One of the oldest and most well-known Iranian restaurants in Houston is Darband Shish Kabob on Hillcroft between Westpark and Harwin. Darband is a counter-service restaurant that serves inexpensive Iranian fast-food dishes. It's located in a neighborhood teeming with ethnic restaurants and shops that mainly cater to Houston's Middle Eastern and South Asian community. On a recent weekday lunch visit, Darband's spartan dining room was filled with diners of Persian and Middle Eastern descent.
Darband is known for its namesake lamb, beef and chicken kabobs. But during this lunch visit, one of my dining companions ordered one of the most filling and flavorful dishes I've had in a long time -- Darband's specialty lamb shank. The yellow/golden tint of the roasted shank suggested a marinade of turmeric, and the fragrance and flavor confirmed it, along with a generous seasoning of garlic. The shank was falling-apart tender.
Another great off-the-radar dish is the ash soup. This Iranian/Persian vegetarian soup is chock-full of chickpeas, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, spinach and noodles. It is justifiably known as one of the healthiest soups in the world.
Finally, a great restaurant can always be measured by the quality of its condiments and side dishes. Darband passes with flying colors. The yogurt-cucumber "dipping sauce" is cool, creamy and tangy. The delicious Iranian flatbread is baked fresh and arrives at your table so hot that you have to wait to touch it.
The meal is finished off with a complimentary pot of hot tea. After a filling meal and with outside temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, hot tea is not the most obvious end to a meal. But apparently in Iran it would be an insult not to take a few sips.
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Darband Shish Kabob 5670 Hillcroft St 713-975-8350