Shabestan is a Dubai institution. It’s one of Dubai’s oldest restaurants in the city’s first five-star hotel. One step into this historic establishment and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Shabestan opened in 1984 when Dubai was nothing but a desert, and it’s stood the test of time – no mean feat considering Dubai’s increasingly crowded restaurant market.
Shabestan definitely feels like a restaurant that opened in the 80s. It’s old-fashioned – from the subdued and slightly dated decor, to the view overlooking the creek and dhow boats, to the menu which has remained unchanged for years – but that’s what gives it its charm. In fact, many of the staff – including Assistant Manager Sahar, Team Leader Anis and Head Chef Shirazi – have been with Shabestan for over 20 years! When you listen to their stories, you feel their love and passion for the restaurant. And that’s what makes this place so special.
Not only that, but the food is delicious – so it’s no surprise that Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is a regular customer.
The dishes at Shabestan are true to classic Persian cuisine and they execute this so well. We started with a plate of sabzi khordan – a common Iranian side dish of fresh veggies and herbs, which you eat with the feta and flatbread.
This soup is called the ash-e-reshteh. Thick and hearty with beans, noodles and spinach, then garnished with a gorgeous dollop of Persian kashk and fried onions.
This duo of chargrilled lamb kebabs was just too delicious. On the bottom is the kebab-e-barg, a tenderised lamb kebab, and on the right is the kebab-e-kubideh, a traditional kebab of minced lamb (my favourite) – served alongside a bed of Persian white and saffron rice (chelo).
Here’s the classic Persian dish baghalah polo-ba-mahicheh, a melt-in-your-mouth lamb shank (slow-cooked for 4-5 hours) hidden underneath a golden bed of rice flavoured with dill and broad beans. They suggest sucking the marrow out with a straw. Love it! #lovefoodhatewaste
But the dish I was really holding out for is my all-time favourite Iranian dish, fesenjan-ba-morgh – chicken stewed in a most unusual sauce. It’s not the prettiest dish, but I just can’t get enough of the sweet, tangy flavour. Sweet and tart from the pomegranate molasses, thick from walnuts, and utterly delicious. Even better, the chicken inside was so soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Seems to be a common theme?
What do you do when your favourite dish is just not photogenic? Post it anyway!
By this time I was way too full, but Team Leader Anis convinced us to share just one dessert. He recommended the faloodeh bastani, and I had visions of a thick and heavy, rainbow-coloured Indian falooda (or Filipino halo-halo). But this faloodeh was surprisingly light. (In fact, I could have had seconds.) Two balls of sorbet, one which has vermicelli noodles frozen inside and the other flavoured with pistachio and rosewater. They serve it with three jugs of liquid alongside – lemon juice, saffron syrup, and rosewater – so you can adjust the flavour to your taste.
This Persian feast wouldn’t be complete without Iranian baglawa. Gorgeous presentation and a fine way to cap off a delicious meal.
Verdict: You’ll be hard-pressed to find another place in Dubai like Shabestan. On top of the amazing food, it has such an old school feel. The staff treat you like family, there are Iranian musicians performing throughout the night, plus you get a lovely view overlooking Dubai Creek.
Note to self: The place to go for a fine Persian feast.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek
Tel: 04 448 9060
Chow for now!