with Kaasra, Kambiz, Luke
My Persian friends, brothers and perfect hosts: Kaasra and Kambiz invited Luke and me to a taste of Persian/Iranian food at one of the prime restaurants serving this ancient cuisine. Kaasra described the food as Silk Road...as the Persians learnt to do the art of the grill from the Mongols, as the Mongolian empire stretched from Mongolia to as far as Eastern Europe in the ancient days.
Located in the touristy area of Clarke Quay...its been a while since I was last at Clarke Quay...the restaurant is a little gem in the area. Beautifully decorated, it boasts of a display grill kitchen right at the entrance. Prominently displayed at the entrance is a circular sofa, with a beautiful colorful chandelier of sorts.
I started with a glass of Shiraz...(what else)...deep, dark, ruby red...good nose, nice soft tannins. Very good. This was the premium house pour...I forget the maker, but it was certainly French.
We started with grilled meats, of course...
From the bottom of the picture, lamb kubideh, barreh kebab, jujeh kebab, and meigu kebab, with mixed capiscum, onions, chilli and tomato.
For me the kubideh takes it all. This is minced lamb, chopped with spices, made like a patty, speared by a sword, and grilled over an open charcoal fire. Kaasra tells me that the best he has eaten is crisp and charred on the outside, and tender, juicy on the inside. The cooking was not quite at that exalted standard, but I found the meat to be very tender, juicy (literally...fat and juices ooze out as one cuts the kubideh). Superb tasting. The flavour of the lamb was absolutely captivating...ever present, but yet like behind a veil...coy at times taking cover behind the sheer veil of spices. Shiok!
The barreh kebab is pieces of lamb loin, barbecued in the same manner. It too was very nice lamb flavour, and very tender. The Jugeh chicken is spring chicken. A whole chicken under 700 grams, is marinated in onion juice and Saffron, and grilled over open fire. I found the chicken to be nicely done, but not as spectacular as the lamb. The Meigu (Persian word for prawn) kebab was a bit tough, and bland tasting...for me the lamb was the big star.
We also had a lamb chop...a dish which Shiraz calls Shandiz...named after a famous restaurant in Iran serving this delicacy. The lamb too was superbly tender, tasty, and very beautiful lamb aroma flirted with the tongue as one eats. Fantastic lamb.
The meats were eaten with a hand made pita bread...unleaven, and flat. And also 4 different kinds of basmati rice. Each with its own special flavour, and spiced. Excellent rice.
We had plain basmati rice, shown in the middle of the plate above. In Iran, they use Persian long grain rice, which is similar to Indian basmati which was served. In the foreground, was the Sabzi Polo. Sabzi means herbs and Polo means steamed rice. The long grain rice (basmati) is steamed with 3 or 4 different herbs and fresh whole young Garlic. At the far end of the plate is the Zereshk Polo. Basmati rice steamed and sprinkled with Barberry(Zereshk) and dressed with saffron. This version also had pomegranates which is not common. Zereshk Polo is always served with Chicken, so is a kind of Persian Chicken Rice. The golden brown rectangular pieces around the dish is known as Tahdig. Literally means bottom of the pan. Crispy rice is the most prized, and often fought over by the children in a Persian home. This one was made from rice/yougurt/egg mixture.
Half way through the meal, the music (which Kaasra feels is not really Persian, perhaps Arabic) was turned up, and a belly dancer made her way across the tables. Interesting entertainment for the uninitiated, but for real foodies, the real entertainment is in the superb food.
This is my first experience in a Persian restaurant in Singapore or abroad. And it is indeed pleasant. The food is superbly done barbeque, and the lamb was spectacular.
3A River Valley Road
#01-06 Clarke Quay
Tel: +65 6334 2282
Daily: 12noon-2.30pm, 6pm-11.30pm