Shamshiry: Where Bush and Gore Agree....
- Joe H.
Just as you walk into the entrance of Tyson's Shamshiry is a wall directly in front of you with a review from The Post's Phyllis Richman from 1995, just after this Persian restaurant opened.
It is framed with autographed portraits of George Bush and Al Gore. This may be the only restaurant that I have seen in the D. C. area that has their photos virtually side by side on the wall.
At least they seem to agree on their opinions.
At lunch there were six of us (John B., Steve Siegel, Roe Panella, Dennis, my wife and myself). We shared four appetizers (refreshing Panir Sabzi ((cubes of fresh goat cheese with mint leaves)), rich, delicious Mast-o Khiar ((homemade yogurt made with diced cucumbers, dill and other herbs)), similar Mast-o Musir ((homemade yogurt with shallots)) and probably the best of all, Torshi Bademjan, which is a spicy kind of chopped pickle relish made with eggplant, parsley, garlic, mint, cilantro, vinegar, black caraway, salt and pepper. These were served with a delicious green hot pepper relish on the table and mediocre nan that was not warm. We asked for bread hot from the oven but found that this was not as good as many other restaurants we have been to. This was a major weakness at Shamshiry. Still, the appetizers and sides were outstanding, arguably the best that any of us had at any other Persian restaurant in the D. C. area.
We had a foot and half long metal platter for our maincourse that presented kebabs of salmon (outstanding-uniform agreement from all of us), boneless chicken (dried out, second real weakness of the meal; not in league with Ravi Kebab, Reston Kebab House, Moby Dick or many others)(Steve who had been there three weeks ago said that on his visit the chicken kebab was moist and delicious),cornish hen (perhaps second choice-excellent, flavorful, moist), lamb (very good) and filet mignon (tender and flavorful).
The highlight of the entire dinner was the house special rice of which there were several types: the first was Albalou Polo which is rice topped with syrupy sour cherries. Superb. Just superb. The second was Shirin Polo which is fairly sweet rice seasoned with sugared orange peel, chunks of pistachios and almonds. The third rice, served as a "standard" side with the kebabs, features a raw egg yolk which is stirred into the rice at the table and sprinkled with powdered sumac. Accompanying this are large pieces of rice "crust" which have stuck to the bottom of the cooking pan.
The rice at Shamshiry is original and delicious. In combination with our appetizers and several of the kebabs (especially the salmon and guinea hen) it would be difficult to leave this restaurant not feeling that you have dined at D. C.'s best overall Persian feast. And, for us, it was truly feast. At no time was there enough room on the table for the many plates that the six of us had. Probably appropriate that we should have had a table space for ten since we ate for at least that many!
Still, for someone coming ordering boneless chicken kebab with plain rice and nan they would probably leave disappointed wondering what all the fuss is about.
Shamshiry is excellent: but explore new tastes with the special rice and include at least a salmon kebab as part of an order. Try the homemade appetizers. This is different from other similar restaurants in the area; it is much more than just a house of kebab.
On our way out we had passed on dessert. I noted in Phyllis Richman's rave review that she felt this was one of the strengths of the meal. It was then that I remember the house made saffron ice cream that I'd had on my last visit. A reason to return.
Sorry I couldn't join you.
You said - "Still, for someone coming ordering boneless chicken kebab with plain rice and nan they would probably leave disappointed wondering what all the fuss is about."
That is what I did and I agree. Looking forward to trying the salmon and some other rice. Sounds good.
This is an exceptional place with a limited menu. The torshi and the yogurt with shallots were so outstanding you could make a meal of them and stop right there. Don't know if I would call the bread 'nan'; it was pita, plain and simple. Cut in rectangles, very traditional. Their specialty is the barg kabob, a very tender steak sliced thin. They do this very, very well.
Chicken was dry this time, and the lamb kebab- a special not on the menu for some reason- was well prepared but didn't taste like lamb! Far from a perfect meal, but I'd still go back in a flash.
I pretty much agree with Joe's original post and the responses below. Also would note that our less-than-thrilling experience with the chicken and plain rice fairly closely mirrors bilrus' experience which he also commented on in the earlier thread. Seems the strategy here is to go for the more intense menu items, and stay away from the pedestrian things. The more exotic rices and the sides were really the most interesting things we had.
FWIW, the Bush on the wall is George I, not II. II probably won't often be seen in middle-east places, even Persian ones (lol).
Joe/Steve/Roe/Dennis, since the comparison with Reston Kabab and other places triggered this chow gathering, other than the chicken, who won? Is the jury still out? Personally I like Moby for a fast simple meal (have only been to the one in Kentlands), but haven't been to the others at all.
For the comparison:
If you're just wanting to grab a quick Kebab and go (often the case for lunch) I'd stay with Reston Kebab, Atilla's, etc.
If you're wanting a real meal, such as for a date, a night out, with friends, etc, Shamshiry would be tough to beat.
As far as Moby's I will have to go back. My confusion before stemmed from expecting something more like Shamshiry and of course, it didn't deliver. That was also now three years ago at least. I will be going back and I expect that the ratings will rise. What I'll need to do then (just for myself) is to have Reston Kebab and Moby's nearly side by side.
I still have a fondness for Charcoal Kebab, though it holds for an odd reason. It's sort of middlish in my mind. I like it for lunch or a late working dinner where I want a bit more than just the Kebab. And at that point, I just love their spinach.
Jus tried this place for the first time (2013) and I can save a lot of time by saying "What Joe H. said" nine years ago. Of course, that's probably true of almost everything Joe H. says about almost every restaurant. We've been trying Persian restaurants all over the area and this was by far the best so far. Worth crossing the river for! We are so lucky to live in an area with such great food from all over the world. I have a friend in Southern Illinois whose husband is Persian and she has never learned to cook these dishes because she can't even get the ingredients.