A Star Persian Cookbook Author Opens a Destination Restaurant in Tysons

Najmieh Batmanglij highlights lesser-seen Iranian specialties at Joon.

Joon, a recent addition to Tysons from Chef Najmieh Batmanglij, is offering restaurant week lunch and dinner deals. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

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Joon. 8045 Leesburg Pike, Tysons.

Chef Najmieh Batmanglij is one of the top authorities on Persian cooking. Since fleeing her native Iran amid the fundamentalist revolution more than 40 years ago, she’s written several popular cookbooks, hosted cooking classes, and consulted on various restaurant projects. But only now is she opening her first restaurant in the US: Joon, an upscale dining room in Tysons specializing in rarely seen regional specialties. She’s teamed up with Chris Morgan, one of the original chefs of Michelin-starred Maydan and a partner in a slew of DC restaurants including Lebanese kebab counter Yasmine, Caribbean restaurant Bammy’s, and fried chicken spot Little Chicken.

Batmanglij, a longtime DC resident, aims to use the restaurant to further her work as a culinary diplomat, exposing Americans to Iranian culture beyond negative political associations. “Iranians are famous for the hospitality and kindness and they love to eat and celebrate,” she says. “And so I want Iran associated with good things, and the best things are Iranian food.”

Batmanglij is also involved in restaurants in Dubai and Bahrain. But the seeds for her first American restaurant were planted seven years ago, when Reza Farahani, Joon’s main investor, first approached her. Meanwhile, she had become good friends with Morgan after he’d come to one of her cooking classes. Morgan says she was an inspiration for many dishes on the opening menu of Maydan.

“She’s like a mother to me, and I’ve been able to learn so much from her,” Morgan says. “She’s been sharing the wealth with many, but to finally be able to come and sit and try her food in a setting like this is truly special.”

Joon’s 14-day dry-aged duck with a sweet and sour barberry glaze. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Joon, like other Persian restaurants in the area, will have plenty of rice and kebabs. But it sets itself apart with regional specialties like kuku (an herb-packed frittata), pistachio soup, and fried sardines. “These are dishes you cannot find in any other Persian restaurants,” Batmanglij says.

Groups can indulge in a number of large platters—from whole roasted branzino to 14-day dry-aged duck—livened up with classic Persian ingredients like barberries and sour orange, and tons of herbs. A whole rotisserie chicken is stuffed with prunes, apricots, and apples then rubbed with saffron, turmeric, coriander, and rose water. But perhaps the biggest showstopper is a whole lamb shoulder—big enough to feed six to eight—that’s cured in dried fruits, saffron, and other aromatics then roasted low and slow for 14 hours until it’s super tender.

The restaurant is sourcing some of its harder-to-find ingredients—such as barberries and musir (Persian shallots)— from Iran and Afghanistan through Mohammad Salehi of Heray Spice, a former interpreter for the US Army in Afghanistan whose business supports Afghan women and refugees. It’s working with Maryland’s Moon Valley Farm to grow Persian basil, herbs, edible flowers, and various vegetables.

The restaurant, located in a former outpost of Chef Geoffs, seats more than 200 with lots of big tables for groups across two dining rooms, a lounge with sofas and backgammon boards, plus a private bar for events. Batmanglij hopes to make the place a true destination restaurant. And, yes, she’ll be around to greet fans: “I’ll come see whoever wants to see me.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.