Located at: Baniyas Road, Deira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Visited on: 26 Oct, 2017
Although I’ve been to Radisson Blu on a countless number of occasions, this was my first visit to Shabestan. Persian/Iranian cuisine isn’t something we have frequently either. So I wasn’t very sure what to expect that evening. But I can safely say that I was more than pleased with this new find at the end of the night. Shortly after taking our seats, we found out that the steward at our table, Anis, was a fellow Sri Lankan with 30 years of experience at the hotel (from back when it used to be The Intercontinental). Needless to say, we were quite happy to let him guide us through our selections through dinner. We also learnt from him that Shabestan has been graced by several celebrities and world leaders over the years, including Sheikh Mohammed himself. Quite intriguing for a seemingly quiet restaurant nestled in a bustling hotel by the creek.
We began with a platter of Sabzi Khordan – seasonal vegetables with feta cheese (AED 25). The veggies were fresh and crunchy and I enjoyed my feta, as I always do. They bring (and replenish) a plate of traditional Iranian bread to every table together with a yogurt dip with mint and herbs per person. The dip is quite refreshing and good with the bread, vegetables and kebabs as well. The bread is prepared in-house by an Iranian baker himself in a stone oven that has been constructed at the side of the seating area, adding an authenticity to the experience. It’s quite thin and crispy with sesame seeds on top – great to munch on before and during the meal.
We were also advised to try out their Nargesi – sautéed fresh spinach with garlic and kashk, a curdled dairy product (AED 48) and Mirza Ghasemi – purée of baked aubergine, tomato and fried egg (AED 48). Between the two, I found the latter to be quite interesting with a unique taste that was dominated by the aubergine but had a touch of sweetness – possibly from the tomatoes and the dish being sautéed. Good pick, recommended. Unfortunately, the photograph below doesn’t do much justice to how the dishes tasted as they were taken after we were served.
For the mains, we went with a mix of kebabs. Kabab-E-Mahi – grilled Naiser fish marinated in their Iranian chef’s secret recipe (AED 149), Barge Morgh – grilled chicken breast marinated in saffron (AED 105), and Chelo Kabab-E-Soltani – an assortment of lamb meat and minced lamb kebabs (AED 155). Out of the kebabs, my favourite was the chicken. Succulent, beautifully marinated and tender to bite through. Very good. The minced lamb was probably the next best as it seemed to be quite popular at the table. Again, great flavour, and very tender since the meat had been minced. Thumbs up. The lamb meat kebab was good too, but I feel like the minced kebab had a slight edge over this. The fish had absorbed the marinade well as well and was very soft. I’m more into meaty fish, but this was not bad for a change.
All the kebabs were presented together neatly as a single platter on one of their authentic breads, however the picture below (again) was taken after we were served – which was as soon as they were brought to the table. So you have a picture of my plate instead! These dishes mostly come with a side of rice or bread, so we were served with an assortment of saffron, dill and herb, and plain rice – as you can see the first two in the picture of my plate. Both the saffron rice and herb rice were nice and light, not heavily flavoured but good enough.
We couldn’t decide on what to go with for dessert and so were helped out by Sahar, another member of the Shabestan team. She offered to get us a mix of their speciality ice creams – Bastani Zaafroni – Persian saffron ice cream (AED 45 for a normal order) and Faloodeh Bastani – traditional Iranian ice cream with rose water (AED 48 for a normal order). These were served with three accompaniments for the table – rose water, saffron water and lemon juice to add a bit of acidity to the sweetness. I have to say, the saffron ice cream was quite interesting in terms of both texture and taste. There was something about it that reminded me of kulfi, and there were also these little bits in it that seemed solid but melted quickly upon biting. Add a bit of rose and saffron water, and the flavour gets amplified to another level – without making it too sweet. Quite nice! The faluda and rose flavours came through well in the second scoop. Good too. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on the lemon juice since the other two elements enhanced both scoops beautifully.
In addition, she also brought us some Iranian Baglawa (sweets) on the house to try out. These included caramel and coconut based sweets among others. My personal favourite, though, is the little round sweet in the middle of the plate pictured below – possibly yazdi cookies, based on my Google research. Regardless of the name, I love how they melt into a powdery crumble just as you shut your mouth after popping it in. The ingredients are so finely ground that you barely need to put any effort into biting. (I rarely miss this when we go for Radisson Blu’s multi-restaurant Friday brunch!)
We finished up with a round of black tea with mint, which came in an interesting pot and hence I’ve included a picture here. We left Shabestan pleasantly stuffed and in appreciation of Persian/Iranian cuisine. And it was certainly nice that the staff were so friendly and interactive (non-invasively), offering flexible options and suggestions. Made our first experience one to remember.
Yummy Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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