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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Colbeh Persian Kitchen, Decatur

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If you like Persian food in this city, you know the Persian restaurant drill. There is no mixing and matching of kebabs. The dips and salads served as appetizers do not come in any combination plate as they might in a Greek restaurant. If you want to try one of the incredible rice pilafs, you must order it à la carte. But every entree comes with a pillowy hill of plain basmati rice large enough to cushion a fall. You will eat at most a third of it.

John Kessler is the chief dining critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

John Kessler is the chief dining critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Enter Colbeh Persian Kitchen — a new Decatur restaurant that makes a clean break with the cast-in-stone orthodoxy of Persian restaurant menus. Everything from the dips to the stews come in tasting portions, including half skewers. The bar pours a fine selection of craft beers (both tap and bottle) as well as house cocktails perfumed with the likes of saffron and cardamom. There’s even a smart wine list.

“We thought this was an opportunity to give people a choice,” said owner Syrus Rahimi, who runs the restaurant with his two sons. “We thought to be a little bit different. We know we’re introducing Persian food to the people of Decatur.”

Lucky people. Colbeh offers a classy introduction to this seductive cuisine. The food isn’t as good as that at Rumi’s Kitchen in Sandy Springs or Sufi’s in Midtown, but it offers plenty of pleasure. A meal here offers the deep resonance of stews, the saffron-kissed char of kebabs and the terrific pop of dried fruits and nuts in the rice pilafs.

Cornish hen kabob with basmati rice (photos by Becky Stein)

Cornish hen kabob with basmati rice (photos by Becky Stein)

A young, mostly non-Persian staff does a good job of describing the food and sharing their enthusiasm, starting with the bread service. Oblong loaves of freshly baked taftoun flatbread arrive at the table, speckled with black and white sesame seeds and sided by the traditional sabzi plate of fresh green herbs (basil, cilantro), walnuts, white cheese and butter. This bread is thick and sturdy, great when it’s hot from the oven (a remnant of the pizzeria that previously occupied this Decatur Square space), less so as it cools.

While the staff gets high marks for enthusiasm, they also seem a little green. The first loaf of bread arrives before drinks, but then none is offered with dips. Our waiter has a hard time keeping up with three tables; after spending 20 minutes with the menus, we have to flag him over in mid-rush to say we’d really, really like to order.

Koo koo sabzi - the missing link between quiche and pesto

Koo koo sabzi - the missing link between quiche and pesto

Good thing we order koo koo sabzi ($6). These fantastic green slabs of parsley, dill and cilantro, lightly bound with egg, are like the missing link between quiche and pesto. Kashk badenjan ($7), the warm eggplant dip with onions and whey cheese, seems stringier and greasier than other versions around town, but awfully easy to eat when smeared over hot taftoun. Shirazi salad ($6) — a dice of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions — is so bright with citrus juice it tastes like a bowl of summer.

If you’re drinking, don’t miss the olives coated in an ugly but wonderful paste of walnut and pomegranate molasses ($5). They taste righteous alongside a cool pint of a brew from Decatur-based Wild Heaven, Let There Be Light ale ($4.75).

The must-have item on this menu is joojeh kabob ($18) — a whole cornish hen cut into its mini-chicken pieces, threaded on a skewer, bathed in saffron and grilled until every piece is the picture of succulence. Add in a side of saffron rice studded with dried barberries and pistachio (zereshk polo, $6) for a heaven-sent pairing. Soltani kabob ($22) brings a skewer each of filet mignon and ground, seasoned beef.

The dining room is a bit cavernous, but the bar is lively

The dining room is a bit cavernous, but the bar is lively

But the fun here (speaking from the perspective of a part-time cheapskate) is in exploring the half skewers. Have a gorgeous veggie kabob ($4), if only to learn that such a thing exists. Have a nice shrimp kabob ($7) with four juicy specimens. Add in an order of baghali polo ($6), a mound of rice tossed with fistfuls of dill and fava beans, for a tableful of poppy flavors. I might also throw an excellent version of ghormeh sabzi ($13) into the mix. This wondrous green sludge is the result of cooking gallons of fresh parsley, scallions and fenugreek down with beef, kidney beans and dried lime. Fesenjon ($18), a very sweet stew made with pomegranate molasses, walnuts and beef meatballs (instead of the chicken often served in this dish) may not be to your taste any more than it was to mine.

Rahimi has done what he can with the space — a storefront so deep a bowling alley could fit inside. He finished the walls with untreated two-by-fours and cast glowing light against them to create a rustic, romantic mood. (“Colbeh” means cabin in Persian.) But it’s a cavern and you’ll have more fun at a table near the front bar, or snag one of the tables outside. Do it, even if you’re not sure what to make of Persian food. This is the place to learn.

Colbeh Persian Kitchen
123 East Court Square, Decatur. 404-373-1226
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Food: Classic Persian dishes on a novel mix-and-match menu
Service: Friendly but a bit green
Best dishes: Cornish hen kabob, koo koo sabzi, Shirazi salad
Vegetarian selections: Yes, plenty
Credit cards: All major cards
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays; noon-11 p.m. Sundays.
Children: Fine, and most kids will enjoy this healthy fare
Parking: Street parking
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: A few tables facing the square out front
Takeout: Yes

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36 comments Add your comment

Jeremy

June 28th, 2012
10:37 am

John – I generally find your reviews spot on but I think you’re dead wrong with this one. My experience at Colbeh: one of the absolute worst restaurant experiences I have ever had. Food was ok for the most part, but everything (and I mean everything, even my wine, I believe) was drowning in garlic. What really got me, however, was the service, and management’s reponse to our complaints (or, rather, non-response). The server was atrocious and after numerous complaints the manager basically said “gee, sorry, do you want another one”? Neither me nor anyone in my party of 10 will ever go back.

