Shiraz Fireroasted Cuisine - MSP
I finally tried Shiraz and came away with mixed feelings. I really want to like the meals put out here, but there are so few people eating there - they need help and need it badly to stay open in the area.
I'm a HUGE fan of the Capsian Bistro, and have been since I first visited in early 1990 (first vist was 18 years ago), and that's a record for me to be a continual repeat customer and recommender because most of my faves seem to suffer "restaurant strokes" - they thrive and excell, and then a few small incidents/breakdowns here and there kill off the business so that by the time the owners realize something is wrong, or they get funding to fix it, it never attains that original peak again.
But, the Caspian Bistro is an all time favorite of mine and I have and still recommend it all the time, and even though I can't afford to eat there everyday, I wish I could. Today, since I was in the west end of town, I decided to try out the Shiraz Fireroasted Cuisine because Jeremy Iggers thought it was good.
Shiraz has a lot in place that can make it great, it's just, in my opinion, underpar enough so that the "Tailgate Sports Bar" is taking all the parking space and getting all the business.
The menu is solid and there aren't too many dishes on it so perfection of each is possible. I started with the hummus and I thought it was good, if grainy, (but then I eat hummus with any texture and make it in many variations and graniness at home as well). It had a pleasant taste and was, I think, homemade. While chatting and drinking a glass of wine, the hummus had enough flavor and 'pull' to keep me dipping in for more - always a good sign.
I also ordered the Chicken Soldani entree - house salad ( this was usual - mostly iceberg [had some romaine and other greens] with a couple of cuke slices and roma tomato slices and a house vinegrette - everything I've ever had and expected and had before), basmati rice, one skewer of chicken and one skewer of chopped chicken - neither of which were what I've experienced for so many years at the Caspian Bistro. The "whole" chicken part of the kabob was pounded, boneless chicken breasts, marinated briefly, if at all, and then grilled (thankfully at least grilled). The ground chicken part - koubideh - was very good and very nice, and didn't even seem "ground" - a very pleasant surprise, and it was also grilled.
The only thing I found totally inferior was the rice. Shiraz serves a basmati with a bunch of saffron infused rice on top with the typical pad of butter. The sumac is on the table in a shaker. This rice was very "greasy" compared to Caspian's, as well as what I make at home, so I think there was a lot more oil involved in cooking it, and possibly it was texmati? or calmati? breeds???....I don't know...just saying it was very inferior to what I'm used to at both the Caspian Bistro and at home - aged himalayan basmati.
I will say that the prices are cheaper at Shiraz, but the price cuts seem to be on the meats rather than on the rice, but may be both. A small rise in menu prices for increased quality in products used wouldn't be a bad thing for the restaurant at all. And, since they're stuck next to the "Tailgate Sports Bar" (with that tail end of the pickup sticking out of the building), they may as well try to get some tapas or munchies, or small plates or whatever going into the bar to sell a bit more since I can't imagine that bar has any food worth writing home about.
Overall, it's a very OK place food and price-wise. It just needs a lot more customers and a lot more input from current and frequent customers, and then, some subsequent changes before it's going to be a "to go" spot.
I'm adding to this year-old thread because I finally tried Shiraz after two years of meaning to get there. I don't think the place has changed much in a year (or two).
Executive summary: I really liked Shiraz. It's not fancy or expensive, but the food is good. Especially the Fesenjan.
Note that I'm also a long-time Caspian fan - I live close by, and I go there often. But Caspian is limited to grilled meats and soups (and great rice). Some dishes at Shiraz were better than the Caspian version, and others weren't, but they have dishes that the Caspian doesn't.
Mr. Tastebud and I shared an order of Mirza eggplant dip - it's the second of the two eggplant appetizers on the menu. The dip was was served warm and was topped with crisp fried garlic slices. It was more tomato-y than eggplant-y. To me, it tasted like comfort food, and I thought it was a wee bit bland until I sprinkled sumac on it (available in a parmesan-style shaker at the table). The sumac perked it up nicely, and then I loved it.
I had a side salad - iceberg with a tasty lime-dried mint dressing. I liked it better than Caspian's version, because the dressing was more balanced and had a bit more oil. Mr. Tastebud hates them both - he doesn't like the taste of dried mint. But he said he prefered Shiraz's salad, which means it has less dried mint. Me, I wish I had the recipe for that dressing.
