A Dining Fixture Near Watertown Square is a Hidden Treasure to be (Re)Discovered

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Courtesy of Molana Molana has been serving Persian food in Watertown since 1999.

A dining destination that has attracted hungry people from around New England for a quarter century is a hidden gem in Watertown, but the owners want locals to discover — or rediscover – their restaurant.

Molana can be found on Spring Street, steps from the Watertown Square intersection. Owners Mohsen Tehrani and Hadi Eghbali started restaurant, the first one serving Persian cuisine in New England in 1999, and word spread among the Iranian community around the region.

“People come from Hartford, Stamford, Connecticut. They come from Portland, Maine, from Providence, Rhode Island. They come from Nashua, from Manchester, New Hampshire — all over because they don’t have a Persian restaurant in New Hampshire or Connecticut or Rhode Island,” Tehrani said. “Also, it’s fun for them to drive with the family, spend the day, and get a bite to eat.”

Molana’s menu includes a wide range of traditional Persian dishes with beef, chicken, lamb and fish.

“If you like beef we have Beef Soltani, which is one skewer of tenderloin beef, one skewer of ground beef,” Tehrani said. “They call it Soltani, Soltan is king, so it is fit for a king.”

Courtesy of Molana Beef Soltani is one of the Persian specialities at Molana.

There are also a variety of stews, vegetarian options, and a range of rice dishes.

“All kabobs are served with basmati rice, but we have very exotic rice dishes, like rice made with red currant, rice made with orange peel, almonds and carrot, and rice made with sweet and sour cherry,” Tehrani said.

The restaurant uses top ingredients, including USA Choice meat, and spices — including saffron — from Iran. Because of sanctions, Tehrani said they have to get the items after they are imported to another country, such as Canada.

Tehrani moved to the United States 45 years ago, and lived in Boston. He moved to Watertown 16 years ago and his three children went to the Watertown schools. Even before moving to town, he always had a connection to Watertown, because many businesses are owned by Iranians, and there is a Persian Club in town.

Molana has been a hub for the Persian community in Massachusetts, Tehrani said.

“This is not only the restaurant, this is like the community center,” Tehrani said. “Whoever arrives from Iran, from other states, come here. We help them with the housing, with the jobs, with insurance. When a family comes here with children and they have a medical problem that they don’t have insurance for, we raise money for them.” 

Despite the longevity, some residents don’t know about Molana.

“We are located on the side street, on Spring Street. A lot of people, even from Watertown, come and say, ‘Oh, we never knew you existed here,” Tehrani said. “A hidden treasure is what they call us. What’s good about a hidden treasure if they don’t find you?”

Courtesy of Molana Molana’s Albaloo Polo, skewered chicken breasts served with sweet and sour cherry Basmati rice.

Tehrani said the restaurant has also struggled to bounce back after the Pandemic.

“COVID had a great effect on us. We closed for two month,” Tehrani said. “When we opened it was only take out, we lost a lot of our customers because people wanted to come in and eat, they couldn’t come in, and since we closed for two months we lost a lot of our customers. They went somewhere else.”

Molana used to host groups of 20 or 30 people for birthdays, anniversaries, or gatherings of family and friends. Those large parties have not returned. The restaurant used to have live music and belly dancing each Saturday in the upstairs space that can host dozens of people, but the Pandemic also ended that.

In addition, the prices of ingredients have increased, and now there are more Persian restaurants in the area — some started by former Molana employees.

“What happened with the COVID and all the competition, it brought the business down and the other thing is things got so expensive,” Tehrani said. “The ingredients, the meat, we don’t want to increase the price but we have no choice. Everything is more expensive — employee cost, the electricity, the gas, the food — so we have to raise the price.”

Molana is open seven days a week from noon to 9 p.m., including on holidays.

“A lot of people are living in Massachusetts and their families are not here, so they need a place to go on Thanksgiving, on Christmas and holidays, so they come here.” Tehrani said.

Molana is located at 5 Spring St. in Watertown. For more information go to www.molanarestaurant.com

3 thoughts on “A Dining Fixture Near Watertown Square is a Hidden Treasure to be (Re)Discovered

  1. We went there a number of years ago, well before the pandemic, but haven’t had a chance to get back since, though we really loved the food! I was confused about a couple of things in the article. For one thing, I would consider that to be in Watertown Square, not near it. It said that the owners started the first Persian restaurant in New England, and I wonder if they are talking about this place or if they had previously opened another one. Because I thought there were already some in Watertown. (I could be confused about the timeline but I have been to several Persian restaurants in Watertown.) I hope to get back there soon. I’ve loved al the food I’ve had at Persian restaurants and I’m glad there have been several in Watertown!

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