Shisha Jazz Cafe – Authentic Persian Cuisine (Food Tasting)
Shisha Jazz Cafe, brainchild of Mehdi Niroomand and Prithvi Chitnis, has been a true bohemian paradise for more than a decade, full of music and culture. A large part of my college days have been spent drinking endless cups of mint tea and smoking my trepidations away in cold blue smoke of shishas (Alas, no longer). Though I’ve always enjoyed their food I never experienced the real treasure – their authentic Iranian (or Persian) cuisine!
Mehdi’s ancestors moved to India almost 100 years ago bringing with them their traditional recipes which, even today, are prepared at home just as they did in Iran. The same homecooked food is served at the restaurant! This is what distinguishes them from any other restaurant claiming to serve Iranian or Persian cuisine.
I was invited by Sasha and Mehdi for a food tasting to showcase these delicacies. I absolutely loved the food and everyone should try it at least once. Iranian food is quite simple, rustic, mildly spiced and homely – classic comfort food. But don’t let that fool you, it is flavourful, rich and heartwarming.
Aosh Reshteh (Soup) – A creamy slow cooked noodle soup with beans and vegetables topped with olive oil. It’s like a warm hug on a winter night. It was served with traditional hard Irani bread (not broon).
Salad Olivieh – A light, tangy and creamy salad with shredded potatoes, chicken and vegetables. A true summer delight.
Kukuh Sabzi – This is a a baked omelette loaded with green leafy vegetables like spinach, dill, coriander and parsley. Minimal egg, just to bind everything together. It looks so amazing and tastes delicious. It is super healthy too. Almost tastes like Kothimbir Wadi.
Ghormeh Sabzi – Utterly delicious home style slow cooked stew. Kidney beans, parsley, coriander and succulent pink lamb on bone. Hearty, meaty and creamy served with steamed rice. It is their equivalent of ‘Mummy ke haath ka Rajma Rice’! I cannot tell you how good this was.
Chello Kebabs – We were served 3 types. Buff and Chicken Koobideh, absolutely juicy succulent minced meat kebabs. Delicately spiced and heavenly. Next was Buff Barg or thin slices of meat perfectly grilled over charcoal! So juicy and smokey.
These kebabs were served with rice, flavoured with sumac (tangy Middle Eastern wild berry powder) accompanied with a spring onion, grilled tomato and butter. You are supposed to crush the tomato into the rice with butter and eat it with the kebab. Kebabs can be served with naan too. They also give you a delicious, tangy tomato sauce which is flavoured with cinnamon.
Zereshk Polo – This is Irani Berry Pulao, but a bit different from what you are used to. This is very mildly spiced with shredded chicken and tangy berries, and it isn’t sweet at all, unlike what most places serve. Just a perfect balance of flavours.
Ice Cream with Rengineh – Vanilla ice cream with rengineh, an Irani sweet spice powder. Wheat flour cooked with cinnamon and dates. The aroma and taste with ice cream was just brilliant.
Bacalava – Irani style Bacalava. Sweet, nutty and delicious dessert to end the meal.
Irani Black Tea – Refreshing black tea served in the most beautiful traditional cutlery. The tea is poured out into a cup and poured back into the pot 3 times to brew it and then served. There is no sugar added but you chase the black tea with a bite of a date giving it wonderful sweetness and caramelized richness. The dates were imported from Iran and were just amazing.
This was one delicious and satisfying meal. Homely and heartwarming food which has loads of traditional technique and love poured into it. The company and stories from the man himself, Mehdi, made it even more magical.
This Iranian or Persian food experience at Shisha Jazz Cafe is one not to be missed. They have these dishes on the menu all the time and is definitely what you should be ordering there. The soulful live Jazz music (Thursdays) and special performances like belly dancing etc along with the beautiful laid back Iranian bohemian decor, is just the cherry on top of the cake!