Long before charcoal fueled the flames of American cookouts, barbecuing was the foundation of cooking in the Middle East. There’s a charcoal grill at Kolbeh of Kabob, and you can watch the cooks as they stand at the grill and engage in an ancient choreography with a bamboo-and-burlap fan-like device. Fanning adds heat to the fire, locking in the dense flavors of the spices of the house marinade. It’s a technique that’s been passed down for centuries and across continents.
Kolbeh, which was opened by the former owners of Mirage on Beacon, features the same Middle Eastern staples, only lighter than you’d expect. There’s spinach pie ($6.75), and also mirza ghasemi ($6.95), a spicy puréed eggplant dish that makes a great spread or dip for the fresh-from-the-clay-oven taftoon bread accompanying most platters. And there are success stories straight off that charcoal grill, such as kabob-e kubideh ($10.95), substantial chunks of sirloin luxuriating on a pillow of grated onions. The homemade falafel ($6.75) is crispy on the outside without the overwhelming grease, and the salads, including chicken kabob with feta ($6.25), are big enough to qualify as a meal.
With the opening of Kolbeh in February, one more seat has been filled in the culinary United Nations that holds court in Cambridge. Specializing in Iranian fare, Kolbeh joins the city’s Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, Italian, Thai, Afghani, and Irish eateries. And it hasn’t taken long for folks to discover this Arabian gem. On a recent Friday evening, the dining room was full and the take-out line was growing. Eating in allows you to most fully enjoy the rich herbal aromas that pervade the place, but the flavors also stay strong if you import your dinner home.
Kolbeh of Kabob, 1500 Cambridge Street, Cambridge | Sun - Thurs, 11 am - 10 pm; Fri-Sat, 11 am - 11 pm | 617.576.6567