Thanks to the board, I located Moby Dick House of Kebab last night (across Huntington Ave from the Huntington Theatre... not sure of the address). Having never had Persian/Iranian food before, I wasn't sure what to expect.
The restaurant does, in fact, resemble a pizza joint in decor (hard plastic booths, tables, order at the counter). But it's really clean inside, and actually quite pleasant. You order at the counter, and the owner is super nice and friendly and helpful. We got the eggplant appetizer that she recommended (hot mashed eggplant, topped with walnuts and fried onions - $4), the tahdig (crunchy rice from the bottom of the pot topped with a salty chicken stew situation - $5), the lamb kebab plate (5 hefty chunks served with rice, roasted onion, tomato, green pepper - $14.95), and two specials -- one a chicken cooked with pomegranate, the other a chicken cooked with sour cherries, nuts, and rice (both $14.95). Each main came with a choice of salad -- we got one of each -- a yogurt cucumber (like raita or tzatziki, but not), a chopped tomato/cucumber/onion/vinegar one, and a house salad with a tasty yogurt dressing. The total came to $60 even, and there were 4 of us, and we were full. Dinner was served with giant pieces of pita-like (but thinner) bread. DELICIOUS.
We loved everything. I have to say, I haven't tasted food quite like this before, ever. I don't know if it was the use of a spice I'm unfamiliar with, or the lack of a seasoning (garlic?) that appears frequently in combinations with these types of dishes. But I loved it. The food tasted really clean, and really vibrant and delicious. Not oily or greasy at all, and everything was so impeccably prepared.
The appetizers were great -- I liked the eggplant dip, esp. since it was still raining when we got there, and it was hearty and warm. It was rich and soothing, but lacked zip or acidity (not necessarily a bad thing), so I took to topping it with some of the yogurt cucumber sauce. The tahdig was delicious, and definitely the value deal of the evening -- it's an appetizer, but easily big enough to be an entree. The rice was crunchy and a good foil for the salty and tender saucy shredded chicken on top. I also liked topping this with the yogurt sauce. The yogurt cucumber sauce was good, milder than raitas or tzatziki -- I don't believe there was any garlic or lemon in it. I enjoyed the chopped vegetable salad -- a nice fresh palate cleanser that actually reminded me a bit of a fattoush salad -- perhaps it was the sumac.
The standout dish for me was the chicken cooked in pomegranate. It was delicious, and simple. Chicken, no skin, no bones, with that tender-falling-apartness that you get from low-slow cooking. The pomegranate flavor wasn't readily identifiable as pomegranate, but it lent a nice sweetness and flavor to the dish. GREAT comfort food. The lamb was also a favorite -- succulent, tender, big chunks of well-marinated lamb. Both were served with sides of AWESOME perfect rice. I least enjoyed (but still enjoyed it greatly) the chicken with sour cherries -- it was cooked with the rice, all together, and yellow. Once again, the chicken had that melting texture, and the cherries were soft and tasty, but because of the rice, there wasn't as much concentration of flavor. A more subtle dish, perhaps?
As one of my dining companions said, "I could live off of this rice by itself." I don't know what variety of rice it is, long grained, but skinny, and each grain very independent of the next. No noticeable seasonings added -- just delicious, perfect rice.
I might need to attend more Huntington/Symphony events as an excuse to go back to Moby Dick! Also, cash only, no credit cards. It was empty when we got there (6:15), but by the time we left, people were waiting for our table.