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Tasty Kabob in Tempe: Persian Cuisine Hiding in Plain Sight

Though not as well-known as other Mediterranean restaurants east of ASU's Tempe campus, Tasty Kabob has faithfully been serving Persian food since 2003. And with a much more traditional atmosphere and menu than many of the others, Tasty Kabob offers an entirely different taste of Middle Eastern cuisine than you may have had elsewhere.

To start, Persian food is eaten in Iran, and the cuisine revolves around grilled meats, fragrant spices, and heaping portions of basmati rice. Though it's similar to other Middle Eastern cuisines, Persian fare emphasizes astringent flavors that you'll find in many dishes.

We began with ghormeh sabzi, a traditional Persian stew of fresh parsley, cilantro, and other herbs and beef simmered with dried lime. The stew's appeared with an intense shade of dark green and had an almost bitter flavor that paired well with the generous chunks of beef. Dried lime, a common flavoring in Persian cooking, added a nice bitter and citrusy profile that reminded us of the flavor of collard greens. The stew was served with a heaping pile of basmati rice, which helped mellow out the complex flavors.

We also ordered the gyro plate (though we were fully aware gyro isn't the most traditionally Persian dish on the menu). We had no regrets. The gyro at Tasty Kabob featured extremely thinly sliced beef and lamb and offered a much more delicate texture than typical thicker-shaved gyro meat. Despite the delicate texture, the meat was flavorful and surprisingly light. And the dish was made even more refreshing by the addition of fresh cucumber, tomatoes, and a tangy tzatziki sauce. Again, it was served with a mountain of steaming basmati rice — thankfully, the owner had suggested we order the half rice, half salad option when he took our order. 

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Last up was a chicken shish kabob soltani plate, a dish that featured boneless pieces of chicken marinated in turmeric and saffron. The grilled chicken had a spectacular golden yellow color, and Tasty Kabob somehow managed to get a crisp outer crust while keeping the inside tender. 

The plate also included a skewer of koobideh, a ground meat kebab hugely popular in Persian cuisine. This one offered ground beef and, not surprisingly, a ton of spices. While we enjoyed the flavor of the koobideh, we wished it were moister. A side of grilled vegetables had a nice char that highlighted the veggie's natural sweetness, and, of course, there was a side of basmati rice. 

Tasty Kabob's Persian cuisine offers interesting flavors that you can't find at just any Middle Eastern restaurant and the service and laid-back vibe make it a worthwhile restaurant to explore. 

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