Persian food is hard to find in South Florida but there’s plenty to explore on the menu at Rumi Persian Grill in Pinecrest.
Forget that it’s in a strip mall. Through the door is another realm, laced with the scent of saffron and rosewater. Named after Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and mystic, the restaurant opened in January and offers dishes the owners grew up eating, humble stews and steamed rice. Ali Khakpour and his wife, Homa, will feel like family after a visit and insist you stay for another glass of tea. Both are from Shiraz in Southwest Iran near the ancient city of Persepolis. You can taste the layers of history in one of the stews washed down with a yogurt soda.
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The spinach pie with onion and garlic is baked in a soft pita. Kashk bademjan is grilled and mashed eggplant, topped with caramelized onion and garlic bits, with a dollop of thick tangy labneh (drained yogurt). Tahdig is the crispy golden crust that forms on the bottom of a slow cooked pot of rice and here it is served as a starter with a choice of khoresht Persian-style lamb stews.Related content
One can also begin with ash-e reshteh, a noodle soup with lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and fresh herbs. Jujeh chicken kebab are seasoned with turmeric and saffron and served with a creamy garlic sauce. There’s also a falafel plate with hummus and a Mediterranean platter with stuffed grape leaves, olives, feta and hummus.
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There are so many stews to try. Ghormeh sabzi is made with herbed kidney beans, sour lime and lamb. Gheymeh is split yellow peas simmered with dried lime and lamb. The delicious stews are worth it just for the rice served on the side: perfectly cooked basmati that has been steamed in a tightly covered pot until each grain is separate and the pot smells like the kitchen after popping a batch of popcorn.
Add a selection of kebabs to your communal meal. Choose from kubideh ground beef skewers, seasoned with onion, salt, pepper and turmeric, or shish kebab made with beef tenderloin, chunks of tomato, bell pepper, red onion, summer squash and button mushrooms. Vegetarians can opt for the grilled, skewered veggies.
The Rumi special combo includes strips of grilled filet mignon, saffron jujeh chicken kebab and ground beef kubideh kebab. A braised lamb shank is served in a thick tomato jus. Some days there’s kookoo, a sort of Persian frittata topped with tart-sweet dried barberries.
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Order the walnut baklava served with whipped cream. Or try the Persian ice cream, bastani sa’labi. It sums up the flavors of Iran: rosewater and liquid saffron thickened with the ground root of a species of orchid.
Hidden Gems highlights out-of-the-way restaurants in Miami-Dade county. Itis not intended to be an anonymous, critical review. For more Hidden Gems visit Miami.com.
Rumi Persian Grill
Address: 12257 South Dixie Highway, Pinecrest
Contact: 305-252-2222, rumipersiangrill.com
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday noon-9 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $4-$13, soups/salads $4-$9, entrees $12-$36, desserts $4-$5
F.Y.I. Lunch specials Monday-Friday for $10, free parking in the strip m