Restaurant review: Jeddo Kabab

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

I applaud the fact that Jeddo Kabab bothered to place fake palm trees on the scenery-challenged patch of ground it occupies on East Dublin-Granville Road. And I appreciate that Jeddo Kabab's handsome and roomy, wood-paneled interior is brightened by elaborate chandeliers, lively music and friendly service. Still, it's the casual eatery's skillfully prepared dishes that'll bring me back.

The only current Columbus restaurant to specialize in Persian food (aka Iranian cuisine), Jeddo offers some rare and exotic-sounding items. But much of the tempting fare gracing the plates will be familiar to anyone who's ever tucked into tzatziki or ripped into skewered and chargrilled proteins.

Lately, Jeddo has been gifting diners with a pleasant unannounced starter: peppery lentil soup with a light broth accented by onion and cumin (it's $4.50 on the menu). If visiting with a group, as most Jeddo guests do, the Appetizer Platter ($15) is your next logical step.

Served with toasted pita bread, it's a pick-four selection of dips and salads. My more-than-satisfied table went with Jeddo's rich, smooth and smoky baba ghanoush, fresh, parsley-forward tabouli, Mast-o-Khiar (think wonderfully tart and thick tzatziki with a garlicky kick and shredded English cucumbers) and Kashk o Bademjoon - a warm, distinctly Persian dip of grilled and mashed eggplant enriched by tangy-sweet kashk, a whey-like dairy product made with drained yogurt.

If you order the Ash Reshteh ($7), you'll learn that Jeddo has, well, a whey with bean soup, too. Here, kashk adds a cheese-like creaminess to a mix of chickpeas, lentils, red beans and noodles, all livened by a minty, pesto-esque garnish. This huge and hearty, meal-worthy potage is like Persian pasta e fagioli (colloquially pronounced "pasta fazool"), and it's delicious.

With a few exceptions, choosing an entree entails picking kebabs. Kebabs preceded by "shish" come with grilled onions and peppers; "barg" is an all-meat kebab; and "kubideh" denotes a sausage-like blend of ground meat, onions and parsley similar to the more-common kefta. Every kebab I tried - and I tried many - was expertly seared and seasoned.

Jeddo's large, succulent kebabs come with wonderfully fluffy, saffron-topped basmati rice that can be upgraded to an ingredient-enhanced "polo" (pilaf) for $4. For $2.50 extra, you can go "half-and-half," by splitting plate-space between the terrific house rice and a dip or salad. (The lemony Shirazi salad with diced cucumber, tomato and onion is a refreshing option.)

If this focus on meat and rice sounds relatively heavy, Jeddo's careful use of citrus, herbs and sumac (sumac is also provided as a tableside condiment) lightens the way main courses taste. Another traditional digestive aid is a savory yogurt beverage - Jeddo doesn't offer alcohol - called dooghe ($3)that's bracingly sharp and salty.

Entrees can be somewhat pricey, but by strategizing, you can get a good deal. If dining with a partner or two, I recommend adding a bold and juicy lamb kubideh (just $4 a la carte) to the whopping Bakhtiari combo platter ($17), assembled with a tongue-tingling chicken barg and a crowd-pleasing beef kubideh. The Jeddo Fish Kebab ($16) - hefty hunks of juicy, flaky and perfectly blistered salmon with the skin removed - is a simple but well-executed dish.

If seeking a non-kebab dinner, the Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh ($17) is a falling-off-the-bone tender, roasted half-chicken served with a tangy and soulful tomato sauce that tastes like it was cooked down with pan drippings and onion. Also on the side: an excellent rice pilaf topped with vibrant little barberries (imported from Iran, they conjure up currants crossed with cranberries) sauteed in butter. As with many items here, this dish might be difficult to pronounce, but it's ridiculously easy to eat.

Jeddo Kabab

2171 E. Dublin-Granville Rd., North Side