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Khayam Brookline...disappointing

DW and I tried Khayam last night. This is the sister restaurant to Jasmine in Watertown, meant to be a little more upscale Persian. It is a rather austere space with two dining rooms and was completely empty at 7 last night (only open since last Thursday). The good news is for their opening their ample lunch specials for $5.99 are available in the evenings. The bad news is the food is isn't really very good. We had the stuffed grape leaves to start and these were good, redolent of mint, lemon and a good olive oil. The lunch platters we ordered were beef shwarma and kubide (ground beef on grilled on skewers) ad both are served with rice pilaf, hummus, and a fattoush salad. The meat was OK with the kubide having a nice spicing, the pita was grilled but from a package. The rice was a disaster. I'm not an expert on cuisine from this part of the world but it is my understanding that the center and highlight of the meal is perfectly prepared pilaf rich with flavor with meats, salads and dips complementing the rice. This pilaf was just sad. If I were to guess, it tasted like unheated leftovers from lunch. For an extra $1.99 one could substitute one of the high end pilaf and we ordered saffron, pistachio, carrot and bayberry and another with sour cherry. Well, these amounted to cold partially cooked rice with the additional ingredients spooned on. I always go to new places like this hoping for a wee grandmother in the back lovingly stirring several pots at once (think the sorely missed Reef Cafe in Allston). Grandma certainly wasn;t back there and would have fainted dead away tasting this pilaf. Rant over.

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    1. re: MC Slim JB

      Oh no, they've violated the MC Slim JB Rules.

      1. re: Luther

        You don't think that's a reasonable question, Luther?


        1. re: Luther

          Restaurants do need time to settle in and Slim has a particular need to give a place a fair chance. I stand by my review of the dreadful pilaf as yumyum says, pilaf is very very important (it breaks an Asian lad's heart. Given it was their first Tuesday night (chef's night off?), perhaps others can try it after awhile.

      2. Perhaps (hopefully!) they just need to work the kinks out. I was at another new restaurant about a week ago and the general manager was chatting with us about how the kitchen was still getting up to speed and was having some glitches here and there. Let's hope this is the case with Khayam.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hiddenboston

          Yes, I hope so too. It opened last thursday so kinks are certainly probable. But. rice is so central to the cuisine. My emotions got the better of me.

          1. re: gourmaniac

            This is why I heart you. Pilaf is very very important. ;-)

            1. re: yumyum

              Yes, I agree - it's one thing to allow for a rough start at a restaurant that's only a few days old, but if the kitchen can't put out decent rice and it's a rice-based cuisine, that's very very hard to forgive!

        2. I had lunch there on Tuesday. The food was ok. I'd give it another shot. The lunch plates had a small main course, some chopped village salad, humous, rice and of course pita. The rice was undercooked and the spicing of everything, including the humous, needed to be kicked up. I understand that spicing in cold weather when nostrils and the sense of smell aren't in top gear means that food will taste bland, so I don't pass absolute judgment.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lergnom

            They'll never be able to compete with Rami's humus at this rate. Undercooked rice can't be a good sign.

          2. Just returned from lunch at Khayam today, and overall it was good but not spectacular. The grilled pita they bring out at the beginning of the meal is obviously store bought and thrown on the grill for a moment, which was disappointing because fresh pita bread is such a treat. I ordered the vegetarian lunch platter and my DC ordered the lamb kebabs (each $5.99) and the food came out quickly. Mine included falafel (very tasty), stuffed grape leaves (pretty tasty), hummus (ok), persian salad (needed more dressing), and basmati rice (meh). Overall, most parts of the platter could have used more/better spicing. My DC's dish came with the lamb kebabs, rice, hummus and salad. He said that the lamb was pretty good, but I did not try any as I don't eat lamb. He also felt that the rice was boring, but that he'd get the lunch special again. Our lunch was good in that it was inexpensive, came out quckly, offered a variety of foods within one order and tasted pretty good. The downside is that nothing was great or memorable. Hopefully things improve within the next week or two, as I had high hopes for this place.

            1. We did takeout from Khayam a few days ago, and it was a mixed bag. The rice was bland and tasteless, while the falafel was dry and also rather bland. The hummus was good, though a bit too creamy and buttery for my liking, while the grape leaves were excellent--very firm and lots of flavor.

              1. Have been to Khayyam a couple of times now. While they do have some problems, I found that they do a decent enough job on the $5.99 all day specials and some of the items on the Persian menu. I particularly enjoyed the kashk bademjan (despite the abysmal pita,) kebob kubideh and the morgh kubideh.

                The rice at Khayyam was ok, but I was hoping for a more the flavorful chelo that is the staple of most Persian cuisine. They use basmati rice, which is correct, but they don’t add the butter and yogurt like they should, which is why it’s rather dry and flavorless. The rice that is served at Khayyam with their $5.99 specials should be reserved for the stew (khoresht.) I guess it’s not cost effective for them to make chelo daily which is why they opt for the plain basmati.

                Like other posters, I have a big problem with the frozen pita that is tossed on the grill. It is not part of Persian cuisine, but other Persian places like Molana use it too, so I guess it’s the norm for the area. They should at the very least be using lavash which is widely available. Heck, even fresh pita would be a step up.

                I won’t comment on the hummus because I grew up on the stuff, and while there are places that do a decent job (Jerusalem Pita,) it’s hard not to compare it to my family’s version.

                I think that they should ditch the Mediterranean menu and focus on Persian cuisine. I saw someone having a falafel plate and they were the preformed ones that looked pretty dense and dry. I did have a couple of bites of shawarma to see what it was about. They definitely aren’t cooking it on a doner machine so it was more liked grilled marinated chicken. Not terrible, but definitely not true shawarma.

                I plan to return again and try some of the Persian main courses which should be a true test of how good they are. Has anyone ordered any of these or anything other than the $5.99 specials or items from the Mediterranean menu? I would like to hear how they do with what they should know best.

                1. Incredibly disappointing on so many levels.
                  1. Cold and dark inside.
                  2. Could not find anything tasty--runny hummus, flavorless rice, underdressed salad. My kebab was tender but lacked flavor or any depth. My dining companion had hot grape leaves that tasted like they were filled with sludge.
                  3. The pita was store-bought and served with butter packets.

                  For the same money, I could get a complete plate at Rami's (down the street), where all food would be the right temperature, and everything would have plenty of flavor.

                  I hope things will get better. I plan to go back in the spring and (assuming they are still in business) give it another chance. It would be nice to have more local restaurants succeed.

                  1. I had dinner here the other night and everything was delicious. We had the Persian salad, beef shawarma and an okra stew (cant remember the name. The rice pilaf's that were served with the courses were wonderful and completley different from each other. One was with orange peel and the other with saffron. All three dishes were reallly really good with the okra stew being the standout. Also had delicious wine options at $6.50 a glass. When I told the waitress how awesome the food was she told me that they had recently brought in a new chef, who was doing a great job. I agree. Sadly, we were the only table on a Tuesday night. I noticed the last post for this place was 2010, Im curious as to whether anyone else has been there lately ?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: nachovegas


                      yes, we had a neg experience, described above.
                      That's great that a new chef is there; thx for that info!

                      1. re: nachovegas

                        As the OP (with a negative critique), I'm glad that they turned the food experience around. i hope they make it. There are so many good options in that part of Allston.