When Marco Polo voyaged through Persia, he encountered merciless terrain and thieving bandits; but the upside included spectacular architecture and delectable dishes. At Shiraz Restaurant on the Northwest Side, a palatial decor and enjoyable Iranian dishes take your eyes, and mouth, for an almost comparable adventure.
Your magic carpet ride begins in a airy sunflower-yellow room where sapphire tiles rim windows. The same tiling scales two pillars adorned with winged bulls positioning a ceiling, where from it, dangle crystal-scabbed chandeliers. Fountains, bookended at each corner, sooth. Cobalt-blue floors lay decorated with neatly arranged glass-top tables and verdant greens. Persian rug-draped booths, like those co-owner Romel Babaghasheh grew accustomed to back home, offer alternative seating against exposed brick.
Named not after the wine, but after the capital of Fars (an historical Iranian province and the birthplace of the Farsi language used by Iranians today), Shiraz combines a menu of both Middle Eastern and Persian cuisines. Babaghasheh accounts his restaurant as one of Chicago's only three with a Persian fare focus.
Heaps of feta, pita and pickles preface your feast and servers keep them coming. Unless your stomach compartmentalizes like a suitcase, forgo the extra pita and dip into a plate of dolmeh: vegetable and rice stuffed grape leaves. While we throw the word 'dip' out there, stockpile the complimentary pitas to dip into a creamy mix of kashk-e-bademjan: roasted eggplant puree, sauteed onions and garlic mixed with yogurt.
Entree-wise, a hefty lamb shank did me in. My friends resided with other lamb options like the chops and skewers. These ample platters include vegetables and a choice of dill Basmati or white rice. Our magic carpet lifted us off having only expended $80, not a bad deal considering drinks and the live band.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez