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Sinbad’s Feast dining review, Johns Creek

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Read most any review of an Indian, Middle Eastern or Persian restaurant, and you will surely find a passage where the reviewer heaves up from his seat to consider the buffet. Nose in the air and plate in hand, he’ll walk past the chafing dishes, calling this “tired” and that “sad.” “Bedraggled” if he’s nasty.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

“Take my advice,” this critic will write. “Skip the buffet and order off the menu.”

Let me break with tradition. If you go to Sinbad’s Feast, enjoy the buffet and skip the menu. The “feast” you should be most interested in at this new Johns Creek Persian restaurant is the one that stretches across the back of the room. The food is fresh, oft replenished and feeds you well for a modest price.

Owner P.J. Vafadari opened Sinbad’s Feast four months ago in the space that was once Sia’s, a swank fine-dining destination. Vafadari stripped down the dining room, replacing the twinkly trappings of yore with loud tile, bright lights and an open floor plan that allows the weekend belly dancer to make the rounds with ease. He covered the side patio and turned it into a hookah lounge and event space.

He needs that event space (as well as the second one in what used to be a side dining room) because on any given night huge parties of 20 people or more stream in. Muslims from Iraq, Pakistan, Bosnia, Somalia and everywhere in between have discovered Sinbad’s Feast. The draw? Vafadari only uses halal meat, butchered according to Islamic dietary laws.

Feast your eyes! (All photos by Becky Stein)

Feast your eyes! (All photos by Becky Stein)

Vafadari himself is not Muslim but rather Baha’i — a faith that combines the best precepts from many other monotheist religions and stresses the commonality of all humankind. Needless to say, he is thrilled with the polyglot clientele that has welcomed his restaurant. Because of his faith, Vafadari doesn’t serve any alcohol but has no problem if you bring your own. The servers — who are, to the one, the nicest and most welcoming souls you will ever meet — will be happy to open and serve your wine.

Otherwise, I’d recommend starting with a cup of the wonderfully full bodied black tea ($1.99) brewed in an elaborate samovar by the entrance. Then, after 30 seconds or so of small talk with your assembled party, attack the buffet ($8.99 at lunch, $12.99 on weeknights and all day Sunday, $14.99 on Friday and Saturday nights).

Expect a dozen or so salads and cold dishes and an equal number of hot dishes. Remember, there’s no shame in repeat visits. The tastes and textures of the cold items combine in a particularly appealing way when allowed to take over a full-sized dinner plate. The house “Caesar” salad prepared with feta cheese is all creamy tang against the musky flavor of chickpeas with red pepper and cumin and the gloopy, mellow vibe of spinach yogurt (most-o esfenaj). Now throw in the bright dice of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes (Shirazi salad), some diced beets and a dollop of hummus. Are you done? Not until you try the oloveyea — a fantastic chicken salad with potatoes, hard-boiled egg and Persian pickles. I wanted to take a tub of it home with me. Seriously: The Publix deli bigwigs should come here to study this salad.

Chef PJ Vafadari (left) and Mostafa Ghafarimanesh (right) cook kababs on the grill

Chef PJ Vafadari (left) and Mostafa Ghafarimanesh (right) cook kababs on the grill

Now you can turn your attention to the hot items — a typical Persian lineup of rice, stews and kebabs. Don’t look for that soul-satisfying finesse you might know from other Persian restaurants, where each chunk of meat seems like a jewel. Do look for a reasonably tasty plateful at a decent price.

There will be fluffy basmati rice and another Persian rice dish, such as the seasoned blend of rice and lentils called adas polo. There will likely be quormeh sabzi, a piquant stew of herbs, beef and kidney beans. The unique sourness in it comes from dried lime. You may also find karaff, a mild combination of beef and well-cooked celery. And, of course, bread. Piles and piles of the warm flatbread called taftoon.

Keep piling: You’ve got some nicely marinated zucchini rounds and onion quarters from a vegetable kebab, chunks of flame-burnished chicken, and koubideh — the seasoned ground beef kebab that can be one of the glories of the Persian kitchen. The version I try is good, if lacking that burst of oniony juices I love in great, hot-off-the-grill koubideh. Maybe it spent that minute too long in its warming tray.

In deference to the many Indian customers, Vafadari has developed a recipe for chicken koubideh that reminds me a bit of some sad turkey burgers I’ve eaten.

