interesting blend of spices and flavors. Bijan Persian Grill at 5922 Hillcroft in the Gandhi District — where Indian restaurants abound — serves it up to a crowd filled with regulars.

The signature spices, such as tumeric and saffron along with herbs, make their lamb and other meats tender, and tasty. Kabobs with rice dishes and warm breads are the staple of this type of cooking, and there are plenty to choose from at Bijan. The meats are guaranteed Halal, which makes it a destination for the Muslim community.

And the restaurant sits in a bustling part of the Southwest Management District that also takes in Chinatown, the PlazAmericas mall and other colorful areas.

Owner Amir Jafari, who is known as Mario, immigrated to the U.S. in 1978 from Iran and attended college in Houston. He has worked his way up in the food business since his arrival, first as a busboy, then assistant manager, and then manager, and now owner.

Always wanting to have a place that sold his native Persian food, in 2003, after saving for many years, Jafari bought the existing Bijan restaurant that was just one year old. He scraped by in the first few years and is now proud of the business he has built.

“We have built this business with very hard work, not just by me, but with my loyal staff, including my cook Carlos, who has been with us for 18 years,” Jafari said. “I cannot say enough about my staff and their hard work through the years.”

“We do a lot of marinating of the meat which is something that makes Persian food so good,” Jafari said. “The chicken marinates for one full night.”

The specialty that Jafari is most proud of is their shish kabob, called Beef Koobideh, one that he says is “famous” in Houston. Their Beef Soltani is another shish kabob that features a beef filet and ground beef. They also sell many cornish hens, which are made on a grill. 

Another source of pride is the Basmati- Zaferani rice they serve with dishes, which Jafari buys from a special vendor he wants kept secret.

“We also use ocean salt on it – which is very expensive and most do not use this kind of salt,” Jafari explained.

His catering business has grown through his ears and is now 30 percent of his business, either in his own party room or delivered to an event. His party platters feature a gorgeous array and assortment of food. One features grilled meats such as filet mignon, baby lamb chops and a variety of kabobs, and another features meats and seafood.

“We have room for 110-120 people here in our party room, and we decorate the room to make it look festive free of charge, with the customers just paying for the food,” Jafari said.

The restaurant features a large outdoor patio area, perfect for COVID-conscious customers. Jafari is meticulous at having his servers make sure that customers are cared for from the minute they enter the restaurant.

Upon being seated, customers are served a warm “tanur bread,” which comes with complimentary feta cheese cube and greens. An order of hummus is a must; it arrives tangy and garlicky and is delicious when eaten with the tasty soft bread.

— by Arlene Nisson Lassin