Nestled on the end of Hollis, just around the corner from South Street, sits the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it home of Persian take-out, Shiraz. Miss it if you’re colour blind , that is, for the formerly stark white home of a car rental agency is now a striking royal purple that makes the little “Lego block” building a real eye-opener.
And, as I’m about to discover, the flavours inside are just as bold as the colour outside.
Shiraz is owned by the Tabeshes, a delightful husband-and-wife team who cook and serve meals from the impossibly tiny kitchen. Mrs. Tabesh is happy to answer questions and chat about the food, and is understandably proud of the menu offerings.
Against one wall, three stools and a small counter provide seating; in nice weather, a table outside is also available. A display case for salads and sweets, and a cash register separate the eating/ordering area from the kitchenette.
The menu is small, but offers a great variety of soup, salads, stews, rice and other dishes, including cream puffs and the Staff of Life’s samosas (chicken, vegetable and beef).
I select an assortment of things that are ready in short order; giddy on the intoxicating aromas, I eagerly head home to sample the goods.
Lamb tongue is a Persian delicacy that I’ve never tried before, but I’m always up for a tastebud adventure. Two tongues ($4.99) packed in lamb broth comprise an order of remarkably tender organ meat, rich with lamb taste. A side of torshi ($1.99) consists of several types of pickled vegetables, heavy on eggplant; the vinegar used in pickling makes this torshi mouth-puckeringly tart and I can imagine it making a great relish to go with just about any meat.
The tabooli salad ($2.99), like its Lebanese cousin, tabbouleh, is chopped parsley, lemon juice and plenty of garlic; this version also has white beans, which add a smooth, nutty undertone to the sharper lemon zest, and the contrast in tastes is quite delightful.
On to the gheyme ($6.99). This lamb and split pea stew is much lighter than a Canadian stew, with a light tomato stock that holds quite a few split peas and a lot of of lamb. This lamb is fairly fatty, which adds much flavour, but does leave a bit of a greasy mouth feel—of course, that’s what the acids in the torshi and tabooli are there to do, cut through that fat.
Although I’ve enjoyed everything so far, my favourite is the chicken kabab ($7.99). Kababs are heated on a tabletop grill outside the “purple bunker” (as it’s been called), and create a smell that starts my salivary glands into overdrive. The chicken has been marinated in lemon juice, oil and seasonings, and is the tenderest chicken I’ve ever tasted, bar none. With the kebabs bursting with flavour and melting in my mouth, I’m in poultry heaven. Served with a nice basmati rice and a circle of pita bread on the side, this is a lunch fit for a Shah.
For dessert, two of the little in-house cream puffs put a sweet exclamation point on this savoury experience.
If it seems like I’ve used the word “flavour” a lot here, it’s because I have. In a restaurant that is so focused on taste, that brings so much goodness to the table without having to reach for a salt or pepper shaker, “flavour” is the key word—it sums up exactly what you’ll find should you (and you should) make your way to Shiraz.
Shiraz1240 Hollis Street404-3300Mon-Fri 9:30am-9pmSat-Sun 10:30am-9pm
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