In the evening, servers will bring portions of chengeh, or beef tips kebab, to each table.

One night we try to order a few items off the menu, but none really thrill us. Kashke badamjoon ($5.99) — a roasted eggplant dip with mint and creamy whey sauce — seems too dense and sticky compared to other versions around town. Fesenjoon ($9.99) combines a walnut-pomegranate sauce with dull, springy chunks of white meat chicken. Again, I’ve had versions that seem more vibrant.

That said, if any kebab catches your eye, you can order it and have free run of the buffet for a $5 supplement. Most kebab plates cost in the mid-teens to low twenties.

But, you know what? You might, like us, want to skip the a la carte kebabs and go right to Sinbad’s Feast. It’s a lot of food, it’s tasty, it comes with great service, and you’ll be very pleased by how inexpensive your meal was.

SINBAD’S FEAST
10305 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek, 770-622-6409
1stars5
Food: Persian buffet and menu that uses halal meat
Service: Exceptionally warm, welcoming and friendly
Best dishes: Quormeh sabzi — beef stew with herbs and kidney beans — is the star of the buffet line
Vegetarian selections: You can make a meal of the dips, salads and appetizers
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; Dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Monday
Children: Perfect for kids — particularly those who like to try new foods
Parking: In attached lot
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: Only hookahs in the detached hookah lounge
Noise level: High, but you can eat in the hookah lounge where it’s much quieter
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes

RatingsKey_3

25 comments Add your comment

K

February 24th, 2011
8:48 am

FWIW I was unimpressed by their buffet. Service also. For Persian buffet we go to Shish Kabob when we are in Marietta, which is very rarely unfortunately. Their fesenjan can’t compete with Falafel Cafe’s but the rest of the stuff is quite solid. No kashk-e-bademjoon though.

Amir

February 24th, 2011
9:37 am

Frankly, this good review of Sinbad’s feast from John is baffling to me and insulting to Persians like me who know good Persian food. Reviewer may have been lucky on a good day, but from what I have seen and heard from other Persians, and clearly from other reviewers on Yelp, the food is stale, low quality, overcooked, and plain bad. Low price does not justify low quality. May be it is fine for the all you can eat buffet crowd, but then again, Golden Coral gets a large buffet crowd too. At least in Golden Coral the food is fresh if not good I have been to Sinbad’s twice mid-week for dinner and the hot food was anything but, and most hot items looked like they had been sitting in the steam pan since lunch.

John Kessler

February 24th, 2011
9:48 am

Amir: I went twice, once at lunch and once at dinner, and both times the hot meats were coming off the grill in small batches continuously. I would say I wrote a mixed rather than a good review. In a couple of places in the review I tried to make the point that if you’re looking for a memorable Persian food experience, go elsewhere. (I would opt for Rumi’s Kitchen, Falafel Cafe or Mirage, but would love to hear the places you recommend.) But if you’re looking for a decent, healthy, inexpensive meal in the area, then this fits the bill. Also, I think the fact that the meat is all halal is important. I suspect there are a good number of Atlantans — and readers of the AJC — who follow Muslim dietary laws, so I do think alerting them to this restaurant is a reader service. Thanks for reading!

Edgewood Adam

February 24th, 2011
9:55 am

The Dunwoody Journal Constitution strikes again! Hard hitting reviews of all you can eat buffets in Johns Creek. I hear there is Red Robin opening in Suwanee. Hightail it up there and get the scoop!

Amir

February 24th, 2011
10:30 am

John: I appreciate your reply and you are right about the halal meat aspect which is important to a lot of people. I guess I am not much of a buffet person because even when I go to Las Vegas that is famed for it’s lavish buffets I prefer going to a sit down restaurant instead. As for my favorite places for Persian food around town, Rumi’s Kitchen and Mirage are on top of my list. Have not tried Sufi’s that just opened up in Midtown but I am hearing good things although their dinner menu prices seem very high.

Typical Redneck

February 24th, 2011
11:12 am

EA, quit reading the reviews then.

