As Columbus’ Northland population keeps diversifying, so does its cuisine.
Caspian Restaurant is the latest ethnic destination, serving up classic Persian dishes at 4989 Cleveland Ave.
To be sure, central Ohio has flirted with Persian – or Iranian – food in the past, but its popularity has been limited.
Victoria Nemati, chef and owner of Caspian, said she sees that changing.
“First of all, it’s new for them, a real Persian restaurant,” she said. “It’s a good location because many Arabian people live here and know our food.”
Caspian, which has replaced Zaika Gyro & Kebabs, offers a modest storefront and is minimally decorated, with a neutral color scheme and seating for about 35.
The full-service restaurant features dishes uncommon in central Ohio, such as ghormeh sabzi (Iranian herb stew), chicken fesenjoon (a pomegranate sauce with walnuts), baghali polo (broad bean rice) with lamb shank and chicken zereshk polo (basmati rice, barberries and saffron).
Most entree prices are $15 to $17.
Kebab sandwiches are popular for the busy lunch crowd, although, Nemati warns, they are cooked to order and might take up to 15 minutes to prepare.
Nemati said she is a self-taught chef, helping out at home, learning online and cooking in restaurants. She said her food is fresh and made from scratch.
She said she can make more intricate dishes, such as koofteh Tabrizi, and different styles of khoresh, a type of stew, as long as customers call in advance.
The menu also offers soups, salads and yogurt spreads, such as the popular musto khiar, seasoned with chopped cucumbers, onions and dried mint.
Other rarities for central Ohio are seer torshi (pickled garlic) and torshi makhloot (pickled vegetables), both used as condiments.
For dessert, Nemati makes her own saffron ice cream.
Dave Paul, chairman of the Northland Community Council development committee, said he would like to see more regular Taste of Northland events so residents could be introduced to the newer cuisines that have taken root in the neighborhood.
“Frankly, I wish I had more time to go and sample some of these places myself,” Paul said.
Hours for Caspian Restaurant are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays; it is closed Mondays.