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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shahrazad Sets High Standards

Fine Middle Eastern cuisine near UW-Milwaukee

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The area around the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Locust Street goes by the name of University Square—appropriate, since UW-Milwaukee is just a few blocks away. The area features a diverse array of restaurants. In addition to the usual pizza, burger and sub joints you will find Greek gyros and restaurants featuring Persian and Thai food. For its food and setting, Shahrazad may be the best of the lot.

The décor—plaster arches with an arabesque touch and a collection of water pipes—complements Shahrazad's Middle Eastern menu. The tables near the windows are up a few steps, which makes them great for watching pedestrian activity.

The menu will definitelappeal to vegetarians. There is no need for meat when you can order adas majroush ($1.95-$2.95), lentil soup with an enchanting blend of spices and topped with chopped parsley. The fine falafel ($5.95) consists of ground garbanzo bean fritters fragrant with cumin. The hommus ($5.95), with garbanzos as a puree, is also a solid choice. The baba ghanouj ($5.95), the classic eggplant puree, is creamy thanks to the addition of tahini. Also consider the combinations ($8.95), which include three vegetarian items.

As much as the menu caters to vegetarians, meat eaters are far from ignored. The lamb shawirma ($13.95) is delightful. Many Middle Eastern restaurants offer shawirma that all too closely resembles over-processed gyro meat. This is light years beyond most versions, with marinated meat in thin slices served over long-grained basmati rice. A few almonds top it off. The lamb kefta mashwee ($13.95) features kabobs of minced meat with a tasty spice blend.

One page of the menu takes a side excursion to Persia. Again you will find kabobs, a specialty of that nation. Chicken koubideh ($12.95) offers long strips of minced chicken, delicately spiced and with a springy texture. Barg ($15.95) is thin, pounded slices of beef filet that are of the utmost tenderness. Both kabobs are served with grilled Roma tomatoes and white and saffron rice. Every table has a shaker filled with sumac, a purple powder that adds a pleasing tart flavor to grilled meats.

While the Persian entrees are all made with meat, there are some vegetarian starters. Kashkeh bademjan ($5.95) features eggplant as the main ingredient, but, thanks to garlic and abundant use of fresh mint, it is very different from baba ghanouj. Fresh herbs play a prominent role in Persian meals.

Those unfamiliar with Middle Eastern food would do well to try the weekday lunch buffet ($8.95), since this type of food works well in a buffet format. Most items are vegetarian.

Beverages include mint tea and rosewater lemonade. There also is a surprisingly good beer list, as well as a wine list of 20 moderately priced selections served by the bottle or glass.

Service is attentive and food arrives at the proper pace. Shahrazad sets high standards for Middle Eastern food.

Shahrazad

2847 N. Oakland Ave.

(414) 964-5475

$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

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