Mr. Tastebud had lentil soup. I lthought it was too filling for an appetizer, but it was delicious, and I would love it for lunch. (Each day, they have one of three soups - I really want to try the A'she Reshteh - my favorite Persian soup.)
Then Mr. Tastebud had the grilled ground chicken kabob (Kabab Koobideh). He liked it a lot - he said it was moister and more delicately spiced than the Caspian version. I had the leftovers for lunch today - he was right, though I really love Caspian's spices.
I had the Fesenjan and I LOVED it. Fesenjan is a chicken stew with pomegranate juice and ground walnuts. It was tangy, rich, and very exciting - it was wonderful on the basmati rice. But it's definitely not a dish for shy tastebuds - it hits you over the head with flavor. (I certainly didn't need any sumac to jazz it up.) It reminded me a bit of a Mexican mole, perhaps because of the nuts.
As for the basmati rice, I slightly prefer Caspian's rice, but Shiraz's rice was just fine. Better than the rice I make at home, anyway (I buy cheap basmati).
Overall, Shiraz is slightly fancier than Caspian, with a bigger menu. And they have wine, though the wine list is nothing special. By the glass (Mr. Tastebud doesn't drink), there are three types of inexpensive Shiraz, two Chardonnays, and a Pinot Grigio. The by-the-glass pours are quite large, though, which makes this wino very happy...
And I really liked Saturday night's dancer - not too intrusive for those who were talking, but well worth watching. (And Mirah has a feel for good food - she also dances at Crystal Afghani Bistro.)
The place reminded me of Beirut on Robert Street in West St. Paul - good food in an unexpected location, mediocre wine list, and good dancing in a long-time family-run place.
I can't wait to try the a'she soup and the kuku sabzi (eggs, spinach, and herbs). I had a great version of kuku in LA last year, and have been pining for it ever since.
Here's a review of Shiraz from Jeremy Iggers in 2007.
P.S. Tvdxer, if you haven't tried fesenjan, I recommend it. Even if it's not to your taste, it'll be an experience!
Thanks for the report, tart. I just noticed this place as we cruised down Nicollet on New Years Day toward Jun Bo.
I'm a little confused by your comparison to Caspian Bistro, though. Are you doing so because the restaurants are related or because the menus are similar? Thanks in advance for the clarification.
That's the space that used to be Cintia's of Mexico if I am not mistaken, which was one of the worst meals I have ever had. Cintia's made me think Minnesota Mexican food circa 1980 (think green bell pepper used in place of jalepeno) It even rivaled the worst "mexican" meal I have ever had, Don Pablos of Richfield.
I sort of had the impression they shared a kitchen with Tailgate and were two faces of the same ownership. I went to Tailgate on someone else's invitation ( they had a coupon, always a good sign). The food there was BAD. Even the grilled cheese in the kids menu came out barely toasted with unmelted american cheese. How do you mess up grilled cheese?
If you get Minneapolis Channel 6 there is a guy who does a lot of food reviews. He did both this place and Tailgate, and they are both owned by the same owner, who I thinkis Iranian. Tailgate is bad, but I was hoping Shirza would be good. The guy on Channel 6 thought it was, but I don't think he is trustworthy.
Thanks for going Tart. I live near this place but couldn't even convince my SO to try it out without any reviews. I get the impression that the restaurant side whether it is Cintia's or Shiraz exist to help Tailgate's liquor license status. I believe that in most neighborhoods in Mpls outside of Downtown and Uptown a place needs to do 50% of its business in food to get a hard liquor license. Does anyone know the rule? Soupkitten?
re: bob s
actually i think the 60/40 thing relates to 3.2 establishments & wine, unless this is something i don't know about-- if a 3.2 place has 60% gross receipts in food, they can get a license to sell wine with an ordinance rather than a separate license. the thing about a 3.2 license is that it can be issued *either* by the county *or* the city, so it is a way to open up a 3.2 place w/o having to go thru mpls. lq board-- i.e. much easier for some folks-- & then you could go ahead & get the ordinance to sell wine. if they sell hard lq they have to go thru city board no matter what, although it is true that many bars are grandfathered in. does this make sense? i haven't been to cintia's/shiraz/tailgate so i am kind of guessing.