The decor is nothing to write home about, except for maybe the waitresses in hijabs, and the menu can be perplexing, so stick to tried-and-true staples like hoummos (pureed chickpeas with sesame seed paste), mutabbal (pureed eggplant with sesame seed paste) and freshly baked naan. Anything with lamb is also excellent.
In a soi made up entirely of Middle Eastern restaurants, Shahrazad somehow manages to stand out. It claims to be the oldest one there and it’s even popped up on foodies’ radars, despite having the most discreet façade in this garish neon jungle.
Its doors open onto a small, low-ceilinged dining room which combines wood and mirror panels, elaborate light fixtures and banquet chairs dressed in floral slip-ons. Men (white shirt, black pants) take the orders, women (clad head to toe in pink) bring out dishes and Middle Eastern families do the eating.
The menu is pan-Arabian, Indian, Continental and Thai but there’s also a single page of specifically Iranian dishes—the only page that’s not translated—and that might explain why even to us non-Arab diners, the cuisine seems more Pardis (an Iranian restaurant on Rama 4 Road) than Nadimo’s (Lebanese restaurants on Silom and Sukhumvit Soi 24). That means that while Shahrazad actually has some excellent mezzes, they also have many substantial dishes, often involving rice.
The mezzes stand out for their freshness and well-balanced seasoning. The tabbouleh (B80) isn’t drowned in lemon juice; the babaganoush (B100) takes it easy on the garlic and explodes with smokey eggplant flavors. Their bread is superb, too: freshly roasted in the oven, it’s chewy, crispy, sprinkled with sesame seeds and good enough to be eaten on its own.
But you’d best imitate the other clients here and bring your family because Sherhazad also stands out for large dishes best shared, like the grilled leg of lamb (B300) or whole roast chicken stuffed with rice (B350). The balance on those dishes is sometimes a reminder that Middle Eastern food is not always light, bright and sunny. For example, one dish sees overly dry, deep-fried chunks of lamb (B250) sit on layers of rice and mushy slices of bread soaked in some kind of cream—not necessarily a winning combination in our book. Nor do the grilled meats and kebabs (B180-300), although perfectly fine, particularly stand out from the competition.
But despite the occasional letdown, it’s easy to see why Shahrazad is regularly recommended by food writers and Arab expats alike: it’s authentic, it closes late, service is fast and efficient (if perfectly unsmiling) and you’re still guaranteed to find a few “best in town” dishes in their long menu. No alcohol.
|Address:||Shahrazad, 6/8 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1, Bangkok, Thailand|
|Opening hours:||daily 9-3am|
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