The trio kicked off the kebab showdown by paying a visit to this Persian restaurant near Kent’s work in Bridgeland. As the name suggests, the sit-down restaurant, in actuality, is a restaurant in shape of a house that serves kabobs.
It was clear from the get-go that House of Kabob would fit nicely within our definition of “hole-in-wall-places” when three engineers couldn’t figure out how to enter the restaurant. A door that clearly should have been the entrance, and had the “Open” neon sign blazing brightly next to it, was definitely not the entrance (it was bound shut). If not for the urgent gesturing of the staff inside motioning us to go round the back, we could have potentially been lost.
Fortunately, Richard’s keen sense of navigation led us to behind the house, where he promptly proceeded to break the door down in frustration over the lack of clear directions on where to enter (ladies note: if you are dating an engineer, please provide clear directions or risk facing outbursts as depicted below).
Upon entering, it was clear to us that we had hit the jackpot of where local Persians dine. The place was packed when we got there at 8 pm on a Tuesday night, with Persians nonetheless. The staff quickly rounded up a couple of tables and got us seated without any fuss. The picture below shows the place to be empty, but that is because it was taken towards the end of the night. The interior decor is nothing to write home about, making food and service the only real reason to be here.
Our server Rohanna was a sous chef who was helping out in the front of the house as the serving staff was away on holidays. Kiran and Kent decided to go with the “Yogurt Soda” to start, where as Richard decided to go with Persian tea. We also ordered mast o musir (traditional Persian dip made from yogurt and shallots with garlic and other spices for taste). Service was very prompt, and our orders came out at an almost inhuman speed.
The hilariously mis-named “yogurt soda” turned out to be nothing more than buttermilk sprinkled with crushed mint leaves. The drink itself was a good mix of tangy and salty, like good buttermilk should be. It instantly reminded me of my days in India as a kid drinking buttermilk while traveling via train to distant towns. Warning to white people and the uninitiated: buttermilk is definitely an acquired taste. Most people either don’t like it or can’t appreciate it, so don’t be hating on this drink if you order and don’t like it. You have been warned.
Although I did like Mast.O.Musir, I wasn’t a big fan of it. It is hard to describe what it tastes like; the closest approximation would be flavoured cottage cheese but without the chunks. It also looks like vomit.
Next up was my main dish which was essentially grilled veggies with rice (Note to vegetarians: there aren’t any vegetarian options on the menu, so don’t go expecting to try out a wide variety of dishes). The onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes were perfectly grilled, if a tad under seasoned. However, this seems to be the general theme across Persian dishes, where the emphasis seems to be on bringing out the natural tastes and aromas of the veggies as opposed to slathering them with spices, like most of the Indian cuisine. I compensated for this by dousing my veggies with a healthy dose of sumac, which produced a nice citrusy tang.
The accompanying potatoes and rice were also well-cooked, if once again, under seasoned. The basmati rice had a nice taste and aroma to it and went well with the veggies, although it was a tad dry. At $10.95 for a hearty meal, I am not going to be bitchin’ or whining too much.
I’ve had more than one person tell me that Persian cuisine is the best thing ever, but unfortunately after trying it a couple times, I am not quite sure where the hype comes from. I actually didn’t know that House of Kabob was Persian Cuisine until I saw the sign out front – it seems that half of the cuisines from the Eurasian continent (and some in Africa even) have a “kabobs” of some sort.
The variety of foods on the menu certainly sounded delicious with a healthy variety of chicken and beef based dishes, most served with saffron rice. However, in execution, the food doesn’t seem quite as tasty as it appears to be on paper. As Kiran notes, we started with the mast o musir, which was served with a basket of semi-dried pita. To me it tasted like some kind of subtler-flavoured tzaziki and probably would have been better on a hot summer day. For my main course, I ordered the ghormeh sabzi, a traditional Iranian stew made with plentiful herbs and chunks of beef.
The stew somewhat reminded me of Chinese dried bok-choy soup, with a certain musty aroma that evoked memories of my grandmother’s house. It was a little skimpy on the beef for my liking, though the meat wasn’t particularly flavourful or juicy, so I it wasn’t a huge loss. I snuck a taste of Kent’s kabobs and felt it was reasonably similar to Atlas (the only other Persian restaurant that I’ve been to). For dessert, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a piece of baklava. It was deliciously on the edge of too sweet, as baklava usually is, though it could have been fresher.
Service was blitzkrieg fast, though there seemed to be some confusion as to whether they would bring the bill to our table or if we had to go to the counter to pay which caused us some delay in leaving.
Ultimately, I felt rather underwhelmed by the experience. Saffron and sumac aren’t enough to save what is otherwise fairly uninspiring meat (BAM! –Kiran).
Very fast service, friendly staff, decent food, and value for money make it hard not to recommend trying out Kabob House at least once. What was encouraging was how packed it was at 8 pm on a Tuesday night, and more importantly, that 90% of the clientele was either Persian or Middle Eastern. Persian food tends to be on the bland side with emphasis given to bringing out the natural tastes and flavours of the food, so if you must have asshole-tearing spicy food, this isn’t the place for you.
||22.5/30 = 75%