Iranian Kebabs and Pulao…Served Up, Close & Personal.

As I philosophized to one of my close friends over a batch of pumpkin cream cheese muffins recently:

Every woman needs some high quality trash in her life.

No matter how intellectual and witty and accomplished I’d aspire to be, there are secret moments when I’d much rather curl up to watch Clueless for the eighteenth time or happily lap up the celeb gossip dished out in the OK! or Elle that my manicurist discreetly slides into my lap without my ever explicitly making the request.

So in celebration of those moments in life that help you wind down. turn off. zone out. and in celebration of those friends who are there to enjoy those moments with you – whether it’s the girlfriend who buys the gossipy mag at the airport and softly reads out every column near your ear, forcing you to put away The Economist and cackle with her at the ’21 things that you could do to…,’ or your all-grown-up high school bud who spontanously hops into the car with you after work and chats about that ‘bossy girl back in 10th grade who went out with…’ – it’s in celebration of those moments and those girlfriends that I’ve decided to write this next restaurant review as a celeb interview, with the basic essence of the interview questions being pulled out of Anniston, Angelina, Kiera Knightley, Katy Perry,  and many other ‘close-up and personal’ interviews that I’ve read in the past googled specifically for this post. (yep, it is a blog about the food that I eat and love, and indeed, it is an interview of me, by me, and no, my middle name is not Narcissist.)

I’ve also dragged my friend, one of my favorite ladies in town and a willing accomplice in this latest restaurant excursion, as a co-interviewee. So really, it’s not entirely about me.

Moi = FP (Frying Pan)
My Lady friend = MLF (My Lady Friend)

So you both were spotted driving aimlessly around jumeirah beach road…does this have anything to do with your latest gig?
MLF: Yes, we are always inspired by the local culture…

FP: That, and I was just in the mood for restaurant roulette that day…

Restaurant roulette? Is that even a real thing?
FP: Sure it is. It’s when you drive – or even better, leave your car keys behind and just walk – around a city, scope out restaurants you’ve never tried before and randomly pop into one that seems intriguing. You win some, you lose some…but its the thought of sitting down to a dinner table without having done all my usual obsessive cyber review prework, without a clue of what to expect, that just thrills, and scares, me to bits.

Pretty gutsy. What drew you to…what’s the name of the place, See See Saghi?
MLF: Nothing to be honest. I was quite skeptical…dark tinted windows, ancient looking building, just seemed to be an imbalance in its CHI, not to mention it didn’t look like a place that would serve me my regular, Dom Perignon. FP had made up her mind…but all that went through my mind was: “ really you want to eat here.. really!?!?”

FP: Yes really I did want to eat there! It was what the place wasn’t, rather than what it was, that made me want to go in and explore. Ordinary facade, seedy blue tubelights, red flickering “SEE SEE SAGHI” signs…it wasn’t a chain, not inside or next to a mall, not too fashionable to just roll up my sleeves and dig in.

Oh also, it was Iranian. I’m a sucker for good Iranian kebabs.

Tell us about your initial impressions.

FP:  Surreal. Especially after the drab brown walls on the  outside…rainbow-colored entryway, reddish dining room, sassy red chandelier, black and white pre-war style wall frames, intricate Iranian wall and ceiling art, this disturbingly pensive woman’s face staring out from the mural under a royal cushioned canopy, winding staircase lined with old Iranian paintings….it just felt anachronistic, somewhat surreal. I could sense wealth, frivolity, mystery, maybe even hints of eroticism…the same sort of atmosphere I’d associate with a harem. Or maybe an underground mafia hideout (not that I’ve ever been to one, BUT if I had…).

MLF: Funtastic! Was like stepping into a queer museum inside someone’s home and expecting to being served food there, never really sure if you are supposed to be there or you’re simply trespassing!

FP: …actually, it was someone’s reconverted home – or cooky playpen…queer is the perfect word!

What was your inspiration, the driving force, behind the menu choices you made that day?
FP: The past. The irresistably yummy memories of Iranian and Afghani restaurants I’d tried in the past. I wish I’d have the willpower and adventurous spirit of a Steingarten or Bourdain type personality, but when faced with tried and tested favorites like kabab koobideh (minced lamb skewers) and fesenjan (chicken in a sweetish walnut pomegranate gravy), my mind goes into autopilot mode.

MLF: That’s simple; I live for chicken and berries!!!

Could you give us just a little sneak peak into your favorite parts?
MLF (dreamy look…): Moist tender juicy chicken kababs served by an ever-smiling, friendly waitress.

FP: That’s a tough one. I really fell in love with the food, I wouldn’t even know how to begin picking favorites! I mean, would it be the insanely tender minced chicken joojeh kababs that MLF just mentioned? Or the tart barberries with the basmati rice? Or the rich Baunjaun gravy, full of lentils and meat, and thick slices of eggplant that had been grilled till their edges had this intense sweet-smokey char? I don’t know…next question please!

