NOTE: This restaurant is now closed
Laura’s been doing quite a bit of evening work, so I’ve been on my own to explore dining options around town. It being Mardi Gras, I thought some Cajun food might be in order. However, there’s only one place that I know of, and it was jam-packed when I drove by. I wound up at a place I had spotted on Haywood Road sometime back called the Caspian Grill.
The Caspian Grill has been on Haywood for a couple of years. During the course of the evening, I found out that it is owned by the same folks that operated the Kabob House Grill that used to be on Pelham Road, and that it shares many traits with that previous incarnation.
The facade of the restaurant is an imposing black monolith broken only by a neon sign and the entryway. It’s a stark contrast to the other storefronts in this little strip mall. This evening the doors were open and one entered through a set of two curtains. There is one large square dining room with a horseshoe bar in the middle and tables to the outsides. The tones are dark, with Middle Eastern fabrics and artwork adorning the walls.
Apart from the waiter, I was the only one in the place. Another couple arrived later. I was told that on weekends they feature belly-dancing, and the place gets quite crowded. My server seemed quite proud of their dancers – one from California, one from North Carolina, and one from Germany.
The cuisine is Iranian (or Persian, for the politically squeamish.) There are several Middle-Eastern appetizers and salads ranging from $5 – $8. The specialty, though, is the kabobs. You can get beef, lamb, chicken, vegetables, and even fish served up kabob-style with rice and grilled vegetables. These range from $14 – $25 for the larger combo kabobs.
There is a full selection of wine, beer, and mixed drinks. When I tried to order a martini, I was told that they were under a two-week prohibition because the bartender had unknowingly served an underage drinker over the weekend. I’m hoping they get that straightened out soon, for their sakes.
The meal began with hot pita and a block of feta cheese washed down with hot Persian tea. This appetizer is identical to the one served at the old Kabob House Grill. I ordered a Shirazi Salad, which consisted of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and herbs in an olive oil dressing. The flavors were great, especially when paired with the feta cheese and pita.
For an entree’ I ordered a chicken kabob. This was served with grilled tomatoes and onions and rice. There was a bit of saffron rice over a bed of plain white rice for a nice color contrast. My server immediately dusted the rice with a paprika-like spice sitting on the table, and suggested that I keep the olive oil dressing for my salad to also pour over the rice. I did so.
Everything was quite savory, and the server’s suggestions regarding the olive oil and the spices were right on the money. The flavors were great, and the only thing missing was another piece of pita to accompany the main meal.
I looked for dessert options, hoping for something equally exotic. Unfortunately, they only offered New York cheese cake or ice cream. I’d had plenty of good food already, so I declined.
My server was quite friendly and helpful, making suggestions about the menu and even commenting about the music that was playing. Since we were the only two in there for quite awhile, he struck up a conversation, and told me that he had moved from Tehran to Greenville about 25 years ago. The service was excellent. With such a gregarious waiter, though, I have to wonder how it would be on a crowded evening as he gets drawn into various conversations with other patrons. Still, he was quite enjoyable to converse with.
The food was great, and the service was excellent. Prices seem fairly reasonable. If you’re after savory kabobs, this is a great place to be.