June 2006 Cheap Eats

You can hardly drive a mile in Arlington or Falls Church without passing yet another place offering skewered meat. Some of these kebab houses deliver the goods. But so far, no single kebab can match the kubideh at this small, noise-filled Persian restaurant on the ground floor of an office building in Tysons.

Aggressively but deftly seasoned, the minced beef is molded around a skewer in such a manner as to allow crucial air pockets to form, then set atop a flaming grill. The result is meat so soft, so full of juicy savor, you don't so much chew it as let it melt in your mouth. No other kebab on the menu reaches that level of greatness, which isn't a complaint–these are excellent kebabs–merely a declaration of how extraordinary the kubideh is.

At many kebab houses, the rice is an accompaniment, or an afterthought; here it's often as good as the kebabs. Cilantro and chopped pistachios enliven a pilaf that conceals thick, flaky hunks of roasted salmon. In another pilaf, a dice of sour cherries mingles with buttery grains of fluffed rice to make a simple dish of startling contrasts. Be sure to ask for an egg on the side when you order the kubideh. You get a cracked-open raw egg in a plastic cup. Make a ravine in the mound of rice and dump the contents in, stirring so the egg coats each grain. Simple bliss.

A glass of tangy doogh, the herb-flecked yogurt drink, is a fine way to wash it all down.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.