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Restaurant Wed Mar 31 2010
I've had a limited relationship with Reza's in Andersonville. It was a relationship that was limited but great--I went to Reza's only when I was in the mood for great grilled meats. If I was in the mood for Middle Eastern vegetables, I would go to Andie's, conveniently located next door. Reza's grilled meats were unbeatable (barring Noon o Kabob, which is a bit out of the way for me), and their dill rice was a thing of beauty. As long as I was looking for the right thing (read: meaty things), Reza's never disappointed.
I fear that this relationship--limited but great--may be over. This became apparent when my husband and I recently visited Reza's after a long day at work. We didn't know we wanted grilled meats, but when we walked past Reza's and smelled the smokey, meaty, spicy aroma wafting from their flaming grill somewhere inside, we were instantly craving for their succulent koubideh, ground meat grilled on a stick, so we went in.
Immediately we noticed a little buffet setup in the middle of the dining room--something that wasn't there before. It turned out that the restaurant added the mini buffet of appetizers, salads, soup and dessert to all the entree dishes. I thought it was a bit over the top, considering that Reza's entrees had already been enough to make one dinner and two subsequent lunches (seriously). Who needs Persian salads, hummus, pita, lentil soup, falafels and dessert on top of that? Well, as it turns out, I did; or at least I felt compelled to try some of the offerings. (I confess--I've always liked buffet ever since I was little.)
I didn't expect them to be fantastic, given that they'd been sitting in the hot vat (or ice vat) for a while. However, what I got was a bit less than "not fantastic," slipping dangeously toward "rather pathetic." The Persian salad was fine, but the iceberg lettuce in the caesar salad was wilty. Hummus was passable, but falafels were oily and had lost most of their aroma. A patch of dried-out staleness was spreading through my pita. My husband, who loves falafels and took three pieces (obviously against the frantic whispers not to, by the angel that sits on his shoulder), struggled to down all three of the bland, oily orbs.
By the time our entrees arrived, we were apprehensive. Alas, our apprehension was not unwarranted. The meats were still good, but the dill rice, which in my memory had been a thing of glory, was a pale shadow of its former self. Once fluffy, light and perfect, the rice was heavy and oily. It must have sat under a heat lamp for too long, we concluded. The meats were still good: my chicken pieces were perfectly cooked, and koubidehs were still juicy and carried a whiff of smokiness. But were they as good as they used to be? Probably not. Unless we were beautifying our memory, the meats weren't where they used to be; I'd remembered their chicken koubideh to be in the "orgasmically good" range, but it certainly wasn't there. It was merely good, which, in itself, is commendable but disappointing if one had known what Reza's was capable of. We left with heavy hearts (as well as two heavy containers of leftovers). I hope it was just an "off" night, but recent Yelp reviews seem to suggest that it's the new norm--sadly.
I hope they'll ditch the mini buffet and go back to the made-to-order operation, because that's what they excelled at. Until I hear something to that effect, I'm not sure if I'm going back.