Monday, July 10, 2006

Shalizaar, San Mateo

On Saturday night, Jon and I -- along with another couple -- paid a visit to Shalizaar in downtown San Mateo. It was my first Persian dining experience and, after reading rave reviews on Chowhound, I walked in with fairly high expectations of the place. Unfortunately, I walked out a couple of hours later slightly underwhelmed.

Soon after we sat down, a server brought a complimentary plate of Sabzi -- fresh herbs, green onions, red radish, feta and walnuts -- and a basket of lavash bread. I followed the lead of others and placed a little of each item on a piece of bread, rolled it up and enjoyed.

We ordered two appetizers to start -- the Mast-o-Khiar (Persian yogurt with diced cucumber, dried mint, garlic) and the Tah Dig (crispy rice topped with stew). The Mast-o-Khiar, which we spread on the lavash, was delicious. I especially liked the crunch of the cucumber in the smooth, creamy mixture. The portion is generous, but we tried not to eat it all because we thought we had a second appetizer coming our way. However, a mix-up in the kitchen lead to our entrees arriving before the Tah Dig.

The four of us decided to split two main dishes, and I thought we had ordered the Soltani (filet mignon and ground beef skewers) and the Shishlik (rack of lamb). But we ended up with a huge oval platter that included filet mignon, ground beef, lamb and game hen. Hands-down, my favorite of the bunch was the ground beef, which had the best flavor (onions, saffron, garlic, spices). The lamb chops were also tender and juicy.

When we ordered the Tah Dig, the server told us he would top it with Shalizaar's two most popular stews. The rice was nice and crunchy, but I didn't care much for either of the stews. One consisted of mostly yellow split peas, while the other was a spinach-y sauce. Aside from sampling a little bit of this dish, we hardly touched the Tah Dig plate.

While service was always friendly, it wasn't always efficient. Aside from the appetizer confusion, it took us a while to flag down anyone to give us our check. When the bread plates were cleared, three of us had them removed, yet they inexplicably left one on the table.

So would I go back to Shalizaar? Hmmm... Those ground beef skewers were really tasty. But it's probably not enough to lure me back for a repeat visit.

120 W. 25th Avenue
San Mateo, CA
(650) 341-2600