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Team Y fails to dress for dinner but finds that Iranian eatery, Shabestan, offers the last word in fine dining.
Looks can be a bit deceptive – especially if you’re judging Shabestan solely by its outer appearance. From up front, the restaurant keeps things stark: there’s a fancy wooden door, and signage that points to the Iranian eatery that, time and again, we’ve overlooked when dining out in Shatti al Qurum.
But after stumbling upon a plethora of images online and rave reviews on Google, we decide to head there one Thursday evening.
Dressing casually for our visit turns out to be a huge mistake as we realise we’re in what can only be described as an Iranian palace. However, the waiters are courteous enough to seat us in one of the corners (as per our request).
There’s also no escaping the slightly reproving eyes of some of the other diners, who have dressed up to the nines. At one point, we even encounter a friend – a minister – dining with his family.
Our host for the evening kindly talks us through the makings of the restaurant – how everything is set like it would be in an Iranian fortress and how there are (inspired) murals from the early days of the ‘Shah Dynasties’ in the VIP rooms.
Call us crazy but somehow we feel that eating at Shabestan is something akin to the dining habits of princes and kings – it’s that exquisite (!)
Either way, keeping our embarrassment aside, we realise that our choice of attire is not a factor in the service we receive. We’re treated with nothing but respect by our waiter – who describes each dish to perfection.
And after what seems to be a five-minute masterclass on Iranian cuisine, we order our starters: a plate of kashkeh-e-bademjan – an eggplant puree mixed with yoghurt, walnuts, onions, dry mint and fresh labneh; a nargesi – fresh spinach sautéed with garlic and kashek and garnished with fried onions; zeytoon parvardeh – a puree of green olives mixed with pomegranate syrup, olive oil, walnuts, parsley, garlic and coriander; and a glass of pineapple and passion fruit juice, and lemon mint.
It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes for the dishes to arrive – a surprising feat considering everything is freshly cooked and to the finest standards.
The starters are accompanied by a serving of freshly-baked bread – but the standout dish is the kashkeh-e-bademjan, which with its fine blend of fresh eggplants and simple yet soothing undertone of yoghurt, wins us over.
The accompanying zeytoon parvardeh is unrivalled too; an Iranian classic that’s accentuated by the fresh bread. The dish can come across as an acquired taste but the chef tones down the sour tendencies of the olives with a healthy dose of pomegranate syrup. It’s an unlikely match but one that we end up savouring.
Next, we opt for main course: the Shabestan royal platter, with a serving of their signature rice offerings.
The main course takes a good 15 minutes to be served – which is understandable, considering how all the ingredients are gathered fresh, and prepared with meticulous attention to detail.
That precision is seen in everything from the presentation of the dishes to the aroma emanating from the mix of meats and seafood that’s served up on the fancy china.
Once set on the table, our eyes immediately wander off course and to the sizzling kabab-e-kubideh – a meat kabab created with ground lamb; and the kabab-e-barg – a slice of the finest beef tenderloin beaten to achieve consistency and maintain a strong zest of the Iranian spices.
Both sit well with us. We even ask for second servings while munching down on the succulent and fresh slices of chicken, prawns, and hammour (brown spotted grouper), along with a healthy serving of spiced rice.
Despite being crammed to the brim, we ask for takeaway too; knowing fully well that it will go down our tummies the second we hit home.
Is it the exquisite food or the amalgamation of fine Iranian fare with the splendour of an equally captivating décor that makes Shabestan special? It’s an easy call: go for the full-blown Iranian experience as opposed to take-out – but let that not undercut the level at which the chefs operate.
This is one of the finest restaurants we’ve come across in Oman. It’s high praise, but then again, Shabestan is nothing short of a first-rate dining experience – unrivalled and unparalleled across all ranks.
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at firstname.lastname@example.org