On the Vernal Equinox, I made a res via Opentable to check out Kolbeh Restaurant in Mountain View on the eve of Nowruz, Persian New Year. A few minutes later while driving to the restaurant, I got a call to confirm that we were indeed coming. Further, I was asked if I wanted to order in advance. I explained that it would be my first time at the restaurant so I would need more time to get my bearings and a feel for the menu. Sensing that we would be rushed out so the staff could leave for new year's celebrations, I said we would be arriving early and that was well-received.
Kolbeh is in a small, free-standing building surrounded by its own parking lot. From the outside, it looks like a kabob shack.
However, the interior has been decorated for a more refined experience with earth tones and set with white cloth napkins. At the front counter, the traditional هفتسین (haft-sin) was on display with the emblems of spring.
For all of the rushing I felt before, none seemed to be in play once we arrived. It took longer than expected to get our order in. Our first appetizer was Baba Ghanoush, $6,95, an excellent version. Very smoky, creamy with tahini and olive oil, and smoldering with pungent garlic, this was a big portion and served with warm, soft pita triangles.
Shirazi salad, $5.95, was deliciously seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, and flecked with dried mint and ground sumac. The tomatoes were not flavorful out-of-season, but they were precisely diced along with the cucumbers and onion. This was good on its own, when mixed with the baba ghanoush, or as a relish for the kabob.
Koobideh kabobs, $11.95, were extra juicy and could have used a bit more char, but perhaps that is the trade-off. Nice job on the broiled tomato, cooked all the way through for ease of smooshing on the rice and releasing all the juices.
When we noticed that Friday's special was Baghali polo with lamb shank, $16.95, I asked our server if there might be any leftover from the day before. She checked and we were in luck, one order left. However, only plain rice and no baghali polo (rice with dill and lima beans) available.
The lamb shank was fork tender, coming off the bone easily. Mildly seasoned, the lamb and its juices were not that intense in flavor. Texture-wise, this was cooked well, but did not really deliver on the palate. Perhaps it would be better with the right rice accompaniment.
For dessert, Bastani, $5.99, saffron ice cream topped with ground pistachios. This was a generous serving. But the ice cream was rather icy and gummy in parts with none of the shards of frozen clotted cream I like so much in Persian ice cream.
Meats are halal here, alongside wine service. We did not order any alcohol this time. I had a glass of Doogh, $2.99.
The restaurant stopped seating earlier than usual, in an effort to close up soon and make a quick exit. I'd noticed a couple staffers peel off early. Even so, we had a bit of a wait to get our check. Our server insisted on boxing our leftovers for us which caused another long delay when she got side-tracked with another table. We were asked to help ourselves to cookies and dates on the haft sin on our way out.
Service aside, the food's good and fresh. And prices are a bargain for this area. We'd happily return to Kolbeh.
1414 W El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
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