About once per month my daughter Shelby and I plan and enjoy a day together. While we see each other weekly and speak almost every day, these outings are our time to do something a little special. We call these Sundays with Shelby. This week we agreed to explore Persia…through her cuisine.
We are fortunate to live in an area bursting with so many fabulous restaurants, representing the ethnic diversity of our city. Rumi’s Kitchen, conveniently located just a short drive from Shelby’s house, was such an exciting discovery.
We went for the food, but the ambiance grabbed our attention the minute we walked through the oversized front door. The best way to describe the interior is open. Open floor plan, open kitchen, open ceiling (converted warehouse feel, with natural light at the roof top). Shades of grays and blues, stone and concrete, stacks of stoneware plates and bowls of every size. I’m such a tourist in my own city, snapping pictures left and right.
Our server, Paniz, was very receptive to our request for recommendations. She described every appetizer on the menu in lovely detail, so many to choose from. Our obvious indecision prompted her to suggest an appetizer sampler. Yes please.
Before that was delivered she brought us a complimentary house appetizer plate to “awaken our palates.” The beautiful wooden plate consisted of fresh mint and tarragon, feta cheese, olives, walnuts, radishes, and two baskets of warm taftoon flatbread. I looked across the table at my beautiful daughter smiling back at me with contentment and she said “I am so happy right now.”
Next came our Appetizer Sampler. We were expecting a single plate or platter, but instead were delighted when three servers arrived all carrying beautiful little bowls and plates each with their own story. You know me by now, I’m all about the presentation and they nailed it.
Shirazi Salad (Tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, onions, parsley in a citrus dressing) which was similar to a salsa but without heat.
Kashk Badenjoon (fried eggplant with crispy onions and mint) was my kind of spread. Very similar in taste to Baba Ghanoush, creamy and rich.
Hummus….really good hummus.
Yogurt Trio (Persian Cumber, Sundried Shallot, Spinach) was a fun way to try these flavor infused yogurts. The spinach was our favorite (sorry Shelby, seems the leftover take-home container made it into my bag instead of yours. Btw, Dad loved it).
Mirza Ghasemi (smoky eggplant and tomato spread) with strong smoked paprika flavor. Good but not our favorite.
Dolmeh (minced beef, rice, fresh herbs with a sweet ‘n sour pomegranate flavor…wrapped in grape leaves). I was a big fan, Shelby not so much.
Each of the items listed above are eaten with their heavenly taftoon flatbread made in these gorgeous ovens.
We could have been quite happy nibbling on all of these gorgeous appetizers, yet wanted to try one more authentic Persian dish. Shelby asked Paniz to choose her favorite chicken kabob, she selected Chicken Barg, seasoned with saffron. And also recommended their special rice which sounded amazing. And (yes, I just began two sentences in a row with ‘And’) she gladly offered to split the entrée and presented us each with picture perfect plates. Behold the beauty that is Persian Jeweled Rice.
Persian Jeweled Rice – Long grain basmati rice infused with saffron rose water, tossed with slivered almonds and pistachios, sugared orange peel, barberries, and raisins. This special rice is the number one reason we will be revisiting Rumi’s Kitchen. A variety of textures and sweet bursts of flavor surprises in every bite. We must have had looks of lust all over our faces because the manager approached our table and shared that in Iran it is most common to serve Jeweled Rice at Weddings, therefore giving it the nickname Wedding Rice. It was just beautiful on every level.
Here’s a recipe for Persian Jeweled Rice from my friend Samantha with The Little Ferraro Kitchen. Lovely.
I don’t want to forget to tell you about Sumac. This little pot of love is full of the ground dried fruit from sumac plants. It was suggested that we sprinkle it on most everything. Sumac has a tangy, almost lemony flavor and was wonderful on our rice and chicken. Before discovering sumac, the spice….my only point of reference was the poison sumac plants that dotted the tree line of our childhood campsite. Every time we arrived Mom reminded us not to eat the berries…”they’re poisonous.” No fear here, ‘poison’ sumac has white clusters of fruit…not this gorgeous crimson red.
Thank you Rumi’s Kitchen for the wonderful experience you offered us. We will be back, but it may be a bit. There are still several International flavors we’d like to ‘travel’ before we’re ready for repeat visits. Although I would be expecting a call for an extra large take-out order of Jeweled Rice.