The original branch of Caspian Kabab is located on Rolla Road in Bur Dubai. A street that would never have made it on my food radar had a new branch of this restaurant not opened up in Barsha, a neighborhood much closer to home for me than Bur Dubai.
But keen for a sense of adventure and for the unknown, the Girls’ Supper Club and I headed out to Rolla Road on a hot and humid evening to experience Caspian Kabab’s Iftar dinner.
It was Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. The girls and I had timed our dinner for Iftar, the sunset meal where the day’s fast is broken. I parked my car by a grand mosque that was across from the restaurant and together, my son and I walked the short block to Caspian Kabab.
As it was sunset, the evening prayers had just started to bellow out of the mosque’s speakers. My son was used to hearing this call to prayer as a faint echo from inside the sturdy walls of our apartment building. But that night, standing right next to the source, he excitedly jumped up and down to the reverberating sound of the sermon. Around us, people hurried home (it was rush hour), hurried to pray, or hurried to dinner as the restaurants which were shuttered all day for Ramadan were now open for business.
The restaurant was easy to spot. The place seemed busy. Busy with men. I was starting to worry that perhaps this was one of those places that didn’t welcome women. Or perhaps there was a separate family room?
As I dilly-dallied in front of the restaurant, debating to go in or not, I was spotted by Syed, one of the waiters, who opened the large wooden door to the restaurant and waved at me to enter. “Come in, come in, ” he beckoned.
“Oh, but I’m waiting for my friends…”
“Okay. But come in!” he encouraged, smiling.
My son and I were shown to one of three semi-private booths. Warm coffee colored furniture filled the restaurant – from the booths and curtains to the two rows of communal tables and chairs. The walls were an egg-shell beige that, thankfully, balanced out all the dark wood.
A large group of Omani men, wearing their distinctive and colorful headwear, livened up the place with their convivial conversations. Football (soccer to me), was important enough to be shown on a flat-screen TV as well as piped over the restaurant’s speaker system.
The staff were warm and friendly, from the moment Syed beckoned me to enter the restaurant to his colleague reminding me to help myself to the Iftar buffet. A baby high chair was brought over for my son but he eschewed it for the less constraining adult seating.
When my friends arrived, we ordered Iranian tea which were served out of a large elegant white tea pot into small delicate glass tea cups and saucers.
Mango juice and carrot-orange juice were also ordered and tasted very fresh and refreshing.
I ordered Doogh – a popular Iranian drink made with yogurt, salt, and mint and tasted similar to the Indian salted lassi. It was served out of a tall glass bottle that had a metal swing top attached to a bright translucent blue cap. If you’ve never had Doogh or salted lassi before, imaging a watered down plain yogurt with a dash of salt.
While my friends filled their plates with selections from the salad section, which included bowls of dates, a platter of fresh herbs, hummus, and flat breads, I was driven by my carnivorous appetite towards the meat.
Approaching the silver chafing dishes that held the dinner buffet, I was excited to begin diving into Iranian cuisine as it had been many years since my first venture at Pars Iranian Kitchen in Satwa.
I skipped the meatless platter consisting of French fries, grilled half tomatoes, grilled onions, and what appeared to be lentil soup so that I could pile my plate with the various kababs, chicken tikka, beef and lamb selections.
None of the dishes were labeled so we asked Syed to help identify what we were eating. There were two kinds of kababs: koubideh (minced lamb) and a chicken kabab. Both tasted well seasoned and moist. They were very satisfying on their own but even better with the accompanying white basmati rice or fluffier saffron-colored basmati rice with lentils. A dish of minced beef with peas were full of flavorful gravy which was perfect for spooning over basmati rice or mopped up with the flat bread.
There were three non-kabab chicken dishes: one with chicken chunks marinated in yogurt and spices which were a little dry; a chicken tikka, dyed to its usual red, tender and smoky from being grilled; and my favorite of the night, a chili saffron chicken that was bursting with flavors of caramelized fresh ginger.
The dessert selection included whole fruit (green apples, oranges and bananas), sliced watermelon, a brown pudding that was garnished with slivered pistachios and walnuts, and a bowl of small orange-colored pieces of some sort of soft biscuit that had been soaked in a sweet syrup.
We chit-chatted for a good while before asking for the check, which as was presented promptly, and we were well under the Girls’ Supper Club budget of 100 dhs per person. The Iftar buffet was 35 dhs ($9.50) per head and with drinks, tea and gratuity, the total came to 55 dhs ($15) each.
We were sad to go as the lively atmosphere, warm service, and wonderfully-flavored food made it one of the most enjoyable meals we had experienced in a long while and we were so glad that to have make the trek out of our usual neighborhoods to Rolla Road and Caspian Kabab.
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Caspian Kabab – Iranian Restaurant: Rolla Road, Bur Dubai (next to Imperial Suites), Telephone: +971 04 3559997. Also located on Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha (near Mall of the Emirates), Telephone: +971 04 3237371.