Friday, January 20, 2012

Sabzi Persian Chelow Kabab

Venturing off the beaten path to Arlington via the 77 bus, I can only recall having been to this town neighboring frequently visited cities of Cambridge and Somerville once before. The nature of my visit along with fellow Boston Food Bloggers - Rachel, Kathy, Kevin, Meesh and Jacki was to dine at a new restaurant called Sabzi specializing in upscale Persian fare known as Chelow Kabab. I confess to never having tried this variation of Middle Eastern cuisine, but I was definitely open to and intrigued by it.
In full disclosure, tonight's meal was comped, which is a welcome perk but definitely not any reason to sugar coat a review. As with most restaurants that organize an intimate blogger specific dinner, the experience is often favorable and highly regarded. Judging by the small one room dining room buzzing with tables of happy patrons, ours echoed the norm. Through a tiny vestibule lined with faded red curtains, the cozy space is heralded by an L shaped booth constructed of rustic wood panels accented with Middle East throw pillows. Potted green plants and an ad-hoc photo collage play into the homey feel while yellow and sea green hued glass lanterns envelope the space in a soft glow. The owner greets us warmly and takes our coats while simultaneously offering water and wine, returning with a bottle of Rioja to fill our non-traditional wine glasses. This unique detail stands out; it's simply delightful to drink wine out of a regular old glass. A bright start to the meal is a Salad Shirazi ($4.75) made with diced tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and mint tossed in fresh lime juice and olive oil. It serves as a palate cleanser, lending crisp clean bites and refreshing flavors. Thinly sliced pita triangles accompany a thick yogurt and Persian shallot dip called Mast-O-Musir ($4.75). Soft and creamy with an added kick from the shallots, this is another straightforward classic to begin the meal. Next, we are introduced to more complex but still traditional flavors, beginning with a seasonal noodle soup called Ash-e Reshteh ($4.75). The long slippery Reshteh (Iranian noodles) proved a little challenging to consume, but were delicious bathing in a substantial blend of spinach, lentils and beans, amply flavored with parsley, saffron and mint. The soup is topped with a dollop of Kashk - which is a form of whey produced from strained yogurt. With similar elements of color and garnish the Kashk-e Bademjan ($6.25) is a sauteed eggplant and caramelized onion dip lending a smooth velvety texture. Spread it lavishly over pita bread and prepare to be comforted by the warm embrace of smokey meets tangy flavors. The Torshi ($3) is a medley of pickled vegetables delivering an extremely sour punch. My taste buds pucker at the site of this dish, it was wildly pungent but I kept going back for more. Particularly memorable and the ultimate crowd pleaser among us was the Seer Torshi ($3). Pickled cloves of garlic are radiant bathing in a pool of zesty balsamic vinegar, not to mention beautiful, producing the type of image you want to freeze in your memory for all time, or frame it in your kitchen as inspiration. After sufficient exposure to the appetizer menu, striking and colorful entrees platters of Chelow Kabab are served.
Perfectly plated arches of kabab meats and vegetables that have been grilled over an open flame surround fluffy, steamed basmatti saffron infused rice, finished at either end with a juicy roasted tomato and pickled cabbage.

This is explained to us as the type of food Persians specifically dine out for, as opposed to cooking in their own home due to the more complicated nature of the preparation methods and equipment.The menu is concise with five main dish offerings and three combination platters. All are thoughtfully well seasoned from the Kabab-e Kubideh ($10.25) which are squares of select ground beef with sumac, onion and a house spice blend to the medallions of tender chicken breasts marinated in saffron and citrus in the Kabab-e Jujeh Barg ($11.25).The texture of the ground beef wasn't all that appealing to me, for my Persian meat fix I much preferred the select cuts of marinated triangle steak in the Kabab-e Barg ($14.25).The marinated fresh vegetables in the Sabzi Kabab ($11.25) were a remarkably charred batch of onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash.
Saving the best for last, the unanimous table favorite of Kabab-e Jujeh ($11.25) presented a saffron and citrus marinated Cornish hen. The delicate bone in morsels retain lots of flavor, proving far juicier than the chicken medallions which almost seemed dry in comparison. (Still I liked the chicken, but the hen blew it away!) The combo platters (mainly what we were served) jump slightly in price but still remain affordable, the Persepolis ($15.25) offers one Kubideh (ground beef) and one Jujeh Barg (chicken), the Soltani ($16.75) one Kubideh and one triangle steak and the Kermani ($15.25) one Kubideh and one vegetable skewer. We ended the meal with sweet, flaky and nutty bites of Baklava accompanied by soul warming Cardamom Tea served in a charming etched glass mug. Following suit after the red wine in a standard table glass, the tea mug proved just as enjoyable to drink from.
A huge thank you to everyone at Sabzi for their generous hospitality this evening and especially for a memorable foray into Persian cuisine. With beautiful plates of traditional food served in a cozy and informal space, they make a welcome addition to East Arlington, in my case a worthwhile venture out of the city on the 77 bus.
Sabzi on Urbanspoon

18 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

The entire meal looks wonderful, especially the pickled garlic cloves!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

What a fun, colorful dinner! I especially am intrigued by the Seer Torshi. And that salad looks awesome! Great descriptions!

In and Around Town said...

Looks like a great meal - I have been trying to explore Persian/Middle Eastern food more and more because it is so good! Great price point here - worth a trip out of the city for sure

Meghan said...

Wow, that looks like such a vibrant and delicious meal!

meesh said...

i had forgotten about that tea until now! it was amazingggg!!! also loved the cornish hen, and completely agree about the ground beef texture. it was like sausage shape without the casing -- weird. anyway, i would def go back! nice seeing you

vanessa (the gal) said...

OMG YUM!!!!! I'm officially starving now!! ;)

xo, vanessa (the gal)

http://fashiongalfireman.blogspot.com/

Sarah said...

Looks so good! Reminds me of Lebanese food I grew up with in my family in South Eastern Mass.

Sacha said...

I'm so happy to hear that a new Persian restaurant has opened. I'm Persian, and the only good restaurant I have found is Kolbeh in Cambridge. I'll definitely have to take my dad here!

Amber said...

Im not sure about this one. The food might be a bit too adventurous for little old me but I do like the quaint look of the restaurant.

Michelle Collins said...

I hadn't heard about this place before reading your post - sounds fantastic!

Megan said...

I've never had this kind of food either, but it looks so interesting. Love that they seem to use lots of veggies.

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

the pickled garlic cloves sound good! happy sunday.

Ameena said...

This restaurant looks delicious - everything looks fabulous! I especially love the pita bread, yogurt, and eggplant they serve at Persian restaurants...love it!

Shannon said...

wow, don't think i've ever had persian food, but this looks delightful! and such a cute place :)

Simply Life said...

what a fabulous and exotic meal to try!

Hogger and Co. said...

Great presentation on the food - and love cardomom tea :)

Jenny Woolf said...

Wow, this looks like a great place, with really lovely food (I like Middle Eastern food but some of these combinations I had not seen before). if I lived nearby I'd definitely visit.
Thanks for your comment on my blog.
Cardamom is wonderful in coffee too. They always serve it that way in Syria.

Elizabeth said...

This meal looks awesome. And Arlington is pretty easy to get to for me. I've had wonderful Persian food at a restaurant in Watertown.