Monday, September 27, 2010

Shahrazad Market and Restaurant

'I found the smells of different spices and herbs that permeated the aisles intoxicating.'

If you've never set foot in an international market, it's well worth doing. Not only do you see an array of products you've never seen before, but the people, the decor, the smells, and the overall vibe really give you a glimpse of the cultures behind the market. A friend of mine told me about a Middle Eastern Market on the West side of Salt Lake with a restaurant in the back. I must say his description of the place really piqued my interest, both as a lover of food as well as from the standpoint of an interested tourist on a virtual vacation to the Middle East. The Shahrazad Market and Restaurant is a great introduction to Middle Eastern culture and food. The market is simple, reminiscent of a large mom and pop operation - think Emigration Market... Middle Eastern style. I found the smells of different spices and herbs that permeated the aisles intoxicating. In fact, I found myself gravitating toward the back, past the deli cases of freshly butchered meats, to where there was clearly some food being fired.

The restaurant in the rear of the market is pretty simple with some nicely situated tables and a front counter from which to order. A placard above the counter spells out the menu - combination plates of kabobs, meatballs, different yogurt type beverages, some sweets, and some breads fill the menu. It can be overwhelming, especially for someone like me who doesn't know much about Middle Eastern cuisine. However the guys at the restaurant are really good at explaining the dishes and are genuinely interested in helping you to have a great experience. Moreover, the deli case contains some examples of the food, so you can always point to what you want if you see it.

We started off with a yogurt, mint drink called dugh (pronounced doog) - a really refreshing start to the meal. We quickly gobbled up some hot naan that came alongside. The naan (a leavened, flat type of bread) was served steaming hot with mint, parsley, goat cheese, and walnuts. We were told to rip some of the naan and then add in the above acoutrements, roll everything up like a sandwich, and then eat it. The warm naan melted the goat cheese and helped the mint and parsley to open up. The crunch of the walnuts added some texture to the gooey cheese, while the herbs left a clean, fresh taste in your mouth.  Absolutely delicious.

For the main course we had the chicken and beef koobideh (pronounced koo-be-day) and the lamb liver skewer. The savory chicken and beef koobideh are like meatballs shaped in almost a square shape. The skewered lamb livers are just like they sound - rotisseried livers on a skewer. These were all served with basmati rice, a side salad, and a baked tomato. We were told that the proper way to eat the dish was to take the meat off the skewer, cut all of the meats and tomato up, and then mix everything together, dusting the whole thing liberally with sumac (a middle eastern spice). The meatballs were tender, moist, and had a floral quality to them with the addition of the sumac. Mixed in with the rice and tomato, it was all together quite a filling meal. The livers tasted like most any liver I've eaten and were suprisingly tender and tasty. I devoured half my plate (which was humongous - see picture at left; we each got a plate like that) but still had a whole table full of treats ordered by my Persian friend who encouraged us to try a couple different things. To be honest, the rest of the meal is kind of a blur; I'm lucky to be able to share the little I can remember at this point. What I can I tell you though is that the meal was terrific; something about eating at the Shahrazad Restaurant made it feel like we were that much closer to a true Middle Eastern experience. 

Living in Utah, you often forget that we have great international food resources right at the tip of our fingers. There are a few really good Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican, even African markets in town. What's really cool is that most of these markets sell prepared food items for take away or even dine in. These markets offer true, authentic food from the trenches...made by those people submerged in the culture. So if you're like me and you love wandering around these markets, but don't really know what to do with half the stuff...take advantage of the good home cooking offered at these places: grab a quick bite, take all of the ambience and culture in, and then let the food guide you through a virtual vacation...right here in Utah.

Shahrazad Market and Restaurant
1615 West 2100 South
(801) 975-9977

Shahrazad Market & Restaurant on Urbanspoon 

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