I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
When a restaurant closes, whether it had earned praise or disapproval, I still get melancholic. Not regretful, just unhappy. Few restaurants ever close because the owner was doing well and simply wanted another career (it’s happened, regretfully). This might come as a shock, but when I rain judgement from atop Olympus, I’m not looking for places to fail, though I’ll admit not being surprised when they do. To date, I’ve reviewed five restaurants which have since closed their doors.
In the case of the African Cafe, I wasn’t at all surprised. With Sakura, I was depressed given its posh decor and reasonable quality. Adding to that latter emotional state, I must now add Sliders. I had heard negative reviews on account of its food but had not personally encountered it. I adored the movie motif and was looking forward to returning. I must admit Sliders’ flaw was rooted in its intentions; it was a pub/grill, and we have plenty of those in town. When customers seek out a good burger and/or pasta joint, they default to Boston Pizza or one of the many restaurants trying to imitate it. Strip out the sports memorabilia, and what remains is a risky venture in a town populated by hockey players and perpetually drunk truck drivers. I still wanted Sliders to succeed, but alas, it did not. Since then, the Sliders’ location has now found occupancy, like a guy jumping on your slot machine the moment you stand…
…nah, that’s not a good comparison…
Have you ever sat down on a public toilet seat and it felt warm?
That’s what happened here. This is less a restaurant moving into another’s location and more some dude trouncing around in someone else’s skin like Lector in ‘Lambs. The Sliders’ name is still frosted on the outside glass. This new place has the same chairs, the same bar, everything in the same location, with the same number of TVs hanging from the walls. And really, can we fault them? Sliders looked great. Eventually, the outside glass will be fixed. The movie strip motif around the walls had been swapped with photos. Instead of sports, the screens rifle through an assortment of photos. Yes, Sliders looked better, I enjoyed the movie tie-ins, but it’s gone, and I must move on. It would be a depressing revelation if this business-body snatcher was a pub or family restaurant, eliminating any need to every come here again, but here is where everything changes.
I’ve come to Shiraz. And it’s Persian.
I never thought I’d see the day when our little town would get some ethnic variety outside of popular standards. I have had Lebanese and Persian and for the unenlightened, you could easily see the transition of cuisine starting in Asia and working all the way to the Atlantic. The common points are a lack of enclosed ovens, grills blasting super high heat, and a beautiful spectrum of spices. And I don’t mean a dash of Jakes hot sauce spice, I mean that type of aroma and flavor that catapults you from your snow covered pine trees to whatever country that food is from. This is why I hate Americanized versions of ethnic cuisine. It’s like faking an accent; even when it’s good, we know it’s not real…well, unless you’re Idris Elba, ‘cause that dude’s insane; I mean, I’ve seen like four films with him in it and I’ve yet to hear his real accent.
Anywho, Shiraz proudly presents its Iranian heritage as it should, on its menu cover as well as on the items offered. One of the most professional waiters I’ve encountered outside of a Gordon Ramsey restaurant (that good) addressed us in an accent that actually made me flutter. My menu was opened for me and individual items explained, all without prompt. He explained which items were still available as well as personal favorites with justification. By the end, I not only wanted to order everything on the menu, I wanted to do it right then and there. My friend and I decided to order separate items and agreed to go for a full course meal. We started with samosas and something called the Prince of Shiraz—a mini casserole dish with charred eggplant, garlic, tomato sauce, egg and spices, served with rice or pita. Now, I’ve had my share of samosas, even made my own from time to time, so when I say we were both in agreement that these were the best ever, it should say something. They were served with delectable chutney I could have drunk straight…and actually did a little bit.
For the mains, my companion went for the Lamb (Jack) Kebob while I jumped from the bridge hooked faithfully to my bungee ordering the Norooz Lamb, one of the more expensive dishes. Norooz has limited availability and since it was that day, I couldn’t resist. Not for the lack of ingredients, mind you, but because it takes two days to make. That’s right, two days. What arrived was something that would topple Fred’s stone car at the end of Flintstones, a massive bone jarring out of a hunk of animal like a prop from a Tarantino film. People will remember I have issues eating meat off bones. Still do, which is fine, since this bone was more a prop. The lamb was so tender, so delicate, when I began to gently peel the meat away, the bone fell out of place as clean as a dog’s treat. And when I say tender, I know of one way to cut this meat. GRAVITY!
I haven’t even mentioned the amazing rice accompanying all of this. My friend’s kebob was incredible, and you get two with your plate. This reminds me of the Persian restaurant, Mahdi, I enjoyed in England, that level of value. And to fit the tradition, it’s accompanied with the requisite charred whole tomato. For dessert we finished our meal with a creamy custard in a martini glass kicked up a notch with green cardamoms, rose water and saffron.
If you haven’t figured it out by this point, Shiraz is one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen in town, and one of the best dining experiences I’ve had period. To measure up with the likes of Michelin-star restaurants is not something we should expect or ask for. If you still claim we cannot expect high class cuisine in Prince George, I want to rub your face firmly into Shiraz’s menu like an antagonist in an episode of Ren & Stimpy. There was an option on the debit for a 20% tip; I left it. I had it to spare. If you could believe this, that amazing lamb was two dollars more than a starter at Shooters. I know, right? It’s been a long time since I’ve found a place earning of such praise.
Could Shiraz be better? Only with baby steps. Eventually, I’ll hope for even more ethnicity hanging from the walls. Perhaps some paintings beside the TVS. It says a lot when you leave a restaurant and all you can think about is when you can walk back in. I’m so glad to be almost done these afternoon reviews. The sooner I’m finished, the sooner I can try something else at Shiraz. If anyone has read this far and not been convinced yet…then stop reading my reviews, because seriously, what more can I say? Go to Shiraz as soon as possible, and return as often as you can.