On a Saturday night in the Persian restaurant Pardis in Glendale, customers gather behind the host stand placed between the shimmering bar and a glass wall filled with wine bottles. The host, most often general manager Armi Tetoos, greets customers with a slight bow as a sign of respect. Gradually, tables in the sleek dining room, reminiscent of a CB2 furniture store, fill with diners, many of whom will linger for hours, patiently scooping up the last bites of barberry-tinted rice, dark green ghormeh sabzi laced with cooked herbs, and generous trays of perfectly formed koobideh, before ending their meals.
Prior to opening, Pardis boasted a golden-letter sign for more than 10 months promising to replace longtime Glendale Avenue Persian restaurant Cafe Bahar. Pardis founder Henrik Nazarian, an Iranian-Armenian restaurateur and franchisee of more than 20 IHOP restaurants in Texas and Ohio, had a plan to create a new kind of Persian restaurant in Glendale, a city already home to a rich collection of Middle Eastern institutions, each with their fiercely loyal clientele. While Nazarian’s other restaurants are classic American diners that emphasize uniformity through breakfast fare and other everyday dishes, he wanted Pardis to become a new dining destination.
With about 40 percent of the population in Glendale being of Armenian or Armenian-Iranian descent, the demand is high for Persian food. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the fall of the shah, many Iranians and Iranian-Armenians settled in Los Angeles and neighboring cities such as Glendale, creating their own communities and centering food as one of the most important ways of preserving their cultural identity. Over time, restaurants like Raffi’s Place, Shamshiri, and Shiraz made Glendale one of the best places for Persian food in Southern California, adding to the wealth of Lebanese, Greek-Armenian, and Armenian restaurants serving Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine in the city.
Pardis fully opened in April 2021 and has already become the busiest new Persian restaurant in town. An ear-fluttering mix of Armenian dialects, Farsi, and English reverberate through the space as customers order from its expansive menu. Elder guests nod in approval as youngsters let their excitement slip with the arrival of each plate, proof that these dishes can satisfy every generation. “We chose Glendale because of the Armenian, Iranian-Armenian population. They really understand the culture and the food,” says Miller. Still, there’s a warm sense of hospitality, even for first-timers who might not be as well-versed in Persian cuisine.
The dining room’s combination of glass doors, black tablecloths, black leather dining chairs, and wood-paneled walls decorated with abstract paintings by Aram Sevoyan that Nazarian’s wife brought from Armenia creates an ambience befitting a modern LA restaurant. The decor is a stark contrast to the utilitarian and often traditional ambience, featuring cultural accents or white tablecloths, at LA’s other Persian restaurants. Pardis’s back patio, which has tall holly trees and lush bougainvillea with a warming fire pit in the middle, seats up to 100 diners. The patio helped keep the restaurant afloat when it could only accommodate outdoor seating.
Pardis chef Payam Yousefpour began his career opening restaurants in Iran, though he was eventually forbidden from working or hiring employees due to his religion. Yousefpour follows Baha’i beliefs, a unrecognized religious minority that is considered “not clean” by the theocratic Islamic Iranian government. The chef moved to Armenia 10 years ago, operating a Persian restaurant in Yerevan for a year before immigrating to the U.S. For the past nine years, he’s been working in LA restaurants, picking up new techniques and learning how to tailor a menu to customers’ tastes. But everything goes through his family first; they try dishes and give their approval before he makes any additions to the menu.
Like other Persian restaurants, meals at Pardis start with complimentary flatbread usually served with cold pats of butter, raw onions, and basil. At Pardis, baker Gurdeep Singh makes taftan, a light and crusty traditional Iranian and Pakistani bread with charred corners and made in a clay tandoor oven. Singh uses a recipe he learned in Punjab to produce over a thousand loaves a day here. The best accompaniment to the taftan is paneer sabzi, feta cheese slices served with walnuts and seasonal herbs, though in warmer months the plate could come with colorful cucumbers, crunchy radishes, and ripe tomatoes.
Koobideh, beef barg, and soltani are Pardis’s most popular dishes. “There is a saying in Farsi: ‘When you go to a Persian restaurant and you want to know how good it is, you must try their koobideh,’” says Mehrdad Siahcheshman, the stately manager at Pardis. Beef and chicken are softened in a marinade with earthy fenugreek and light citrus notes that bring it to an ideal tenderness. “It’s all about the right marinade,” says Yousefpour, who developed all of the recipes with the memory of his mother’s cooking. But the menu goes well beyond kebabs. Fesenjoon chicken, served with walnut puree and pomegranate sauce, comes stuffed with rich, aromatic saffron rice. The rice pilafs highlight barberry, saffron, cinnamon, and fresh herbs while deeply flavored khoreshts (stews) add contrast to the meats, breads, and rice.
The restaurant offers a good selection of local and imported wine from Armenia to South Africa. Karas, Berdashen, Koor, and Trinity are well-known names representing Armenian wines. Made from indigenous varieties like areni and voskehat are grown in volcanic soil and made in ancient vessels, highlighting 6,000 years of Armenian winemaking traditions.
For dessert, try the bamieh, a fried dough pastry covered with rose water and served with tea poured into in diminutive cups. Though the small portions of tea are meant to limit the amount of liquid one drinks after a rich meal, they also serve diners an opportunity to take in the space after dinner, from the chattering crowds to the smooth jazz soundtrack.
Though Pardis has been established as one of Glendale’s top new Persian restaurants, Nazarian wants to stretch the limits of what it can be, with the team discussing a transformation of the back patio into a live jazz and cigar lounge after 9 p.m. — the kind of late-night destination that this part of Glendale sorely lacks. For now, Pardis is content serving stellar kebabs, stews, pilafs, and bread while maintaining one of the most elegant dining rooms and patios in town, a winning recipe that Glendalians have eagerly adopted with pleasure.