Hendri

February 24th, 2011
11:16 am

I’ve been to Sinbad’s Feast several times, their food is awesome, the koobideh is freshly grilled, moist and tasty. i tried a koobideh in other restaurant and it cant be compared with the one at Sinbad’s. Trust me, I will be a regular customer there. The service is excellent also, they are so helpful about all of the questions that i gave them about the food. And the dessert is awesome too

Chip

February 24th, 2011
3:39 pm

EA, I grew up in the Ansley Park area, moved away for college and then moved back about 10 years ago and now live in Suwanee. Are you the typical ITP snob that came from elsewhere but because you are in downtown feel some sort of superiority? I hope not, because that 5.7 million population on the Darlington sign is 90% OTP.

We have good restaurants in the burbs. Unfortunately most intown people feel it is just too much to go out there.

Edgewood Adam

February 24th, 2011
4:14 pm

Nope im from Roswell. And it it soo much to come out there. You know what the difference really is between ITP and OTP? When i go out there I am bored to tears and can not believe I ever lived there. When my friends come to see me they love it. Not every place out there sucks but its a hoot to see the AJC cater to all the dorks in the burbs.

Edgewood Adam

February 24th, 2011
4:17 pm

If you are old enough to know better, you are too old to live in Suwanee. That place sucks even more than most. Let me guess, you like having a bigger house? For what? Are you fat? Do you need more room? Or you have kids. Great. Have fun with that.

otp

February 24th, 2011
4:28 pm

adam, your a douche

Boz

February 24th, 2011
4:31 pm

Edgewood Adam, maybe people moved OTP to get far, far way from you.

Edgewood Adam

February 24th, 2011
4:46 pm

Boz,

Then my plan has worked. Now go check out John’s review about the A&W in Suwanee. I hear its delicious. And have fun in that traffic to your subdivision. I hear swim team is going to be a blast this year!

Greg

February 24th, 2011
5:08 pm

Adam,

You realized, I hope, that people in cities like New York and Boston look down equally on your choice to live in Atlanta.

The fact is that you choose to live in Atlanta for a reason, whatever that reason is. It makes no more sense for you to judge my choice to live in Alpharetta (even though I work downtown) than for a New Yorker to judge your choice to live in Atlanta.

Get over your false sense of superiority and enjoy life. Hopefully you’ll become much happier.

GeorgiaBorn

February 24th, 2011
5:08 pm

Not sure about Persian food but I do know that Dave Pazienza the owner at Hearth Pizza Tavern disrespected my 75 year old mother and was incredibly rude to her. I know this isn’t the forum for that, but I am so angry about how my mother was treated, but I post about this fat slob anywhere I can.

Jen

February 24th, 2011
5:35 pm

You folks should come to Conyers and try Borage Grill for some wonderful Mediterranean food. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Boz

February 24th, 2011
6:32 pm

Hey, Edgewood Adam. I’ll take you more seriously when you learn to spell.

VickiF

February 24th, 2011
6:44 pm

I’ve been to Sufi and thought it pretty yummy: fresh bread from the oven, and a beautiful free appetizer plate of cheese, fresh herbs, cucumbers and olives and things. Haven’t been to SInbad’s.

Sammmy

February 24th, 2011
7:56 pm

Best Deal in Atlanta is Sinbad’s Feast—————fresh food and healthy–not greasy

Addy C

February 24th, 2011
10:41 pm

I also recommend Sufi’s – go for lunch b/c the prices are much more reasonable plus you get the complimentary flat bread w/ herbs, feta, walnuts, etc.

[...] eventually decided to go with Sinbad’s Feast when I realized what a godsend it was to people who observe Muslim dietary laws. The food is fine, [...]

Edgewood Adam's boyfiend

February 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

Don’t mind Adam. He’s hung like a mosquito.

Marla G

February 25th, 2011
4:03 pm

Okay, John, since you’ve raved about the oloveyea, I tried to find a recipe for it to no avail. How about helping us out here with the recipe. Thanks, Marla

Marla G

February 25th, 2011
6:43 pm

Guys: you have to remember that food is very subjective – all that matters is if YOU like it

Kevin

February 26th, 2011
9:28 pm

Tried Sinbad’s lunch buffet last month and had mix feelings. Food was good, but service was terrible. Waiter didn’t come by to take beverage order, had to grab one of the waiters after almost finishing the first plate. I wish the buffet had descriptions of each dish, especailly the stews and sauces. As I was leaving I overheard someone say a water pipe busted. Hopefully that’s the reason for the staff not being visible in the dining room, but made me wonder if they should be open with a water pipe issue. The food was good enough to overcome the service issues, so I’ll try Sindbad’s again and maybe I’ll bring my own beverage…