The Place: A Kababi is a place to go for kebabs, often in bazaars and on rooftops in the Middle East. In South Florida, head to Sunrise for authentic Persian-style kebabs and stews known as khoresht to eat with fragrant rice at Kababi Cafe. It’s in a shopping plaza with arched walkways that give the whole mall an Arabian feel. It was a short lived Italian place, but the decor resembles an old Tehran cafe with a full bar and cases filled with flatbreads, cakes and bags of dried aloo, a type of Persian plum. There is also a small market where you can stock up on cardamom-scented black tea, jars of pitted sour cherries, pistachio nougat and orange blossom water.
The History: Owner Hamid Shirdel left Iran in 1978 a year before the revolution and has never been back. He studied broadcasting at Kings Borough Community College in Brooklyn, where he met his American wife and played jazz and blues guitar in various clubs. They moved to Los Angeles and opened an auto service business. But after he was in a serious car accident, they moved to South Florida where he had a relative. He opened his first restaurant. When his rent went up two years ago, he moved to his current location. His chef is Lauren Campbell, who went to high school with his daughter and is her best friend. She went to a magnet cooking program for three years and then was trained by Shirdel and has been with him eight years.
The Food: Start with sabzi khordan, a platter of fresh herbs, radishes, walnuts and green onions with feta cheese served with nan-e sangak, yeasted whole wheat flat bread. There are beef, chicken, and veggie kebabs marinated in onion juice, citrus and saffron and spice blends called advieh served with powdered sumac berries to add a lemony tang. There’s also gheimeh, a stew of yellow split peas with tomato and beef, and ghormeh sabzi — beef stewed with kidney beans in a green herb sauce. Albaloo polo is rice with dried sour cherries that comes with tender grilled chicken. The menu includes Persian soups, shoor (pickles), dips, falafel, kebabs, stews, polo (rice pilaf) with herbs and dried fruit, and rosewater-infused desserts. Cool rosewater, pistachio and saffron ice cream is a sweet end.
You Didn’t Know This: Tahdig, crunchy pieces of rice from the bottom of the pot always given to a guest to enjoy with Kababi’s braised chicken with onions in a walnut and pomegranate molasses sauce with a tart, rich nutty and fruity flavor.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.
If You Go
Place: Kababi Cafe
Address: 3828 N. University Dr., Sunrise (in the American Oak Plaza)
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday
FYI: All you can eat lunch buffet for $11.95 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday