Cheap Kabobs Are Worth Counter Girl Abuse at Santa Clara’s Kabob House Halal
I had the most surreal experience of all my journeys to Perisan restaurants this week when I decided to try out Kabob House Halal in Santa Clara. As I understand it, the owners are from Iraq, and they serve food from there, Iran, and the Mediterranean. There are about eight tables inside the restaurant, as well as a large deli case filled with baklava (not sure if it’s house-made) and various cold appetizers.
Their menu doesn’t describe any of the dishes, and although I love me some koobideh and barg, I don’t know the difference between Mast-O-Khiar and Mast-O-Moosir, let alone my ass from a hole in the ground. We approached the teenage girl wearing a hijab behind the counter. She answered all our questions in perfect English, but very curtly like a bored teenager.
“What’s the Chicken Thai Kabab?”
“But what is it?”
“Is it served in a Thai preparation?”
“No. (she points to her thigh) Chicken Thai.”
Seriously, I can’t help it that the menu spells “thigh” “Thai”. I felt like I was in the classic “Who’s on First?” sketch.
We read in a review on the wall that lunch was offered all day. Koobideh (ground beef kabob) is listed under the lunch menu for $2.99 and the dinner menu for $8.99.
“What’s the difference between the lunch koobideh and the dinner koobideh?”
“There’s no difference?”
“They’re the same”
At this point I was really close to saying, “Really, there’s no difference between the dishes and you’re charging me $6 more just for the hell of it?” but I restrained myself. Noticing the picture of the dinner koobideh on the counter which came with rice and a tomato, I asked if rice and tomato didn’t come with the lunch version. That turned out to be correct.
So, deciding that we wanted to order a dinner portion of Boneless Chicken Breast Kabab ($9) and two skewers of Koobideh from the lunch menu we ordered. There was still a glitch.
“Do you want bread?” (she points to a picture of the really thin lavash I’ve had at various Middle Eastern restaurants that’s never very impressive).
“No, we’re fine.”
“Then, how are you going to eat it?!
“We’ll eat it with some of the rice from the chicken kabob plate.”
It was weird justifying how we were going to eat our entrée. The boyfriend said during our meal that he hoped she looked over while we were eating, because he felt like he had to prove that it could be done.
We walked to our table after we ordered and realized we didn’t have any drinks. We both said to each other “You do it” because neither of us wanted to have another exhausting conversation with the confrontational girl behind the counter. We discovered they don’t serve tap water, so we had to get some drinks in the refrigerator.
Our table was covered in plastic, and we noted when we wiped it down with napkins, fairly dirty. We were the only customers at the time, and while we waited for our food, two boys around six or seven played hide and seek in the dining area. They did this a few times during the meal, and often could be heard screeching while they played around the restaurant or running outside and then back inside. It was less charming than it might sound.
Speaking of sound, this place had the oddest music playing. Accompanying the gurgles of a small fountain in the dining area was a nature soundtrack featuring the chirping of birds.
Our Boneless Chicken Breast Kabob had nicely grilled and juicy meat, but the lemon in the marinade was actually a bit overwhelming. The rice and barbecued tomato were fine but pretty standard.
The Koobideh was the better dish. Our two skewers arrived with a small puddle of either oil or meat juices. It was nicely seasoned with a lot of sumac; however, the meat seemed a little overcooked. I’ve had better Koobideh, but not for $2.50 per skewer. For that price it’s a good cheap meal and worth another visit.
Also worth another visit? Lunch.They have a buffet then for $7 or $8. There were many dishes we asked about (Gheymeh stews, Koko Sabzi, and Naan-like bread) that seem to only be available then.
Katya’s Persian Rankings
1. Khayyam’s – Albany (the master – now closed - against which all Persian restaurants will forever be judged)
2. (tie) Shalizaar – San Mateo
2. (tie) Pomegranate – Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Concord (great barg and joojeh kabob with zereshk polo; pomegranate chicken is good but sweet taste can be cloying)
4. Chelokababi - Sunnyvale
5. Rose Market – Mountain View (rated so highly because of the value; need to re-evaluate because I only had a small sample of food)
6. Yas – San Jose (really impressive selection of polos – but other food is just OK)
7. Afghan Persian Kabob – Sunnyvale
8. KABOB HOUSE HALAL – Santa Clara
9. Bijan – Fremont (food too oily, and stews either too sweet or too ketchup-y)
Visited and have trouble remembering, but not near the top of the list:
Kabob House – Pleasant Hill
Papa’s - Berkeley
Kabob House Halal
2521 Newhall St. (at N. Winchester Blvd.)
Santa Clara, CA 95050
It might be a hold back from water rationing/drought days. It was actually a law in many counties. The law was that restros were not to automatically pour water because a lot of it was just wasted. Thousands or millions of those little glasses add up. Given near record low snow pack in the Sierra, the regulation will probably appear again.
I remember that - that very well may come back with the looming threat of drought. As I remember it you'd have to specifically ask for it at sit down restaurants (and I think some might have charged 15 cents for it). At both places I mentioned, they're places you order at the counter, and I asked specifically for tap water and they said they didn't have any.
Ha! OMG your post made me LOL! Too funny. At least you didn't get one of the younger boys.
We went on a weekday around 2:30pm. The sign outside said they had a lunch buffet till 3pm.
We walked in and saw the steam table actually steaming but there wasn't any food or any other people in the restaurant. The only person there was a boy and we asked him if they were still serving the lunch buffet. He said "No".
Not sure if the sign was right or they ran out of food or what.
We did come back on another night for dinner and it was good. I think we talked to the owner and helped us pick our meals. We had excellent koobideh and kabob. We also tried the sour yogurt drink. He gave us the warning that it was an aquired taste but my boyfriend wanted to try it anyways so he got it. He didn't like it though.
Everything was good and flavorful. We haven't been back but I would still go.
Hmmm...sounds like some kid working for her family didn't want to be there and was taking it out on the customers. Any way, interesting take on the Iraqi/Persian thing. While the food has obvious similarities, I don't think any Iraqi would say they serve Persian food unless of course they didn't want to catch flak for being Iraqi (you know the war).
Yes, I took it as a family run operation where the girl was tired of being there, and her brothers were running around in the restaurant because they had nowhere to play. When the presumable chef/owner/father poked his head out of the kitchen he seemed very friendly.
I wasn't making assumptions about the Iraq/Iran connection. The San Jose Mercury News review on the wall there mentioned that the owner was Iraqi, and that article and one on Metroactive mentioned that most of the dishes were Persian or general Middle Eastern/Mediterranean.
You know I've seen the same sort of cross referred cuisines/reviews of Middle Eastern places in LA. There was a place I went to that that had reviews on the wall about being Armenian and Lebanese (in different articles). It was Armenian but the review was right on the wall. It was a little baffling. The food was good but I always wondered how it could be confused or what was going on.
Funny - I was there a few weeks ago. It was a little surreal, a definite hole in the wall, but the lunch buffet meats were decent. It was a little less clean-looking than I'd like, but I managed to devour my fair share of the fresh bread that was warm. According to my co-worker, the owner is Iraqi. There weren't many people there at lunch when I went either.
You should try Chatanoga in Santa Clara too. It's on El Camino near San Tomas. I think their Joojeh surpasses Chelokababi's.