I HEART BACON
Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Kolbeh: Not as planned

Tonight Zach and I made plans to check out the Art of Modern Rock poster show at Elliott Bay Books, grab dinner at Takohachi and then do some grocery shopping at Uwajimaya.

The “exhibit” at Elliott Bay turned out to be a few laminated posters tacked up on the walls, but we still had fun browsing through all the books. I managed to make it out, buying only one book. We headed to Takohachi, only to find that they had closed at 8pm. I knew they closed early, but 8pm on a Saturday night? Come on! I was being moody and refused to eat anywhere else in Chinatown, but since we were in the area, we stopped at Uwajimaya to buy meats, noodles and veggies for our hot-pot party on Sunday.

After leaving Uwajimaya, Zach suggested we eat at Jones Barbeque in the new location we spotted last weekend (Second Avenue and Lander, near Sears). Of course, when we arrived it was closed as well. Then I suggested Kolbeh, a nearby Persian restaurant on First Avenue. I used to go there quite a bit, but that was about five years ago. As we approached the building, something looked different.

What used to be a cute and cozy space has now been transformed into a sprawling restaurant with an enormous stage and walls that appeared to be covered with velvet paintings. When we entered we were asked if we were there for the show. We shrugged and said we were hungry, so they seated us in the back area, away from the dance floor.

I remembered the Lamb Kabob from prior visits, so I ordered that to share: “One lb. of Lamb Tenderloin Marinated in Lemon, Saffron & Onion” ($21.99). Zach loves okra so he ordered a side of Khoresht Bomeyeh “Stewed Okra in Spicy Tomato Sauce” ($5 ala carte). I’m not a huge okra fan but the menu said “Maybe the Best Way of Cooking Okra”, so I was naturally curious.

We started off with a bad dinner salad, which was iceberg lettuce, a few carrot shreds and way too much red vinegar dressing. Next came our lamb; a beautiful, foot and half long shish kabob that had some of the most flavorful and tender lamb I’ve ever eaten. I have no idea what they do to it that makes it so good, but I want the recipe. It was garnished simply with basil leaves and chunks of raw onions. The basmati that came with the lamb was luscious, fragrant and sweet—it had been simmered in coconut milk. True to the menu, the okra was the best I’ve ever had. It was stewed in a rich tomato sauce, which lent itself well to the normally slimy texture of okra. We finished with a perfect triangle of honeyed baklava.

It was an unexpected and fantastic meal. Plus I was really enthralled with the other diners. There were tables of families who all seemed to know each other and the staff. They were eating apricot paste and drinking a beautiful cinnamon tea. People of all ages were taking turns smoking from the hookah while waiting for the show to begin. The belly dancers were getting ready for the show, walking by our table with their rolling suitcases.

We didn’t stay for the performance because we were both dead-tired, but we agreed that we’d come back soon with a group of friends to check it out. As we were leaving, we walked by the largest bouncer I’ve ever seen. He was about the size of four of me, maybe even five. We left wondering if the crowd gets rowdy later in the evening, as it seemed like overkill for the family-oriented and blue-haired, tiara-wearing crowd we saw inside.
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