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Kebabs are king at UCF-area Persian joint Shiraz House of Grill

Meating place

Faiyaz Kara Aug 29, 2018 1:00 AM

Iranian restaurants in this town don't seem to employ much ingenuity when it comes to naming conventions. We've had a Shiraz Grill, still have a Shiraz Market and now, must contend with a Shiraz House of Grill. And the phenomenon's not confined to our fair hamlet, either – Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston and other cities with large Persian communities have been plagued by restaurateurs mired in a Shiraz state of mind. I suppose it's not all that surprising – the ancient Iranian city is a cultural center known for its poets, writers, gardens and, in pre-Islamic Revolution times, wine.

No doubt the city embraces the culinary arts as well, but the kitchen artiste (and general manager) at this Waterford Lakes-area eatery, Hamid Sumon, hails from the Shi'ite holy city of Mashhad, not Shiraz. Sumon ran the short-lived pizza joint Topp N' Pie in the same millennially modern space before common sense, and kebabs, prevailed.

I could wax poetic like a food-obsessed bard about Sumon's chicken joojeh ($13.95); of being consumed by an intoxicating longing for these citrus- and saffron-marinated morsels of amber licked by the lighted grace of Prometheus into a transcendence of poultry. But Rumi or Hafiz I'm not, so I'll just say the joojeh here is perhaps one of the finest renditions of chicken in kebab form you'll ever have the pleasure of sampling. And, yes, you'll be served a charred plum tomato, as is customary, as well as buttery rice streaked with saffron oil, though the apogee of Persian rice can still be found at Shiraz Market in Longwood.

To eat as the Persians do, ask for a bowl of raw onions to enjoy with your meat, then order some more meat, like the naaderi soltani ($23.95) with ultraplush chunks of seasoned filet mignon favoring one of the skewers in this platter and a limousine of ground beef koobideh enveloping another. The latter can tend to be overcooked, but the flavors are unquestionably true.

The barg half of the chicken soltani ($17.95) plate – that is, the area framing chunks of white meat colored by saffron – is where we focused most of our attention, while we kept the ground chicken koobideh at arm's length. Compared to the barg, joojeh and filet, the koobideh just didn't hold up. (Once again, I would point readers to the superior ground kebabs at Shiraz Market.)

But there's more to Iranian cuisine than just kebabs. Stews, naturally, comprise a portion of Shiraz's menu and, on weekends, the lamb shank ($14.95) is offered as a special. So, yes, go on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and order this dish. The nuanced braise, the jus of fatty drippings, the supple flesh – sweet Cyrus' ghost, it's remarkable, with or without the side of tomatoey red beans. Almost as good, though nowhere near as meaty, is the kashk o bademjan ($4.99), a dip of smoky sautéed aubergines, onion, garlic and whey. Only some accompanying shreds of pita were lacking.

Also lacking were the dessert options – where's the faloodeh? The bastani? The saffron and rosewater doughnuts? No matter, I'm not about to issue a furious ultimatum like some petulant, short-fingered, narcissistic vulgarian – heavens no. As far as I'm concerned, consider this Iranian restaurant officially sanctioned.

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