Khayyam Restaurant

Glorious kebabs, and so much more
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  July 16, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars

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PRICE OF PERSIA The barreh soltani — a mixed grill of lamb kebabs and beef kubideh — is an extraordinary delight.

Khayyam Restaurant | 404 Harvard Street, Brookline | 617.383.6264 | Open daily, 11 am–10 pm | AE, DC, MC, VI | No Liquor | No valet parking | Sidewalk level access
This isn't the best Persian food I've ever had, but it doesn't have to be — Persian food is that good. The owners of Jasmine in Watertown have found a double storefront in Brookline with almost triple their old capacity. It is still basically a kebab house, but however wonderful the kebabs, there are other dishes not to be missed at Khayyam.

The name evokes a treasured collection of medieval Persian verse, as well as the great masterpiece of Victorian translation by Edward Fitzgerald. Painted scenes from the Rubaiyat set an epicurean tone in the inner dining room; more modern and abstract art and flowers are the mode of the entry room. The evening soundtrack runs from Rimsky-Korsakov and genuine Iranian classical music to modern throbbing tenors.

Food starts with flatbread, sometimes grilled and warm, and hummus, very fresh and simpler than what you buy. You can shake on a little sumach, which is here the sour relative of our roadside sumac, plus salt and a little pepper to make a seasoning salt.

Kashk bedemjan ($5.99) is eggplant caviar, but exquisitely sour and oily, yet with a lot of mint and dollop of thick yogurt.

Dolmeh moe ($4.99) are six stuffed grape leaves, each with a slice of lemon and a cherry tomato on a long plate. Each piece is hot and herbal and stuffed with aromatic Persian rice.

Soups are one of the triumphs of this cuisine. "Aash Reshteh" ($4.99) fills an intensely herbal broth with noodles and beans, mint and caramelized onions in quite a different way than the eggplant. Lentil soup ($4.99) is orange, from the kind of lentils that dissolve into thickness, vibrantly sour (fresh lemon? Dried lime?), with turmeric and mint as an aftertaste only. Both soups, like the eggplant, are served in an unusual vessel that is like a large upside-down bowl with a navel-like depression in the center.

The standout of the main courses are the kebabs, and it would be hard to beat the barreh soltani ($18.99), a mixed grill that combines lamb kebabs (each a little pink and juicy at the center), and beef kubideh, an amalgam of chopped meat, onion, turmeric, and spices bound with egg yolk. Hot from the grill, very slightly charred, with that exquisite bit of fat still fragrant, these are extraordinary delights. Between the kebabs is a considerable heap of Persian rice, impossibly long of grain with a mild basmati-like scent, but yellowed bits where dribbles of saffron butter have done their work. The plates also include plum tomatoes, broiled red and green bell peppers, and lightly grilled onions.

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