Despite being barely 18 months old, Miramar's Grill House Cafe is no drooling baby. The Iranian eatery has grown past the shaky crawling stage undergone by many newbies and settled into an easy stride. If it weren't for its dark-yellow walls, the large, high-ceilinged restaurant would feel cold and flat. But the warm color adds intimacy, creating the kind of environment best suited for devouring hearty, belly-filling meals.
Grill House Cafe (9494 Black Mountain Road) is bookended by Indian joints and auto shops. But don't judge the restaurant by the jumble of oily car-repair centers across the street; the food here is solid and the prices are fair. For instance, the ash reshteh, or mixed bean soup, was a sturdy dish priced at less than $4. The vegetarian appetizer pleased with its chewy noodles and chopped cilantro, parsley, spinach and chives. A glob of yogurt topped the thick winter stew. Chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans were the star players, and added texture.
I also ordered the Shirazi salad, a simple mix of diced tomato, cucumber and red onion dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and mint. Though the cucumbers stayed crunchy and the tomatoes were ripe, the salad needed an extra splash of lemon juice for that zingy acidic punch.
Mansour, the Grill's friendly, bespectacled owner, visited our table and sparked up conversation. He said he used to be the manager of Convoy's Parsian International Market. A part of the now-closed mart lives on at Grill House in the form of boxed sweets and tubs of loose-leaf tea sold in the back.
Familiar Iranian favorites dominate the menu, including ghormeh sabzi— an herb-heavy stew flavored with dried lemon and spices—chicken and beef kabobs and fessenjoon, a pomegranate and walnut stew. Sandwiches like the gyros wrap tiptoe from traditional cuisine, while the beef kabob sarnie is a fresh alternative to the usual meat-and-rice pairing.
Feeling extra carnivorous, my grub buddy and I ordered the chicken sandwich and the beef-kabob plate. We requested a side of torshi, or Persian pickles. The chicken sammie benefited from the hot zing and crunch of the cauliflower pickles. Chewy pita held together the chicken kabob pieces, lettuce, tomato and onion. The result was savory but needed a final coat of both flavor and texture to really shine. And although the pickles helped, they didn't elevate the sandwich to extraordinary heights.
The beef-kabob plate, however, had me at first bite. The meat's rich juices flavored the bread underneath, and two grilled tomatoes added a nice tartness. Somagh , a powdery condiment that's sour in that lip-pursing kind of way, pairs well with the gently charred meat—a shaker full of the reddish stuff should be on your table. The bee-kabob plate reminded me of summers I spent in Shiraz, my grandpa bent over his charcoal grill, smoke slow-rising over hot and sputtering beef skewers.
The dessert options are few, but after such a filling meal, dessert would have been a struggle. I settled for a glass of hot tea sweetened with sugar cubes. On my way out, though, I snagged a box of pastries—sweet company for the drive home.