The mast-o-khiar (yogurt with cucumber), and fatoosh salad. Rear: Sangak bread and tray of herbs and cheese at Taaj Kabob & Grill. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
The tray of herbs may not be as fanciful as at some of Atlanta’s other Persian restaurants, which sometimes include tarragon, mint, walnuts, radishes and olives. It’s not really a “dish” at all, just basil, cheese and butter. But that’s OK. The kebabs are the main attraction, and they are heavenly.
Start with koobideh, gently seasoned ground chicken or beef, pressed into long flat rectangles (rather than the usual sausage shape) that easily tug apart into bite-size segments. Both the chicken and the beef koobideh are equally delicious.
The kebab platter with lamb chunks and chicken koobideh at Taaj Kabob & Grill. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
I also like the kebabs threaded with chunks of thinly sliced filet mignon and lamb, the latter of which is rubbed with a tangy saffron marinade that gives it a steak sauce-y quality. Both are remarkably tender, but the koobideh is the meat stick for me. These kebab platters, which can be ordered in various combos, come with rice, one charry grilled tomato, a purple cabbage slaw and slivers of marinated onions dusted with sumac.
Kashk badenjoon is one of the delicious eggplant dips at Taaj Kabob & Grill. The eggplant is fried, smashed, drizzled with whey and garnished with crispy fried onions and mint. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
To go with your sangak, you may want some of the classic Iranian spreads. The hummus is slick, smooth, tasty; the eggplants dips even better. We want all the aubergine! Kashk badenjoon (fried, smashed and dressed with cream of whey, crispy onion and mint); mirza ghasemi (a warm, smoky version blended with tomato sauce and garlic); and the baba ghanoush (mixed with tahini, spices and herbs, and also noticeably smoky).
The eggplant dips at Taaj Kabob & Grill are wonderful. Here are the smoky mirza ghasemi (front) and the baba ghanoush (back). CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Taaj serves two yogurt-based condiments, one with cucumber (mast-o-khiar) and another with shallots (mast-o-musir). Though both are good, the cucumber seems to be the most popular and may be the one to start with. (I like to drizzle the yogurt over the spicy stews and rice, or on the little meat roll-ups I fashion from sangak and kebab.) We were also taken by the traditional fatoosh salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber and strips of crispy flatbread, moistened with a nice vaguely sweet salad dressing) and the crispy fried falafel patties.
If you order the lamb shank at Taaj Kabob & Grill, be sure to get it with the rice pilaf with favas and dill (baghali polo). CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Among the non-kebab entrees, both the lamb shank (in a broth of warm spices like cinnamon and clove) and the classic ghormeh sabzi are solid. Ghormeh sabzi is a veal and kidney bean stew that gets its pungent flavor from dried limes and its muddy green color from the herb-paste base (sabzi) that's ubiquitous in Persian cookery. Here the sabzi is made with spinach, cilantro, parsley and chives, a fairly standard recipe. Just make sure you request your shank with the baghali polo, a buttery, dill-flecked fava pilaf that's a substantial side dish on its own.
We were less in love with the khoresh gheymeh, an orange lentil stew zingy with fenugreek and dried lime and topped garnish of canned potato sticks. The flavors were interesting, not unappealing, but I wouldn’t make a point of ordering this dish. Not when there are such exceptional meats, breads and dips at hand.
After three visits, I’m happy to report that Taaj ranks among the best Persian in Atlanta. You can find restaurants with deeper menus, fancier trappings, beer, wine. But the sangak and koobideh cannot be topped.
The falafel plate at Taaj Kabob & Grill in Peachtree Corners. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
TAAJ KABOB & GRILL
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. 6385 Spalding Drive, Suite B, Peachtree Corners. 770-559-8799, taajmarketandrestaurant.com.
Recommended dishes: Mast-o-khiar. Hummus. Kashk badenjoon. Mirza ghasemi. Baba ghanoush. Falafel. Fatoosh. Ghormeh sabzi. Lamb shank. Beef koobideh. Chicken koobideh. Lamb kebab. Barg kebab.
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