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After dinner we tried zolobia and bamia ($3.95): a cold funnel-cake slicked with rosewater and honey, and a fried ball of dough soaked in the same sweet sauce (the bamia was very similar to the Indian dessert gulab jamun). The dessert -- like the servers and staff -- was so sweet that we left feeling wholly satisfied despite a few dry kebabs.
If Darius Palace looks Persian, then Kuluck Persian Restaurant & Loungefeels like it. On our Friday night visit the white-tablecloth supper club was like a scene straight out of My Big Fat Persian Wedding. A belly dancer was weaving her way around the velvet-lined room, grabbing youthful hipsters, men in business suits and their elegantly coifed wives, and wildly emotive children by the hands and leading them to the main stage to join her in dance, while modern Persian music -- with big beats and poppy vocals, a far cry from stereotypical ethnic tunes -- blared too loudly for table conversation. On Saturdays the owners turn off the prerecorded sounds and hop on stage to play a set by themselves (the trio of partners originally envisioned the restaurant as a venue for their band, Dima). The whole place just feels authentic -- not like an amalgam of how Iran might have looked a few dozen centuries ago but how Iran is today.
The food definitely fits that description as well, although the menu was a bit wanting. For starters, I´d set my heart on grilled marinated chicken wings ($7.95), which soundedlike a nice mix of old world and new, but they were plumb out of it (couldn´t they have warned us when they handed out the menus?). So we looked toward an order of khashke bademjan ($5.95) and some lavash to hold us over until our koobideh($10.95), jooje kebab ($12.95), and baghali polo ($13.95) arrived.
5879 N. University Drive
Tamarac, FL 33321
2960 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5 till 10 p.m.; Friday 5 till 11 p.m.; Saturday noon till 11 p.m.; Sunday noon till 9 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Call 954-563-6664.
Kuluck Persian Restaurant & Lounge
5879 N. University Dr., Tamarac. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. till 9:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. till midnight; Saturday 4:30 p.m. till 2 a.m.; Sunday 4:30 till 9 p.m. Wheelchair accessible. Call 954-720-6980.
The lavash was underwhelming on its own -- it had the sort of gummy texture and flavor you´d expect from store-bought flour tortillas. But it was mild enough to serve as a transport for our bademjan. Smoky, roasted eggplant was mashed up with garlic and cumin, served hot, and finished with a nose-tickling drizzle of mint oil and creamy kashk (yogurt-like whey). Simply put: awesome.
Our entrées proved equally successful. The jooje was a skewer of marinated chicken breast -- broiled crisp and brown yet saturated with saffron-infused juices; the koobideh, a strip of ground beef with an earthy bite of onions, garlic, and turmeric (each served with chelow, charred tomatoes, and raw onion). A braised lamb shank accompanied a pilaf of lentils and dill in my baghali polo, the meat so tender it fell apart with the slightest flick of my fork. Everything was washed away lovingly by a bowl of Persian ice cream ($4.95), crisp with the flavor of rosewater and pistachio.
Kuluck´s food, ambiance, and entertainment all felt well-thought-out -- like it was put together with a specific vision of home. But I did have one other glaring problem with the menu: It´s virtually identical to all the other Persian menus I´ve seen in South Florida, including the one at Darius: some appetizers, kebabs, a few meat-based stews, and some rice dishes. That´s a surprising lack of depth for a cuisine with 6,000 years of history to draw upon. This chef definitely has the chops, so where´s the khoroshte goosht morgh, bamiyeh, and ghaarch; the aash reshteh, chickpea and lamb dumplings, or meat donuts? Aren´t Persians all over Broward lamenting, ¨Oh bother, kebabs again?¨After all, if we never learn to experience variety, how can we possibly learn to appreciate a cuisine so much it becomes part of our collective food memory?