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Photo by Joy WeberNaan & Kabob should be renamed Rice & Kabob, since the Tustin eatery prepares the latter platter 36 different ways. Rice with lamb kabob. Rice with fish kabob. Rice with beef, chicken and shrimp kabob. Rice with a type of falafel kabob. Redundant? No: regal.
The splendor of the Iranian diet—where meals as opulent as the Peacock Throne but without the cozy American connections are the norm—comes through even when you offer fast-food Persian grub as uniform as this. The blueblood treatment at Naan & Kabob starts with the complimentary lavash, light Persian flatbread that, like its mother country does geographically, situates itself between the Indian naan's herbed crunch and the rustic heaviness of a Middle Eastern pita. Naan & Kabob provides baskets of lavash, along with slightly melted butter cubes and a half-bulb of white onion cut into quadrants. You're supposed to lather the lavash with the butter and add some onion slices, roll it up like a burrito, and chomp. Feel the onion's unmitigated wallop overwhelm your sinuses and wince with pleasure: Isn't onion just lovely?
The bitter lavash/onion sandwich serves as a necessary jester, though, to the fragrant forests of rice dishes dominating Naan & Kabob's menu. Long-grained basmati accompanies everything, but a couple of dollars extra rewards you with the kingly rice mounds known as polo, Iran's most famous export outside of fatwas. It doesn't matter which polo you choose—the sweet zereshk variety, dyed burgundy due to the many cherries included; zesty alobalo (rice mixed with cranberries); or the adas kind, its raisin and caramelized-onion bits coalescing into the finest union since East and West Germany tore down the Berlin Wall. All the polos are worthy of the Shah of Shahs.
As stunning as the rice is at Naan & Kabob, it's secondary to—even unworthy of—their kabobs. The chicken or beef koobideh is the finest I've tasted in the county, bumpy ground meat cylinders dripping with their savory juices, not mushy like those unfortunately found in so many local Persian restaurants. Though whitefish chunks are only okay, shrimp kabobs are miniscule masterpieces, the crustaceans retaining their salty marine snap while assuming the intense smokiness of a tandoori-cooked snack. All kabob choices arrive with grilled vegetables that are the equivalent of charred candy—the red M&M in this packet is a whole tomato, skin as black and shiny as obsidian, interior moist like a water balloon. Stick a fork into the tomato and watch its juices gush forth like a Texas oil well, one of the finer spurts you'll ever encounter outside the bedroom.Naan & Kabob, 416 E. First St., Tustin, (714) 66-Kabob.