Anyone interested in escaping to a Persian dreamscape would be forgiven for bypassing a small San Jose grocery store on Stevens Creek. But those who enter Stone Stew’s nondescript side door will discover a gracious courtyard with pillow-filled divans, romantic lighting and artifacts of the Near East.

The large, gorgeously decorated room has a stage and lilting Persian background music. While we perused the menu binder—photos are captioned in Persian and English—we were served a free plate of thick, beany hummus and four flatbreads.

Noon, alas, was too early for their intriguing beef and white bean stew, Vakil Abad Mashhad (some stews require day-ahead ordering), but Kerman Soltani Kabobs ($21.99) arrived quickly. A 10-inch slab of delicious medium-rare lamb and koobideh (spiced ground beef) was fresh and juicy. Long-grain rice generously laced with saffron, crisp pickled cabbage and parsley, along with plump broiled tomatoes, completed the yummy combo. A spice shaker next to the salt further enhanced the rice. The Jajrood chicken version of the dish ($13.99) was large and tender.

Atop both kabob dishes sat an extra side I’ve seen only in Persian homes: a crispy golden square fried in the bottom of the rice pan. Yummy.

Although I was already stuffed, I ordered Mirza Ghasemi ($6.99), a warm, smoky concoction of eggplant, spices and egg, which was a good vegetarian choice. Dark, floral tea ($2.50/person) arrived in a charming pot with tiny glasses and sugar cubes. In hot weather, their Persian yogurt drink is a great choice ($1.99, $3.99 and $5).

An almost indescribable treat, Persian ice cream with Faloodeh ($5.99) is not to be missed. The ice cream, thick and golden, sat on a nest of what looked like, but was not, thin noodles or slivers of coconut. I usually dislike dishes flavored with rosewater, but this delicate, melt-in-your-mouth treat awed me.

The lighting on the clear dish cast lavender and green circles on the plate, making it beautiful in both taste and appearance.

Stone Stew has a minimal staff for lunch, so it’s not fast food, and we had to remind our server to bring our appetizer, but the ambience makes you feel 4,000 miles from Stevens Creek Boulevard, on an exotic getaway and delicious cultural retreat.

Stone Stew
398 Saratoga Ave, San Jose.