It’s a sign of a restaurant’s overall quality when a subpar main course doesn’t kill your enthusiasm for the place, or your willingness to return for another visit.
That’s my conclusion about the Persian restaurant, Shiraz. Shiraz has a lot going for it: reasonable prices, generous portions, good food (for the most part), and an attentive staff (which I’ll explain later).
I was there with a group, and we ordered a sampling of appetizers to share. That’s hummus on the bottom left, mashed eggplant (kashk-e-bademjan) next to it, and an egg salad-like spread on the upper right. (I’m forgetting the exact name — oliviea?) We also shared the mashed smoked eggplant (mirza ghasemi) and a serving of falafel (both not pictured).
The two eggplants were the standouts, particularly the smoked eggplant, mashed up with roasted garlic and tomatoes. Shiraz is very generous with its complimentary naan — thinner and crisper than Indian naan — and we used it to scoop up every bit of the appetizers.
I should also mention the moist and well-seasoned falafel, a big improvement over the ones I ate at Bereket last week.
Then it was on to the entrees. A few people ordered the lamb shank — intimidating and huge, it’s cooked slowly for six hours.
I believe this was skate, or some other type of fish.
My entree was a misfire.
Certainly looked beautiful — a glistening, golden Cornish hen kebab, grilled onion and tomatoes, and two-colored rice (one is saffron rice).
I was originally going to try one of the stews, but it was so hot out yesterday that I changed up for the more prosaic Cornish hen. Bummer, because Jami sitting next to me went with a stew, and it was delicious. A hungry Freud would say I had “dish envy.”
The Cornish hen was quite dry and unexpectedly bland — those of us who ordered it noticed the problem straight away. I’m chalking this up to timing issues in the kitchen brought on by our large group.
I mentioned earlier that the staff were attentive. An example: During the ordering, Jami, who’s familiar with Persian food, asked our server if they had a dish not on the menu called tadig. We were told it wasn’t available, and that was that, or so we thought.
About halfway through the meal, a server brought over a plate of… yup, tadig.
You know how when you overcook rice there’s that crispy layer on the bottom? That’s sort of what tadig is, but Jami said it’s prepared a certain way, and of course you only get one of batch of it per pot of rice. So everybody wants it but there’s only so much to go around.
I spooned some of the stew sauce on top, and it was great. Just a very thoughtful gesture for the Shiraz staff to make a batch and bring it over to us on the house.
For dessert, some people got baklava, and one person ordered the pallodeh, which was like a funky riff on a snow cone; I think it was shaved ice and frozen thin rice noodles with a sweet cherry sauce poured on top.
Most of us though, were all about the saffron ice cream.
Doug (different Doug) took a bite and proclaimed, “It tastes like an air freshener.”
At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then I tasted it and got what he meant. The ice cream had a unique gingery, spiced flavor that was hard to define (can anyone explain what saffron tastes like?), with something floral going on. It did have almost an air freshener quality to it. That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, but I really liked it. I think the others had mixed feelings.
So that was a first visit at Shiraz. Normally a disappointing entree would put me off, but I tasted the other food, so I know the Cornish hen is not a reflection of the entire menu. Try the smoked mashed eggplant, the lamb, the stews, and the saffron ice cream. And ask for the tadig — who knows, they just might bring some over.
83 E. Main St.