Its never easy finding good Iranian and Parsi food in Chennai, so when a good Parsi friend told me about Shiraz- an Iranian Restaurant in Chennai, an immediate schedule for lunch was worked out… Saturday Lunch seemed ideal and we headed to Shiraz – a cozy Iranian eatery located within the compound of the Cholamandalam Artists Village on the ECR, Chennai.
Being part of an art gallery has its benefits.. nice arty ambience, shady trees, courtyards scattered with sculptures are complimentary – so reminiscent of some of Mumbais fav hangouts – the Prithvi cafe and the Samovar… the winding passage past the main gallery led to a cozy brick floored courtyard, with sculptures, shaded with trees, inviting tables and chairs and a beaming hostess- Nasrin… the friendly and warm Iranian lady behind Shiraz.
A brief chat with her brother, who runs the place with her, and we knew that Nasrin had almost single handedly converted what used to be the gallery’s garbage dump into this lovely eatery some 18 months back.. something you would not easily believe if you see the charming place it is today.
We left it to Nasrin to help us with the food, and thank god for that!
Some garlic flavored pita bread with a unique eggplant and olive oil flavored humus kickstarted the delightful afternoon, with a very unique guava sorbet – bright pink pulp of fresh guavas blended with crushed ice was a refresher like none other.. it almost made up for them not serving beer on a hot april afternoon….
Main course recommended by Nazrin was the platter – in choices of chicken, fish and mutton – one portion of gravy and a portion of flavored rice or palao and some veggies..one word- NICE! We ordered for fish and mutton. The fish came as deep fried fillets in a tangy green curry sauce, while the mutton came with a rich tomato and eggplant gravy .. the mutton was superbly tender and the unique eggplant and tomato combination came together very well… Nasrin did send across a small portion of a lovely sweet orange rind flavoured palao, which is usually served with the chicken platter… boy! did she make sure that we would order the chicken platter next time… it was great… subtle and flavoured to perfection, the orange rinds added great colour to the dish….
They also dished up some white sauce pasta for the kids, which was promptly polished off…
desserts was surely not to be missed, given that each of the dishes so far had impressed… Rose Water flavoured Ice cream with carrot cake was recommended and immediately accepted. .. the rose water comes from Iran, said Nazreen and had a nice unique zing to it… and was a perfect way to polish off the meal..
Shiraz doesn’t advertise, and with good reason.. they dont want to be swamped by larger groups, which they feel will affect service.. their current levels of personal attention is something they want to hold onto, and it makes perfect sense… they dont have a very large choice of dishes, but have some popular ones and the hard core regulars swear by them. add to this the fact that Nasrin pretty much needs to do most of the cooking, given the unique recipes, means that the lesser crowded it gets the better it is…
it seems to be enough to keep the iranians and their small little cafe going alright!
Cafe Shiraz, Cholamandalam Artists Village, Next to VGP Beach Resort, East Coast Road, Chennai.
Meal for 2 adults and 2 kids – around Rs. 1500/-
Open for lunch on all days, and dinner on Saturdays. Buffet for dinner on Saturday, and lunch on sunday. A la carte rest of the time.
Kishore Panikkar, Chennai; India.
Kishore Panikkar is a leading architect in Chennai where he is a Partner at architecture RED, an award winning architectural studio. Originally hailing from Mumbai, he now lives in Chennai with his wife and children.
Kishore has been a regular reader on Parsi Khabar and is one of our guest authors.