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Maykadeh Restaurant

The warm promise of Persia

Amidst the North Beach bustle of expected Italian eats is an unusual anchor resident. Maykadeh has quietly welcomed local diners and visitors for the past nineteen years, and Mahmoud, its venerable grandpa-figure owner, likes it this way. Despite other businesses running under his watch, as varied as Mo's Burgers a few blocks away and a flower distribution operation, Maykadeh is Mahmoud's prize child. "It's my baby."

By his own reckoning, this baby hasn't changed too much. Maykadeh has long hosted diners in its warmly lit, darkly carpeted grounds, replete with wrapping white lights and gilt chairs upholstered in a red even deeper than the carpet's. Contrasting the opulence is the menu which, with minor tweaks, has always consisted of light, central Persian dishes. The complimentary bearing starts with a warm pile of pita and a plate of feta cheese, onions, and fresh basil sprigs to be nibbled between dishes as a palate cleanser.

Not for the lazy, a Persian meal is no passive exercise - achieving the balance between spice and light is a multitasking challenge. The Mast-o-Khiar ($3.50), a homemade yogurt with a hint of mint and fresh cucumber chunks, for one, serves as a perfect dip for pita but should be called upon repeatedly to neutralize the saffron, the sumak spice, and lime found throughout the meal.

What exactly comprises a meal can be a matter of definition. The Kashke Bademjan ($6.50), an eggplant spread enriched with mint garlic and erroneously listed as a small plate, can easily be a meal unto itself. Accompanied by the Basmati rice which, given the special boil-and-steam house treatment emerges fluffier sans the excess starch, there is little room for want. True, vegetarians and carnivores can find their plates separately full, but mixing is most fun, as each seems prepared with a complement in mind.

The Maykadeh Soltani ($22.50) is a fitting canvas for the task: filet mignon slices browned to preference, lightly marinated in lime juice and onion, and set atop a bed of Basmati. As a stand-alone, it is the house anthem for which many make the trip. Maykadeh's lightly marinated meat dishes are best complemented by the Torsee ($3.50), diced pickled vegetables, which add kick while reputedly helping to dissolve fats. All the better to make room for the Bastani ($3.50), a traditional Persian ice cream heavily centered on pistachio, which singly beat out all local gelatos in a North Beach ice cream contest.

Mahmoud proudly describes the menu as wholly traditional, devoid of any trendy Cal or western influence. Indeed, in this pocket of North Beach, stands the city's own maykadeh - a "house of wine" in long-ago Persia that provided sanctuary for intellectuals, poets, and artists from the Muslim ordinance against alcohol.

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