Persian food is among the more luxuriant of cuisines, but its only drawback is that restaurateurs use their grub's reputation to overprice customers by half. Consider most of the meat entrées at GREEN RICE in Huntington Beach. Don't get me wrong: All the kebabs are perfect—large beef or chicken chunks cooked with equal parts char and juice, served next to a dune of basmati rice. You'll only be able to eat half of this meal and have great leftovers, but still—$19 for filet-mignon kebabs? That's enough to buy a massive steak at most fine-dining locales. Chicken kebabs for $15? You can buy a whole hen for that price at any rotisserie shack. Order the kebab dinners only if someone else is paying, and maybe choose a koobideh—ground beef or chicken skewers a bit fattier than the other kebabs, but no less delicious.
You'll visit Green Rice for other reasons, however—the nice interior, the gracious young waitresses and the county's best wraps. Finally, a reason to order this pseudo-burrito—rather, eight reasons, all registering less than $7. Meat-lovers can feed their yen with a shawerma or gyro wrap, each featuring petals smeared with tzaziki and combined with lettuce and grilled onions inside thick, hot lavash bread. Persians aren't famous for their falafels—it's really more of an Arab thing—but the fried chickpea balls are surprisingly good here: hearty, soft, smeared with tahini sauce. The best wraps are the vegetarian ones, where the cooks get mixing. Eggplant and pomegranate doesn't seem like an ideal combo until it sits in your mouth a bit. There, the tartness of the pomegranate sauce fuses with the fruit's smoky bitterness. The eggplant also blends well with whey, milk's byproduct after finishing the cheesemaking process and a prized Persian snack. All the wraps come with a crunchy cucumber salad and sometimes even shallot-spiked cream. And make sure to ask for the Parmesan-spiked olive-oil dip.
But Green Rice's best deal isn't the wraps—that would be the tadig, a dish consisting of rice so crispy you'll need to stab through the crust like an ice fisherman. Tadig is created by scraping the bottom of a rice pot, but don't think you're getting the detritus of a cook's day. Spending all the time at the bottom nearly carbonizes the rice, drawing out every molecule of a grain's flavor. Even better, Green Rice's ladies ladle a stew on top of the tadig—ghemeh bademjon (tomatoes, yellow peas and eggplant—more delicious than it sounds) or fessenjoon, the walnut-chicken-pomegranate elixir. All tadigs cost $4.99 and will transform into leftovers for two days—one of the finer deals outside two tacos for a buck.
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Green Rice, 17441 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 843-0655.