Dubai: When I walked into Shabestan it felt all too familiar. Like I had been there before. And then it hit me. I visited when I was 13 years old. My family and I, were invited by an Iranian family to their favourite restaurant. A place they go to, to feel at home. Almost everyone who grew up here has been to Sabestan before. It’s been around since the 1984 and serves the exact same recipes and dishes for the last 36 years.
If there is one restaurant that travelers from all over the world need to cross off from their Dubai bucket list, it is Shabestan. This heritage restaurant has served three generations over the past decades, yet its hospitable service and authentic experience remains the same. As we sat down, I remembered eating that salty white cheese, with warm Persian bread. I also had a vague memory of the kebabs there.
The recipe, I learned from the chef, is a well-guarded secret. When Shabestan’s former head chef, Shirazi retired, he passed on his secrets to his only son, Chef Abol Fazl, who now heads the culinary team at
Abol is part of the legacy of Shabestan. He inherited the art of cooking from his father, Chef Shirazi, who worked at the restaurant for 24 years. Chef Abol, following in his father’s footsteps, specialises in Persian cuisine. Loyal guests who have seen him as a child come back to Shabestan to see him as the boss now. Only father and son know exactly what goes into the food.
As you sit down, you are served a giant plate of fresh salad leaves and vegetables that you can enjoy with white cheese and warm bread. I ordered a pomegranate juice, since it’s a very important fruit in Persian cooking. The veggies were fresh and the bread was light, airy and slightly crispy at the edges.
Appetizers included fresh yoghurt, a baked eggplant dish and fresh sautéed spinach with saffron and eggs.
The main we were served was a large Shabestan Specialty platter, which includes all of their top dishes including lamb, chicken and seafood. All the grilled meats were tender, well-cooked and marinated to perfection. It’s a classic go-to if you want to sample everything. This platter is served with different types of rice sprinkled with delicious dried cranberries.
For dessert we had a Faloodeh Bastani, a special type of Persian ice cream made with vermicelli pieces and covered in saffron water and rose water. It was refreshing and just what you needed after the generous meal.
At the end everyone finishes the meal with a small glass of Persian tea and a platter of small petit fours.
Over the years, Shabestan has gathered some diehard fans, including members of the ruling family. Diners love the place as it is. The team shared funny anecdotes of guests complaining whenever the furniture was changed, or a new tablecloth was added.
They know the servers by name and have seen the young chef grow up. It is people are the quintessential part of Shabestan, as most of the team has been working there for over thirty years. They are the familiarity that people crave in a city that is constantly ever changing.