Atlanta Orders In: Zafron in Sandy Springs mixes Persian, Jewish influences

Kashk Bademjoon oven-roasted eggplant with crispy mint, fried onion, cream of whey, and housemade pita bread at Zafron Restaurant in Sandy Springs.
Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kashk Bademjoon oven-roasted eggplant with crispy mint, fried onion, cream of whey, and housemade pita bread at Zafron Restaurant in Sandy Springs. Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Peter Teimori, chef and owner of Zafron Restaurant in Sandy Springs, has had a fascinating, peripatetic life. He was born Tehran, Iran, and moved to the U.S. for the second time in 1979, after fleeing the revolution. “I left with one suitcase and $500,” Teimori said.

His grandfather was a baker, so, when he earned a master’s degree in food science at the University of California, Davis, it was in keeping with family tradition.

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A former culinary instructor, corporate pastry chef and owner of two bakery cafes in Hawaii, Teimori first came to Atlanta to work for the Ritz-Carlton hotels. He returned to open his first restaurant, Picasso on Peachtree. He also worked as chief of research and development for Atlanta Bread Co.

Zafron’s Quinoa Chopped Kale salad with tomatoes, mint, and EVOO citrus dressing.
Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Zafron’s Quinoa Chopped Kale salad with tomatoes, mint, and EVOO citrus dressing. Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“I worked for them for eight years, and, when I left the company, they had 250 restaurants,” Teimori said. “But, I came to Sandy Springs and purchased a property, and I put a brand new building on it, and opened Flavor Cafe Bakery.”

Zafron chef/owner Peter Teimori is also a baker, pastry chef and chocolatier.
Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Zafron chef/owner Peter Teimori is also a baker, pastry chef and chocolatier. Bob Townsend for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Flavor became a neighborhood favorite, especially for breakfast and brunch, but, about seven years ago, Teimori got restless again, so he decided to change the concept, hire a designer, and completely remodel the space.

He changed the name to Zafron, the Persian name for saffron. And, as he embarked on that project, the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center was being built within walking distance on Galambos Way.

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“We waited for six years for the Performing Arts Center to open, through the construction and all that, and it wasn’t easy,” Teimori said. “But, when it opened, it was great. We were doing good numbers. We were a true neighborhood place. But, the COVID hit us really hard, because we had a much older clientele here in Sandy Springs.”

Right now, Zafron is open for indoor and outdoor dining, takeout with curbside pickup, and a choice of several delivery services.

While the menu primarily is Persian, it’s also inspired by Teimori’s family roots.

Koobideh kabob features two skewers of ground brisket, tomato and basmati rice. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Koobideh kabob features two skewers of ground brisket, tomato and basmati rice. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“I’m Jewish myself, so we have a lot of Jewish influence here,” he said. “We’re not certified kosher, but we practice kosher. What we like to be is great fine-dining food, and great fine-dining service, but also a casual and comfortable atmosphere.”

Among examples of Teimori’s Persian-meets-Jewish style, he points to using dill in a lot of dishes. He also makes stuffed cabbage rather than dolmas, he said, laughing. And he makes a variety of rice dishes, using a basmati rice from California that’s aged for two years to give it a distinctive nutty flavor.

Of course, it all begs the questions he asks himself: “Why did I change from a very successful cafe bakery and go to something completely different? Why would you take such a risk?”

The answer is that, after 30-some years, he finally went back to Iran for a visit, and he fell in love with the food all over again.

“I started cooking at home, and doing this stuff, and I said, ‘You’ve got to change the restaurant. You’ve got to do Persian food,’” Teimori said. “But, it was a new challenge for me. If you look at my background, I’ve done almost everything out there. I’m a great baker. I can make you San Francisco sour dough bread. I’m a great chocolatier. I’ve done amazing sugar work. And, I can cook.”

If you want to get a taste of some of those skills during the holidays, Teimori is offering special chef-created meals that serve six to 10 people, along with assorted cakes, pies and old-fashioned holiday cookies.

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ZAFRON RESTAURANT

Menu: Persian with Jewish influences

Alcohol: beer and wine

What I ordered: quinoa chopped kale salad with tomatoes, mint and extra virgin olive oil citrus dressing; kashk bademjoon oven-roasted eggplant with crispy mint, fried onion, cream of whey and housemade pita bread; koobideh kabob with skewers of ground brisket, tomato and basmati rice; shish kabob with filet mignon, bell pepper, onion and smoked tomato; pistachio roulade; chocolate mousse, made with honey. Every dish was a bit different in flavor, and very good. But, it was hard not to be impressed with Peter Teimori’s pastry skills.

Service options: indoor or outdoor dining; takeout; delivery; online ordering; reservations via Open Table

Outdoor dining: patio with 20 seats and heaters

Mask policy: employees and guests wear masks

Address, phone: 236 Johnson Ferry Road NE, Sandy Springs; 470-289-172

Hours: noon-9 p.m. Sundays; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; noon-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Saturdays

Website: persianrestaurantsandysprings.com

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