Iranian pulao topped with barberries
Thick steak like chunks of eggplant charred around the edges and dunked in a hearty meat and lentils gravy...

What made you sad?
FP: …that Fesenjan was a special dish made only once throughout the week. But it worked out, I probably wouldn’t have experimented with the eggplant gravy if they had my standard Iranian go-to-dish on the menu.

MLF: The huge dog (statue) that stared at us through the evening.

FP:…that too!

How do you think this compares to your other stints in the city?
MLF: Bizarre.

FP: Almost at par with Shabestan (Radisson Blu) and Sadaf, though maybe a notch below because they had a menu which either missed on specialties like Fesenjan six days of the week, or lacked them altogether (like Spinach Nargizi, a Shabestan must-have!).

Were there ever points during the entire experience where you each felt unsure of yourselves…insecure?
FP (hesitates): Um, I guess. I was a bit anxious about not having researched up the place at all before coming. What IF they were known for some unbelievable specialty and I didn’t discover it? I could barely stop myself from blackberrying online reviews to get the download on the place…

MLF (with a self-assured huff): Nope. I’m basically a very secure person.

Between this and the three-course french soup, sandwich and pumpkin muffin meal that we heard you ladies cooked up last Friday, you ladies will be role models for food lovers all over the city. Let’s face it. But do you think you’ll keep that in mind while planning other food ventures in the future?
FP: No, I mean, yes. (sighs deeply, profoundly) For me, defining your culinary experiences is not about what’s hot or fashionable, like cupcakes, in the market or about schmanzy restaurants with celeb chefs…it’s about following your heart…your most basic, inner primal instincts…whether it’s out in the city or in my kitchen…and just being happy. I too often fall into the trap of going with the most reviewed place in town, but its way more liberating to go off and find your own thing, be spontaneous, and not feel compelled to conform to the timeouts of the world. That spontaneity, that self-definition, that security in who you are and what you eat…I definitely want that to be a stronger part of my food explorations in the years to come, less because I have any visions of being a role model for anyone, but more because that’s just who I want to be.

MLF: Can you repeat the question please? And this time slowly.

Do either of you ever see yourselves going back there?
MLF: Yes, have to try their Fesenjan. She (looks over at FP) just went on and on about them…

FP: Totally. Mainly cause I’m crazy curious about what was behind the saucy chandelier and black lace curtains peeking out the upstairs windows. I’m quite sure that’s some part of the restaurant too, but only spotted it on my way out…have to come back and explore, anyone interested in grabbing a chelo kebab next week?

See See Saghi
Jumeirah Beach Road
Phone: 04 395-6300

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

11 thoughts on “Iranian Kebabs and Pulao…Served Up, Close & Personal.

  1. Sally says:

    I have driven past this odd looking restaurant so many times, I’m so glad you reviewed it. Interesting to see it’s even more bizarre on the inside. I must take the plunge soon and go and eat there. Great review.

    1. iliveinafryingpan says:

      Thanks Sally! Yes, you should definitely try it out if you can…though call them before you go to check out the specials…hate going to a place and getting disappointed when my favs are not on the menu that day…

    1. iliveinafryingpan says:

      yes, gotta go there, all four of us! :)

  2. DaddyBird says:

    Brilliant! Great to see your discovery! Sounds marvelous! We’ll have to try See See Saghi soon.

    My wife and I are almost always highly rewarded by our "Restaurant Roulette" forays around Dubai. Wonderful surprises abound!

    Lovely post; whimsical as well as informative!

    1. iliveinafryingpan says:

      DaddyBird, thank you for the positive words and for the tweet, I feel flattered! Do try and let me know what you think….I found out after-the-fact that they didn’t get a great review online a while ago (I really do obsess too much over reviews…), so interested to hear what other people think.

      thanks again for stopping by!

  3. Elin says:

    Mmmmm…your pics make me my stomach growl and my salivary glands are are push to work overtime…salivating over my keyboard…those basmati rice with barberries topping and those steak like chunks of eggplant dunked in lentil gravy is enough to die for and those mouthwatering gosh , I AM TRULY HUNGRY now :p thanks for sharing such delights :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      haha, thanks for stopping by Elin, and hope you got your hands on something good to eat right after! I do love Iranian food, they’ve got some of the most tender kebabs and funky rice dishes ever.

      PS. Your blog has the same effect on me…I think I must have gobbled a bag of snickers to quell the cravings I had after reading your ferrero rocher cake post! :)

  4. Amy I. says:

    Hi there! I found your blog as I was poking around the web looking for Dubai food blogs. I’m a food blogger in the US with plans to spend several months in Dubai early next year. I’m so looking forward to immersing myself in all the foodie goodness you describe. It’s nice to "meet" you!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Hi Amy! Thanks for stopping by! Definitely drop me a line at when you’re in the city…we have a group of local food bloggers that meets up around once a month to do something fun and food related, so do let me know if that’s of interest!

      PS. the photos on your site are PHENOMENAL. what camera are you using? :)

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