Editor’s Note: Shiraz Fire Roasted Cuisine is now closed.
Stare for long enough at a world map, and it’s natural that a food lover’s gaze will come to rest on the Mediterranean. Amid the pescetarian delights of Greece, the pastafarian passion of Italy and the couscous and tagine of North Africa, there’s a lot to ponder.
Move your eyes to the right. Not too far. Just a bit. Now you’re looking at Iran and Afghanistan, a culinary zone that organically combines much of the simple sophistication of Mediterranean food with the intense spice traditions of India.
Neither of the two cuisines have made a huge splash in the Twin Cities, at least not to the extent that Somali, Mexican and Vietnamese food have — all of the latter have large immigrant populations backing them up, and are therefore nurtured by natives as well as curious (or well-informed) people from other ethnic backgrounds.
There’s much good that can be said about the Persian style of eating, and much of that can be experienced at Shiraz, a relatively new restaurant down at Nicollet Ave. South and 60th St. in Minneapolis.
Shiraz is owned by Iranian-born entrepeneur Bahman Razmpour, and is a (total) reinvention of his 22-year-old Cintia’s of Mexico. Razmpour told the Star Tribune that Mexican food has become an oversaturated genre in the Twin Cities, and so he went back to his Persian roots for inspiration.
The result is a clean, airy, thoroughly modern-looking restaurant with distinctively Persian decorating details (gorgeous serving platters, tea sets, vases) and a mural dramatically depicting the roots of Shiraz’s fire-roasted food.
The sense of space and focus is echoed by Shiraz’s menu, which is simple and elegant, driven by charbroiled meats, familiar vegetables such as tomatoes and onions, and sides of rice that can be served up blended with sour cherries, dill or barberries.
From simple things can come exotic flavors. An order of dolmeh ($6; stuffed grape leaves) came out lava hot, stuffed with ground beef, rice, scallions, onion, mint, parsley and tarragon and topped with a splash of what most certainly tasted precisely like a tangy American BBQ sauce. It’s a surprisingly earthy variation on the usually more sedate and cooling version of the dish you might get at a Greek restaurant, and did much to get the appetite stimulated.
Gheimeh ($10) was an entertaining twist on mom’s beef stew; the simple, earthy flavor of the meat was as familiar as coming home for Christmas break, but the vivid hit of the limes, tomato sauce and the tiny little fried potato sticks on top were soundly novel.
A ground steak filet (kabab koobideh) came out with a buttery, almost velvety texture and taste, akin to a moist meatball with a distinct Middle Eastern spice hit. At $10, it was also a surprising value, street food dressed up and presented with taste and sophistication for only a mild fiscal markup.
And an order of bakhlava for dessert — made off-site by a vendor that the waitress couldn’t or wouldn’t identify — was shockingly good. A heavy hit of cinnamon complemented a sweetly delicate pastry that greatly profited by not being completely glazed with a thick coat of honey.
In these recessionary times, it’s hard to complain about the Shiraz experience:
for less than $40, you can get an appetizer, dessert, tea, two entrees and a reasonably convincing jaunt halfway around the world.
BEST BET: The ground-meat kababs are simple soulful street food elevated to a cheerful and classy new level; don’t miss the bakhlava for dessert.
Persian south of Tangletown
6042 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
OWNER: Bahman Razmpour
BAR: Beer and Wine
RESERVATIONS/RECOMMENDED?: Yes and No
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes and A Bit
ENTREE RANGE: ($9-14)