Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Charming Kabob Palace serves up subtly spiced Persian delights
The first surprise, coming in from this drab strip of Notre Dame, is the bright and charming interior. Two walls -- one a warm apricot, the other a cool lime green -- are hung with Persian prints, photographs and two framed silk rugs. The tables are well spaced, the chairs are comfortable and the colourful paper napkins are very pretty. Even the menu is beautifully designed, and the soft music in the background is (I'm guessing) Persian.
The other surprise is the food, which is distinguished by flavours that are savoury but subtle, spicy but not spicy-hot, and although they may be unfamiliar to many of us, they don't taste at all strange. In fact, they are quite marvellous, and one hopes Kabob Palace will be more durable than a recent, partially Persian failure on Corydon was.
Certainly the food should guarantee it. One absolute must is the fabulous zeytoon parvardeh of marinated green olives, lightly coated in a glaze composed of crushed walnuts and pomegranate syrup ($7.99). I also liked the irzaghasemia appetizer, a warm dip of barbecued eggplant mashed with eggs and heady with garlic, with wedges of pita to spread it on (9.99). There's also hummus, and some starters of house-made yogurt -- plain, with spinach and garlic, with cucumber and garlic or with shallots ($4.49 to $5.99)
Entrée portions aren't huge, but neither are the prices, with most ranging from $12.99 to $18.99. The star of all I tried was the broiled lamb chops, three tiny tender ones with a delicate lemony flavour -- broiled on a skewer, but served without it. (A rack of lamb is the only exception to the general price range, at $29.99). In fact all the eponymous kabobs were served off the skewers in chunks, and the flavours were superb -- a complex mixture of spices, often with saffron, and with lemon juice seemingly a constant.
I liked the kabob of chicken breast, but what I liked even more was the juicier kabob of boned chicken leg. Another tasty dish was the garlicky koobideh ground beef kabob (the only beef on the menu), which became even tastier after a dusting of the tangy sumac powder, a little jar of which graces every table.
The least impressive was the barg kabob of veal tenderloin, which was surprisingly bland, especially when compared to the other meats.
There are also a few stews, among them the wonderful mahicheh, a tomato-flavoured stew of fork-tender lamb shank seasoned by a complex mix of spices, and accompanied by dill-flecked rice. According to the menu it should have been served with fava beans also, but wasn't. Not even one. Still, it would be churlish to complain about something that was so delicious.
Other listed stews are of cubed lamb with either split peas and dried lime or with red beans and vegetables.
In fairness, I have to tell you my friends loved it, but I wasn't impressed by the fesenjan stewed chicken in a sauce of pomegranates and crushed walnuts. I might have liked it more if it had contained more than just the occasional piece of chicken to offer a contrast to what was an almost overpoweringly thick, sweet-tart sauce.
There are also shwarma/donar kebabs, which are served on weekdays only. Although a beef filling is listed on the menu, only chicken is available and although it was delicious, the amount was decidedly skimpy.
Entrées are garnished with a whole roasted tomato and basmati rice. Usually a little rice goes a long way with me, but this was so good on one visit I couldn't stop nibbling -- light and fluffy, each grain separate, with an almost buttery taste, and topped by a thin layer tinged with saffron. Another time, though, it tasted as though it had been simply boiled. The owner may urge you to add an la carte order of zereschke and you should follow his advice -- the tiny red barberries add a delightful sweet-and-sour zing ($1.99)
The only Persian dessert on the menu is pistachio ice cream -- not creamy enough for my taste but with a wonderful flavour, lots of little pistachio chunks, but also the occasional little chunk of ice ($4.95). Cheesecake is the only other dessert listed but, although it isn't on the menu, there may sometimes be pistachio cake. Not on my visits, alas.
All the meats are halal, and the listed wines and beers are all non-alcoholic. There are also some beverages based on the house-made yogurt, among them dogh, a minty yogurt drink that reminded me of my mother's cold spinach borscht -- not for everybody, perhaps, but I loved it (also available carbonated).
Organization isn't a strong point here. Service by the young women who brought our food to table was charming but communication was almost totally non-existent, and our appetizer turned up after the entrées. On another visit we had to give our order twice, to different people. However there were no significant delays (I can't speak for how it might be with a full house), and the owner and his wife are warm, welcoming and always there to offer guidance.
To see the location of this restaurant as well as others reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press, please see the map below or click here.
Restaurants marked with a red flag were rated between 0.5 to 2.5 stars; yellow flags mark those rated between 2.5 to 4 stars; and green flags mark those rated rated 4.5 to 5 stars. Locations marked with a yellow dot were not assigned a star rating.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 C5
Updated on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 10:02 AM CST: replaces photo, adds fact box
10:34 AM: adds map
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