About four years ago, Mehdi and Farah Meschi were persuaded by friends and family to move to Austin, and they opened Shandeez Grill last year.
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Jan. 26, 2007
8863 Anderson Mill Rd. #109, 258-6464
Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-10pmwww.shandeez.com
About four years ago, Mehdi and Farah Meschi were persuaded by friends and family to move to Austin, and they opened Shandeez Grill last year. It sits in a strip center; its interior is warmly decorated and its space and staff inviting. The menu covers most of the Persian bases, and there is a back page with Tex-Mex items in an obvious nod to clueless customers who are afraid of food with strange names.
First to arrive is complimentary Naan-o-Panir, fresh herbs, and dry feta cheese with pita. We started our meal with Kashk-o-Bademjan ($3.95), a creamy dip of smoky baked eggplant, tart kashk (dry yogurt), mint, onions, garlic, walnuts, and saffron, excellent when slathered on the provided large, hot pita bread. We also ordered Maast-o-Khiar ($3.49), the tzatziki-like dip of yogurt, diced cucumber, and mint, the perfect partner to be eaten with the soon-to-arrive grilled meats.
Baghali-Polo With Lamb Shanks ($10.95) is a huge platter with a tender, succulent, golden-roasted lamb leg portion resting on a mound of fluffy basmati rice mixed with small lima beans and dill. The blending of flavors is perfection. We had to sample one of the famous Persian stews and settled on the delectable Khoresht Gheymeh ($7.99), made with yellow split peas, toothsome beef cubes, tomato, dried lemon, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, and onion, served with basmati rice. Rich and tart, the stew comes topped with the traditional thin fried potatoes.
After eating the grilled meats, we tried to decide when we had eaten any grilled meat in Austin that was as delicious and flavorful as what is served at Shandeez. We drew a blank. Wanting to try all of the options, we started with the Chicken Soltani ($13.99), a combination of a large skewer of chicken and a large skewer of steak. We also ordered a side skewer of Koobideh Kabob ($3.50), the ample skewer of seasoned ground meat, which arrived on the same platter, resting on fluffy rice, with grilled tomato halves.
The chicken, marinated in lemon, yogurt, garlic, and saffron is moist, tender, and wonderful; grilled chicken gets no better. The marinated steak is so tender that it almost melts in your mouth, with a subtle, rich, oniony flavor you crave more of. The ground beef skewer marinated in grated onion, yogurt, turmeric, and garlic is perhaps the best hamburgerlike food available in Austin.
The Joojeh-Kabob ($8.99) is a definite favorite: bone-in pieces of skewered Cornish game hen, again with the tenderizing effects of yogurt, with saffron and lemon; it is amazingly moist and succulent. The way to eat any of these meats is to crush some of the juicy grilled tomato into the rice, top it with a piece of any of the grilled meats, dab a small amount of the yogurt-cucumber-mint dip on top, add a small sprinkle of the sumac powder, and pop it into the mouth, followed shortly by moans and groans of culinary appreciation.
We tried a couple of the desserts: Rollette ($3.45), a jelly-roll-like pistachio cake with sweet whipped cream and, our favorite, the Persian Ice Cream ($3.45), flavored with rose water, cardamom, pistachios, and saffron; the double-scoop portion disappeared quickly. It's the perfect way to end an evening at an inviting oasis of traditional and authentic Persian cuisine that is not to be missed.
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