Persian Food at Shish-Kabob’s – Rich Culture & Flavors

By on February 25, 2011

From the day 2500 years ago when ancient Greece awoke to find a strange army pouring across its borders, Iran has always been, for the Western world, the enigma to the East. Time after time, Roman legions tried to invade their lands, and the Persian armies routinely defeated them. Persians as much as Arabs contributed to the flowering of art and science — of mathematics, medicine, poetry, philosophy, astronomy and literature — in the medieval Muslim world. And, unlike the Arabs, they had great painters too. Behzad, for instance, whose tiny paintings, as vibrant as Matisse and as carefully structured as Japanese ukiyo-e prints, were painted around 1500.

I mention Behzad because his name slipped my mind last night. I was eating at Iran’s culinary outpost in Tulsa, Shish-Kabob’s Restaurant, and I asked the charming couple who run the place if they could think of a famous Persian painter from the 1500s whose name begins with B. Behzad, they both said at once. They have Iran’s history and culture down pat.

And the cooking too… though, sadly, only a few of the dishes on the menu are Persian. Most come from farther west, from the Levant or from Iran’s arch-rival in Behzad’s time, Turkey. One of those imports is Baba Ganoush ($4).

It’s pureed eggplant, and it has a rich, smoky flavor. They did a fine job, and we happily ate it with pita bread as we waited for our main courses. With each entree you get a side, and these came first.

Hummus and tabouli, along with the pita bread that came with the eggplant dip. The hummus was a bit bland, but Cathe, a big tabouli fan, was thrilled by the quality of the tabouli here.

Finally the entrees came. Here’s mine.

Ghormeh Sabzi ($9). This delightful and piquant dish of spinach, fenugreek leaves, beef and herbs has been called the “national dish of Iran”. The owner assured me that she cooks the best Ghormeh Sabzi around. I’ve never tried the dish before but I have no reason to doubt her. It has a tart, citric, spinachy taste. It reminded me of north Indian palak paneer. Like all entrees it came with an exceptionally good rice. Much like Indian Basmati.

And then out came what I think is the best dish of all, Lamb Shank ($11), and my camera died. The battery ran out. So you’ll just have to do what people did back in classic Persian days: imagine it. Imagine a long bowl with high sides, and in that bowl is a juicy, tender lamb shank looking like a huge turkey drumstick. Around it is a bright red lake. That lake is a rich, meaty sauce with long-simmered tomatoes and onions and redolent of strange spices. It tasted as good as it looked.

Not surprisingly given the restaurant’s name, there are a lot of kabobs on the menu. We got a chicken kabob ($9), which I didn’t taste, basically grilled chicken cubes. My guess is that the beef varieties, such as chelo kabob and shish kabob, are better. We ended with a small piece of Baklava, cooked by the owner’s friend, and it was a sweet conclusion. Come back one Wednesday, the owner told us. That’s when she cooks special Persian dishes not on the menu. I think I will.

Shish-Kabob’s
11605 E 31 St (just east of Garnett)
663-9383
Mon through Sat 11 AM to 8 PM
http://www.shish-kabobs.com

Shish-Kabob & Grill on Urbanspoon

Brian Schwartz:

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society.  www.theomegasociety.com

I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

9 Comments

  1. Scott

    February 25, 2011 at 10:37 am

    This is the best place for this style of food in Tulsa. Sultan’s and Pita Place are OK, but are not this good.

  2. Joe

    February 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

    BrainS, wow this place looks so good. What would we do without you?

  3. Lori

    February 25, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    This is one of our favorite places in Tulsa to dine! The food is delicious, the prices are right and the owner is very hospitable!

  4. Khosrow Nooraei

    February 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Can’t agree more. The new owners have turned this place around. My wife and I are frequent visitors now and enjoy the hospitality as well as the best Persian food that can be found in any restaurant in Tulsa. Shadi & Sourena serve their customers with smile and class… and oh; the prices are so right too… :~)

  5. Tara

    March 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    I happened upon this lovely place on one of my trips to Tulsa for work. I am orginally from Kansas City. I now look forward to my trips to Tulsa only to visit Shadi and eat this delicious food. Everyone must try it. The chelo kabob is outstanding. This is coming from a Kurd who knows! And true…the tabouli is the best around! LOVE THIS PLACE!

  6. Sasha (Global Table Adventure)

    July 14, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Great review. I read somewhere this is new ownership, too – so they’ve done a good job with it.

  7. Brian Schwartz

    July 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    I just tried the Chelo Kebab and it is, as someone said above, indeed outstanding. It’s just grilled ground beef kebabs accompanied with basmati rice, but the meat was sooo well-spiced and juicy. It was delicious! And as for the rice, I asked for it real old-school Tehran style, with a raw egg and sumac mixed in (which of course they don’t normally do but they did it for me), and it was wonderful.

  8. Robert

    December 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I love Persian food! It is so rich in taste and wonderful. This place sounds great got to keep it in mind if I ever travel to Tulsa. I go to this website for Persian restaurant listings (they also have a large recipe section if you ever decide to make it at home!!)
    http://www.persiancity.com/

    Cheers!

  9. David Homoney

    April 17, 2013 at 11:32 am

    This place is awesome. I used to live in the DC area and this place lets me enjoy this food that I used to eat at Shimshiry in the Tyson’s Corner area of VA. Awesome food, service, and the owners are the nicest people. My wife and I love this place.

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