Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
Heading north on Centre Street from downtown, you may have noticed some new signage next to the tiny building on the corner of 11 Ave NE. With a name like Shiraz, and sleek, modern decor featuring red leather booths, shiny black tables and tile floors, it's easy to think that you're stepping into a wine bar or lounge. While the month-old restaurant does have a short wine list, its specialty is Persian cuisine served with the personable, friendly attitude that you would only find in a cozy, mom-and-pop business.
We arrived late on Saturday night, and our waitress - who we later found out was the owner's daughter - helpfully reviewed the entire menu with us, pointing out popular items before leaving us alone to make our decision. The menu consists of a variety of dips served with warm flatbread (lavash) as appetizers, soups and salads, a rotating menu of Persian stews, and a selection of kebabs. For beverages, they had the traditional salted yogurt drink, but we were not ready to try that just yet.
We decided to start our meal with the Kashk-e-bademjan ($6.99), a popular dip made with roasted eggplant topped with whey and flavoured with onion, garlic and mint. I'm sure when it arrived the lavash was warmed, but after fiddling with my camera for a little bit, the flatbread cooled quickly and was a little chewy (oops!) The dip itself was creamy, but since it was very subtly flavoured it didn't feel rich and heavy.
For our main course, we ordered the Chef Special ($34.99), one of two "combination platters" meant for sharing between two people (there is a platter for three as well), just so we can have a taste of some the different kebabs available - veal, chicken breast and koobideh (a kebab made with seasoned ground beef). The platter came with individual plates of saffron rice, and we were instructed that for the full experience, we were to melt a pat of butter over the rice, dust it with some sumac (there was a shaker on the table, by the salt and pepper) and "crush" the lightly grilled tomato and onion into the rice. I personally would've preferred the tomato and onion to have been cooked a little longer - the tomato was certainly not crushable, and I didn't even bother with the onion as I don't like it raw.
While the veal was a little bit tough, I could already tell that the chicken breast would be tender just as I picked it up with a fork. Both had a subtle mix of spices that I couldn't quite place my finger on, and the chicken had a pleasant tartness from lemon and/or sumac. Our favourite, however, was the koobideh. The ground beef was not crumbly at all, but instead was very tender and not greasy like a sausage would've been. It was probably the most flavourful of the three as well - as soon as we got home B. spent part of the evening trying to find a recipe in hopes of being able to duplicate it on his own.
We managed to clean our plates and were far too stuffed for dessert - or even some cardamom tea! - but we asked to have the dessert menu explained to us anyway. The menu itself has four items - Persian ice cream, baklava, roulette (a cake similar to a Swiss roll) and napoleon. However, the waitress also brought out an advertisement from a local Persian publication, with pictures of two additional items - faludeh, a shaved ice dessert with vermicelli noodles and rosewater, and some cookies. It all looked so delicious, but unfortunately our stomachs could not handle another bite.
The restaurant was undeservedly quiet on the night we went, but I hope it changes as more people find out about their authentic kebabs, comforting stews, and most importantly, friendly service.
Shiraz Persian Cuisine
1120 Centre St NE
Calgary AB T2E 2R2
Open Tues-Thu 11:30 AM-10 PM; Fri 11:30 AM-11 PM; Sat 12 PM-11 PM; Sun 2 PM-10 PM. Closed Mondays.