I AM CURIOUS (CHELOW) This type of saffron-flavored Persian rice is the perfect backdrop for Sabzi's
From the point of view of fine dining, a key benefit of America's foreign interventions is the stream of incoming refugees and immigrants with slow-food-cooking skills. This column does not openly advocate military intervention in France and Italy — "food to die for" should remain a rhetorical phrase. But if there were to be, say, street riots in Singapore or Guangdong or Buenos Aires, I would be the first to point out the necessity of a strong stand for human rights and culinary opportunity.
Thus, our present standoff with Iran has to be evaluated both in terms of the price of gasoline at the pump and the availability of fesenjoon and kubideh kebab in the US. Sabzi Persian Chelow Kabab is an attempt to reproduce a Persian restaurant that does not often have fesenjoon (or any of the great Persian stews, or "koreshti") but specializes in kebabs on a particular version of a great Persian rice: chelow. It's served with pretty much everything here: a super-long-grain white with some basmati fragrance, traditionally enhanced by cooking a little bit with saffron and letting the aroma perfume the pot. This writer does not personally love saffron, but used as subtly as this, it makes for great rice.
Ash-e reshteh ($4.75) is a complex seasonal soup of noodles and beans; the spring version has a lot of greens for thickening. There is a tonic sourness to it, as Persian cuisine is very rich in souring agents. A more familiar appetizer, kashk-e bademjan ($6.25), is a fine-mashed eggplant salad, here with unusual, likely regional, spice and a decorative nipple of caramelized onion and a dab of kashk, a sort of concentrated yogurt. The pitas with it are nothing special, but the eggplant is. Shirazi salad ($4.75) is dressed quite sour with lime juice, mostly pink tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Now, about that kubideh ($10.25), which I sampled on a kermani combination ($15.25) that also had a skewer of vegetable kebab ($11.25): kubideh is a kind of sausage of beef and onion, and hot off the grill it has irresistible aroma and flavor. On the impeccable chelow rice served here, it's really all you need, but the vegetables are good for you, right? The best were charred onions. Yellow squash and zucchini grill well, but these were a bit underdone: good, not great. Portobello mushroom chunks, however, were super.
The other must-do kebab is jujeh— chicken — here done marinated with or without bones, the latter style (kebab-e jujeh barg, $11.25) holding a bit of citric marinade in squares that don't dry out. Kebabs are generally well done, even the excellent steak kebab e-barg ($14.25), but not overdone.