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Diners at Garson can now feast on Persian food without being hit on

"You'll never believe what just happened while I was in the bathroom," Sonia says when she comes back to the table. She seems a little miffed. We are eating dinner at Garson, a Persian restaurant on Hillcroft. While she was in the bathroom, I was sampling her stew. Maybe that's why she's so upset?

It's a beef-and-lentil stew called gheimeh, which is served with a topping of crispy french fries. Buried in the thick broth is a dark round object that Sonia warns me about. It's a dried lime. The first time she had this dish, she tells me, she made the mistake of popping the whole thing in her mouth. Tonight she is avoiding it. I wondered if a dried lime is like a whole chile -- the kind of seasoning that you can eat in small pieces with the rest of the dish if you are so inclined. So while she's away, I cut off a tiny chunk and eat it with some lentils and sauce. It's horrendously sour all right, bitter too. But kind of interesting.

But surely she's not pissed at me for eating her dried lime.

Stewing: When freed from worry about caddish managers, diners can enjoy Garson's stewed lamb shank and crispy flat bread.
Deron Neblett
Stewing: When freed from worry about caddish managers, diners can enjoy Garson's stewed lamb shank and crispy flat bread.

Location Info



2926 Hillcroft St.
Houston, TX 77057-5802

Category: Restaurant > Mediterranean

Region: Galleria


713-781-0400. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Gheimeh: $7.95
Tabbouleh: $4.95
Hummus: $4.95
Baba ghanoush: $4.95
Must museer: $3.95
Garson special (chicken and rib eye): $14.95
Scallops: $6.95
Lamb shank: $12.95
Eggplant: $4.95
Tahdig with stew: $4.95

2926 Hillcroft

"So what happened?" I ask.

Sonia looks around to see if anybody is in earshot. There are maybe ten customers in the restaurant. At one table, four women in traditional Islamic head coverings dine together. Two men speaking Persian sip soft drinks at another table.

"When I came out of the stall, the waitress was waiting for me," Sonia says. "She told me the manager really liked me and wanted to meet me, and then she gave me his card."

"What?" I say with my jaw agape.

My first visit to Garson was much less eventful. On my arrival a few weeks earlier, I was quite taken by the imaginative interior architecture. The ceiling is composed of several layers of interestingly shaped panels that are painted exotic purples, greens and reds. These hues, I was told, are the traditional colors of Persian carpets.

But I was most impressed on that visit with the hot flat bread made before your eyes at a sort of pizza-oven station in the front of the restaurant. The bakers noisily smacked the dough and then ran a rolling pin with spikes called a docker over the flattened shape to eliminate air bubbles. The crispy bread was brought straight from the oven, hot and slightly blackened around the edges. It was about nine inches in diameter, so you had to break it or cut it into wedges to eat it. The bread was served with a plate of radishes, feta cheese, mint and parsley. You can complement the bread course with dips such as tabbouleh, hummus or baba ghanoush. We ordered the must museer, a yogurt dip with shallots, mostly for its practicality, since it can serve both as a dip and as a sauce for grilled meats.

On that first visit, I tried an assortment of the grilled meats, which Garson specializes in. Grilled rib eye, grilled scallops and grilled chicken were served with two kinds of rice on the side. The medium-rare rib eye was extremely tender, while the scallops and chicken were perfectly cooked and quite juicy. But I was disappointed overall. Grilled meats served without any sauce get boring fast, no matter how well they're cooked.

The must museer helped, but I wondered if there were other dips that I should have ordered to go with the meats. The waiter, who barely spoke English, was no help in this regard. An unassuming bottle of Australian cabernet-shiraz from Oxford Landing saved the day. It was just the right sort of brash, young, fruity red wine to drink with these grilled meats.

But I hoped to find something more interesting to write about at Garson next time. And boy did my wish get granted.

Sonia is the lovely young Hispanic woman who went out for lobster with me a few weeks ago. We aren't dating or anything. She's just an enthusiastic fan of the Cafe section who volunteered to eat with me after Red and I broke up. And who was I to turn down such an offer?

The restaurant manager no doubt concluded that a beauty like Sonia could do a lot better than a fortysomething fossil like me. He's right, but he made the fateful mistake of trying to close in on her himself. It was not the wisest move he ever made.

We ate at Garson at Sonia's suggestion. She has always loved the Persian cuisine there, and she took great joy in introducing me to the place. She also knew the key to getting exciting flavors here: "Stick with the stews." While the grilled meats at Garson are rather plain, the stewed dishes are intricately seasoned.

My favorite, besides the beef, lentil and dry-lime stew, was the stewed lamb shank, a falling-apart-tender chunk of lamb served on the bone with a cinnamon-scented sauce on the side. I attempted to spoon some of the sauce over the rice served on another plate until the waiter kindly stepped in and poured the entire contents of the lamb platter over the herbed rice so that none of the sauce went to waste.

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