Dodo’s Café and BBQ went the way of its namesake: its former home now hosting the awkwardly named Eat and Fit. Eat and Fit offers “healthy and halal” food (that must be the “fit” part) and it’s here I’ll have my second helping of Iranian food in a month. Not that I’m complaining---Middle Eastern food tends to be so textured, so downright delicious, that I could chow it daily. Would Eat and Fit be fit to eat?
We pore over the small menu featuring a small core group of appetizers and main courses, with revolving daily specials, all priced cheaply. It’s not long before our starters are ready, a small dish of chopped chicken in a well-seasoned tomato sauce and an Iranian salad made of egg, onions, herbs and lemon. I really like the egg salad, which would fit in quite nicely with my mother’s Sunday night cold plate---some dishes translate in any culture.
For our main courses, we’re having a lamb skewer and a charbroiled chicken skewer, both of which are served with basmati-saffron rice and grilled tomatoes. Our delightful server brings us a shaker of ground sumac seed (not to be confused with poison sumac). Ground sumac is a popular Iranian condiment, shaken on like salt or pepper. Its citrus note adds a lemony undertone to meat, fish and chicken: It’s very versatile and I use it over my whole plate of food.
Both dishes are excellent, although I prefer the chicken. It’s cut into cubes and grilled, whereas the lamb is ground and formed around the skewers. I just prefer the texture of the chicken more. Also, the lamb was not as hot temperature-wise as I would have liked.
The rice is fluffy, with the distinctive bright orange-yellow on top that comes from saffron, a staple spice in Iranian cuisine.
On to dessert, a rice pudding and baklava. The baklava, not as sweet as its Greek counterpart, is exceptional. The filo pastry is tender and flaky, the pistachios plentiful. It’s so good, in fact, we order a second helping. Rice pudding is made with rosewater, used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking but more familiar as a scent (soaps, bubble bath, etc.) than a taste in North America. Once you get past the culturally imposed preconception of rosewater tasting like your grandmother’s soap, this rice pudding is lovely.
Fragrant (and complimentary) Iranian tea rounds off the meal.
As we finish, the owner comes around to chat with each table and see how our meals are. Davoud Sadeghi was the commercial director of a manufacturing company before emigrating to Halifax and opening the restaurant. His wife is the chef, preparing the meals. A quiet, sincere man, Sadeghi answers our questions graciously and moves on so as not to be intrusive. I’ve always been a sucker for this personal touch in small family restaurants. I think it’s one of those things that make people remember their meal and want to come back.
And that’s important, especially in this location. It’s somewhat of a black hole for new eateries. Before Eat and Fit, there was Dodo’s and before that, Addis Ababa and before that again, Samosa Plus. A few doors down is It’s All Greek to Me, which replaced the Nail and Kneecap.
For a street with plenty of foot traffic, you would think restaurants would do better here. I hope Eat and Fit can break this trend and do well.