House of Kabob and Ouida's Lounge
268 S. Main St., Salt Lake City ; 801-521-4442
Kitchen suffered many missteps during a lunch visit at this Greek-Persian-Turkish restaurant.
Cuisine: Persian, Turkish
Hours: M-Th, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; F, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; S, noon-11 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Ali Baba plate with lean ground beef.
October 18, 2006
Something's askew at House of Kabob
By Lesli J. Neilson
There seemed to be one letdown after the next at a recent meal at House of Kabob & Ouida's Lounge, despite my lunch mate and I being seated at Mayor Rocky Anderson's honorary table.
"There's no soup," we were told, although curried chicken noodle and vegetable soups are listed on the menu. "There's no falafel," we were told, only after we'd remembered we didn't get any on the vegetarian sampler plate we'd ordered.
But the statement that really had me perplexed -- it is a Turkish, Persian and Greek menu, after all -- was, "We're out of lamb." Huh? It was prime lunchtime. I don't think even the mayor -- had he been sitting at his table -- could have asked for lamb and gotten it.
That vegetarian sampler plate ($9 at lunch and dinner), missing its falafel, had baba ghannouj that was devoid of any eggplant note and tasted only of sesame tahini paste. The creamy hummus lacked lemon and garlic, two thumb-size dolmas were filled with mushy rice and a green, not Greek, salad came undressed. The plate also was supposed to come with lemon, basmati or green (herbed) rice. We didn't miss it seeing as heaping platefuls of the grain came with the entrees.
Main courses, excluding sandwiches, come with soup or salad. The simple house salad can be topped with Greek or balsamic dressing if you want to keep in step with the Mediterranean theme, or ranch, thousand island or blue cheese dressing if you want an American topping. The fresh mixed greens were accompanied by cucumber and tomato slices.
In addition to appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches, the rest of the menu is divided into Greek favorites, Persian kebabs, Persian and Turkish specialties, and seafood and vegetarian specialties. Since The Tribune's visit in 2003, the menu has "Americanized" many of its dish titles but the promise of photographs didn't pan out.
The Ali Baba plate ($16 at lunch, $18 at dinner) arrived with a skewer each of moist lean ground beef and marinated chicken breast pieces and a skewer of marinated but tough beef steak, all resting atop a mound of yellow basmati rice with no discernible lemon flavor. About 10 minutes after receiving our entrees, a server appeared with a dish containing a roasted pepper and grilled eggplant covered in tomato sauce and thin "Turkish" yogurt. Served correctly, the sauce would have covered the platter.
The tepid kebab koobideh ($7.50 at lunch, $8.50 at dinner) -- replacing what would have been a lamb-less Turkish shish kebab platter ($13 at lunch, $14 at dinner) -- was comprised of two of the same savory ground beef skewers propped on a plateful of basmati rice, with a roasted tomato half alongside.
For dessert, there were two options, and neither is made in-house: baklava ($3.50) or cheesecake ($3.50) from the Cheesecake Factory. (What's Middle Eastern about cheesecake?) We went for the small triangle of baklava, presented on a small plate drizzled with chocolate sauce. It's pricey for what you get.
Service was a problem at Tribune visits in 2003, and continued to be so on this visit. It was obvious our server was new. She took plates without asking if we were finished, she brought entrees and dessert before clearing the previous courses dishes and water and drinks were never refilled. At least she was kind and upbeat.
As she was taking our order, another more veteran server approached and abruptly asked her if she'd "punched a table's cards." (Apparently there's a frequent diner card.) "You're supposed to punch their cards," she said, admonishing our server right in front of us.
The long, cavernous space is pleasant enough. Made to look a bit bistro-y, there are waiter murals and decorative bricks placed strategically on the walls.
Upstairs, Ouida's Lounge, open Monday to Saturday, 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Eddy's sports bar, which features free-pizza Mondays, also are part of the House of Kabob package.
It's a huge undertaking to make each of these businesses successful, but the amateurish feel of the service, the shortcomings of the kitchen on the day I visited and the subpar food makes me feel like the House of Kabob is definitely getting short shrift. I wonder if the mayor would concur?
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
October 29, 2004
Sizzling meat and veggies, but service is askew at House of Kabob
By Nancy Hobbs
It's been a year since Mohsen Asgari opened his House of Kabob and Pita restaurant with a red-carpet party, belly dancers and Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson in attendance. Now, Anderson has his own seat of honor marked with an engraved brass plate, and business is good enough that Asgari is looking to expand and help ignite Salt Lake City's nightlife. He's adding an upstairs dining room and bar, planning a name change, and trying to make his exotic food more accessible to new customers.
The restaurant offers an impressive array of Persian, Turkish and Greek selections, with an emphasis on tender kebabs cooked in Asgari's custom-designed broiler. So as not to disappoint even the most skeptical customer, however, he also offers a basic burger and a nice kids' menu, including a gyro, souvlaki or burger, as well as macaroni and cheese or fish and chips.
But it would be a shame to go to House of Kabob and Pita and not sample the exotic flavors delivered in the koobideh (beef or chicken), which is kebabs made of ground meat and served with roasted tomatoes and onions; or the baba ghanooj, a creamy dip, similar to hummus, but made of roasted eggplant purée and garlicky yogurt.
Yogurt accompanies several of the meals, adding a delicious, slightly tangy flavor. On the generous Ali Baba platter, for instance, the chicken and beef kebabs -- a total of five -- are topped with a richly spiced tomato sauce and yogurt, which can't help but become intermingled to create a creamy, luscious gravy.
Even the medallions of chicken, which seem prone to drying out, are moist and delectable.
Though meat is the centerpiece of the aforementioned Ali Baba feast, I quickly discovered that the grilled eggplant and roasted pepper were just as good. Also hard to pass up was the saffron-enhanced basmati rice, with perfect texture and its beautiful yellow hue. But it was a ton of food; easily enough for two.
The only thing in short supply was the pita (made by local vendor Papa Pita), which came in two small triangles with the one meal, and none with another.
I might have complained that the soup and salad that were supposed to accompany my meal never arrived, but realized I had more than enough to tackle with the entrée alone. Besides, I was tired of complaining . . . and that brings up the topic of service, which was less than impressive on both our visits.
I attributed the first couple of missteps by our server to her being new to the job. I was surprised she didn't have more help or oversight, as she was obviously overwhelmed by the menu and the task in general.
We experienced similar frustrations on a return visit, however, including the wrong meal being ordered -- how it went from pasta to veggie plate was dumbfounding -- and general lack of familiarity with the restaurant's offerings. That is a huge liability when so many items on the menu are unfamiliar to new customers who want advice and specifics about what they are ordering.
The latter problem might be helped with some of the "adjustments" Asgari has in the works. Because he has found customers are uncomfortable ordering items by their foreign names, he is redoing the menu to include "Americanized" titles, as well as adding photographs of the entrées.
He also plans to change the restaurant's name (upon approval of the state alcohol department) to House of Kabob and Wine. He expects that to happen in the next month, and in conjunction with the remodeling of the building's large second floor to include a bar and private party facilities.