Cheap Eats 2007: Shamshiry

One minute it’s Dean Martin crooning a ballad, next it’s the Who thrashing about in rock-opera fury. Then a haunting arrangement from a bakhshi, an instrumentalist/singer/storyteller, fills the dining room. Which might suggest a restaurant with no clear direction, but Shamshiry is as focused as any place in the area. The heart of the Persian menu is the spit-fired kebabs and the lovingly gilded rices, called polos—dishes for which this tiny restaurant in a Tysons office building has almost no peer.

The kubbideh, or beef-kebab platter, is a marvel—two long flanks of luscious, assertively seasoned minced meat. A mound of fluffy, buttered white rice alongside the meat waits for you to crack in a raw egg—you order it extra—and stir until the grains are glossy and rich. To say that no other dish approaches this pinnacle of deliciousness is not a slur. The soft, pink salmon with herbed rice is excellent, as are the chicken kebabs, succulent cubes crusty with char from the grill. Rice is an end in itself in Persian cooking, and Shamshiry honors the tradition with its shirin polo, a fragrant dish studded with pistachios, almonds, and candied orange peel and suffused with saffron.

The prices are so reasonable and the surroundings so plain that you don’t expect to be taken care of. But there’s elegance in eating here, from the white tablecloths to the lovely pot of hot tea available for the end of the meal. It’s a fine companion for the cream roll or the saffron-and-rose-water ice cream—a dish as simple and luxurious as Shamshiry itself.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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 Logan Circle.