In a strip mall in North Dallas, you’ll find an impressive Persian lunch buffet. Sahara Restaurant, owned by Iran native Bahman Derakhshan, offers a $12.99 lunch buffet and traditional dinner menu.
Derakhshan opened the restaurant 26 years ago, and Sahara has been in its current space for 17 years. Derakhshan grew up in Tehran, where his father owned three restaurants. After moving to the United States, Derakhshan opened Sahara, using his father’s recipes in all his cooking.
Although the selection is small, everything in the buffet shines.
Every day, Sahara offers one of two soups: gheimeh bademjan, lentil stew with tomatoes, eggplant and beef; or ghormesabzi, with red kidney beans, dried limes, vegetables and beef.
You’ll also find tahdig, the crunchy rice from the bottom of the rice pot.
“Every time we cook rice, we put bread and potato at the bottom of the pan under the rice, so it all gets crispy. People love it,” Derakhshan says.
One side of the buffet has various dips, sauces and salads — things like tabouli, tzatziki, hummus, baba ganoush, coleslaw, potato salad and kale salad. All vegetarian items are noted as such.
The other side of the buffet includes a selection of meat, such as lamb gyro, lamb shanks, koresht gheimeh (beef stew) and kebabs. Derakhshan’s favorite dish is the ground beef and lamb kebab.
“Lots of Persian restaurants make kebabs, but none of them are like mine,” Derakhshan says.
Additionally, Sahara offers four types of chicken kebabs, two of which are served on the buffet. At lunch, you’ll find Isfahan chicken kebabs (marinated chicken thighs) and chicken kubideh kebabs (ground chicken). The Cornish hen kebabs with pomegranate sauce are a favorite on the dinner menu, Derakhshan says.
On every table is a bottle of sumac to sprinkle on the kebabs.
There is always basmati rice on the buffet, but Sahara also offers a different kind of mixed rice each day. The sweet jeweled rice has carrots, raisins, cranberry, almonds, figs and plums. There is chicken in the spicy Biryani rice. The day we visited, Sahara was serving dill and lima bean rice topped with saffron.
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For dessert, there is fresh fruit or halabia, rice pudding made with rose water, which is creamy, slightly sweet, and topped with cinnamon.
“My food is healthy. Maybe only 5 percent of my food is fried," Derakhshan says. "Everything else is boiled, baked or grilled. The vegetables are delivered fresh daily, and most of the beef is halal.”
At just $12.99, this healthful, flavorful and affordable lunch buffet is a must visit.
Sahara Restaurant, 5441 Alpha Road