As much as we don’t like Iran’s nuclear programs (pre-Hassan Rouhani at least), I have to go out of my way to say this: I freaking love Iranian food. There aren’t many places in Singapore where you can get authentic Iranian or Middle Eastern cuisine, and where you do, they fail to appease that very Singaporean (and Japanese?) yen towards established, familiar brand names. Shiraz, with its casual dining Mazzeh concept, is, by a long shot, the only big name of its kind when it comes to Middle Eastern dining.
As I’ve said in an article for TimeOut Singapore earlier this year, Shiraz has been heralding a Persian culinary wave across Orchard Road and its tributaries, as it opens yet another Mazzeh to front Plaza Singapura.
In November, it extended its reach to the expat/family enclave of Turf City Grandstand, nestling itself like a diamond in the organic, farm-grown rough that is Pasar Bella. Take away Shiraz from the lifestyle hotspot, from the belly dancers and the spirit-headed daemons of Clarke Quay and Orchard Road, and it will still stand by sheer quality of cuisine.
So recently, they graciously hosted me at their Pasar Bella outlet…
…and I wanna say that I was all cool and professional about it, but my god I had a lot of fun.
Here are some highlights from the evening’s samplings:
The Meigu Pollo harkens our palates to briyani rice, but with infusions of saffron to add an assertive Middle Eastern flavour and flair to the serving. Shiraz uses basmati rice in its pollos, a fluffy, absorbent long grain variant that is delightfully ennobled by rich spices – aforementioned saffron included. The pollo comes with other meat options, including chicken and lamb, but my personal favourite was the prawn-laden Meigu option.
The succulent mixed kubideh’s standout star is the lamb – tender, packed with flavour that only charcoal grilled meat can offer. Lemon slices provide the zesty option, but they’re brilliant as they are. The mixed kubideh is the priciest item on the menu, but works brilliantly shared between 3-4 fellow carnivorous friends. Unless one of those friends happens to be Joey Tribbiani.
We brought a fantastic meal to a climax with the baghlava – rich, sweet filo pastry topped with chopped nuts. It was an exotic dessert, unconventional, foreign and sumptuous – every bite a sweet-sour, textural adventure.
The thing is, you can hardly go wrong when it comes to food at Shiraz; that’s how they’ve managed to develop such a pronounced presence in Orchard Road. So a Mazzeh satellite in Turf City is not exactly out of place, removed as it is from Shiraz’s more central outlets. Ultimate, it’s kebab fun for the whole family. If The Avengers had a Singaporean remake, that final semi-hidden shawarma scene will be shot here.