The dish: Yekta Special
The location: Yekta Kabobi, 1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville, (301) 984-0005
The price: $15.99
The skinny: Calling yourself a Persian restaurant seems likes a smart move in this day and age, given the tense, maybe-we’ll-bomb-you, maybe-we-won’t stance that the U.S. government has adopted toward presidential whack-job Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then again, maybe the term “Persian cuisine” has always played better in the States. Who knows? Whatever the case, Yekta Kabobi specializes in Iranian cooking, with an emphasis on kabobs, those dishes usually reserved for social occasions back in the home country. Persian kabobs vary slightly from their Turkish counterparts; mostly, the spices are different, says Cathy Dadras, whose family has owned the Rockville restaurant for years now. You really notice the difference with the chicken kabobs, one of three meats featured on the sprawling Yekta Special platter; these moist morsels practically burn your retinas with their florescent yellow color, thanks to Persian saffron. The pricy little flower stigmas also tint the pressed and grilled top-sirloin bits called barg, though this time without making the meat look like pieces from a child’s yellow raincoat. The koobideh, a hand-massaged log of ground beef and onion, gets no obvious saffron treatment but, like its plate-mates, packs a lot of flavor into small bites. The accompanying chelow rice, perfumed with (you guessed it) saffron, tends to be dry. But if you take the grains immediately under the kabobs and roll them in the delicate lavash wrappers along with the meat, the hand-held sandwich makes you realize why this combination of fragrant, savory flavors has endured for centuries—and why it will carry on long after the current unpleasantness.