Robert

June 28th, 2012
11:30 am

Hey John – I must say I have to disagree with your comments about the other Persian restaurants. I have been to all three restaurants (Colbeh included), and Rumi’s and Sufi’s are not up to par these days. They used to be great, but I’ve noticed a decrease in the quality of their food. Colbeh, in my opinion is setting the bar for Persian cuisine. I live in Decatur down the street from the place, and I won’t be back to the other places. I recommend the rack of lamb, and shrimp kabob! Also, I’ve been a few times, and the service has been great…

Daniel

June 28th, 2012
11:48 am

Wow, couldn’t be more wrong on this one. Not really sure how you missed the ball, but Colbeh sure didn’t. When I went to Colbeh, not only was the food outstanding, but so was the service, the environment, the prices and my overall experience. It’s understandable that a new restaurant is going to have some new servers, and you might have to “flag him down” because he was busy That’s a pretty lame review point.

John, your reviews are generally pretty reliable, I have gone to many a restaurant because of your analysis, but I’ve happened to have eaten here before this review, four times in fact. Sounds like you had a bad day when you decided to only give Colbeh two stars. I truly hope you haven’t ruined this business, because I would really like to continue going to this restaurant.

Vanessa

June 28th, 2012
12:03 pm

Two stars? Are you new to AJC? I saw two stars, then read your review, and I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion. Colbeh Persian Kitchen and Bar deserves at the very least, 4 stars.

I went with a few of my Persian friends, after they begged me to try Persian food. I honestly didn’t know what to think, I thought they would be serving monkey brains or something extremely foreign. When I looked at the menu, I knew what pretty much everything was. We had a few appetizers, my favorite being the yogurt and cucumber sauce. I ordered the koobideh kabob, and I am hooked! I go back to Colbeh with my friends every few weeks, because Colbeh is my taste of heaven! I talked to Syrus and both of his sons on multiple occasions, and they are incredibly friendly! I had some iffy service when they first opened, but that waitress has since left, and I haven’t had any other issues.

John, your written review is okay on this, except for the fact that you start with an extreme negative, which kind of sets a tone for the rest of the review, and the cavern comment is pretty left field as well. Two stars? Your supervisor needs to have a conversation with you about how to properly review a restaurant, because your analysis doesn’t match the rating.

John Kessler

June 28th, 2012
12:15 pm

Thank you for your multiple comments, single I.P. address I’m leaving the first couple up, but removing subsequent (and exceptionally) similar comments from this address.

Andre

June 28th, 2012
12:21 pm

How many of these reviews are from Colbeh management?

Vanessa

June 28th, 2012
12:32 pm

No problem, John. We are trying to afford a new computer, but we only have one for 4 people in the house, and we unfortunately all have an opinion….

Patrick

June 28th, 2012
1:05 pm

Vannessa/Daniel/Robert/Jeremy–Riiight…

Since all of “your” opinions are the same, I suggest you elect a “Spokes-whiner in Chief” to speak for you.

SP

June 28th, 2012
1:07 pm

Wow. I see a PR campaign in the works. Very obvious fake posts. Makes me not want to support that restaurant at all.

J

June 28th, 2012
1:07 pm

Rolling eyes at single IP address comments to the review. This again?

It would be somwhat comical if the comments did not cross the line in two ways: first, bashing two other good restaurants that have no dog in this fight, and second, playing the race card by accusing John of bias against Persians. Yuck. More likely the result lack of sophistication (low-pay worker paid to post by web PR company), but still. I’d be curious to know if Colbeh’s management knows the substance of these postings or simply hired some firm without knowing fully what they would say. If Colbeh is complicit, frankly I have no interest in eating there.

Which is the tragedy here, because the review was actually very positive, and two stars is a good review here, and I was excited to give the place a try.

Sophie's Choice

June 28th, 2012
1:17 pm

Well, John, you got it mostly right, but you overlooked dessert, and (in my opinion), this is definitely where this place gets it…”odd”, perhaps, is the better word than “wrong”. The two times we went, NO Persian desserts (not even the chickpea flour rosewater shortbread that’s pretty much a standard) were offered. Instead, things like Black Forest cake & Tiramisu were on the menu. When we asked about it, our server explained that the owners wanted to go in a “different direction”, and further, that one of their friends owned a European bakery, so they wanted to give him business. We were a bit nonplussed, to say the least, as it just seems odd to offer a Persian menu without Persian desserts (which, incidentally, I adore, and was very disappointed not to find there). That being said, the chicken barq, shrimp, and vegetable skewers were so delicious that I’ll still go back.

Ed Advocate

June 28th, 2012
1:56 pm

Jeremy/Daniel/Robert/Vanessa/etc, my family lives in Decatur, and we’ve been looking forward to trying Colbeh. John’s review didn’t dissaude me from our plan, but your commentary on this blog almost has. How about refocusing your efforts into actually improving your restaurant rather than trolling this blog?

BC

June 28th, 2012
1:58 pm

Yeah Vanessa, he’s new to the AJC. And apparently you’re new to me. Hi, I’m Earth, have we met?

John, you’re too kind to even leave the first few comments up there.

Ned Ludd

June 28th, 2012
3:28 pm

Jeremy says drowning in garlic as if it were a bad thing. Great review would love to try but will wait until someone in the gang of four around a single computer ‘fesses up.

Foodwinegirl

June 28th, 2012
4:21 pm

Stopped by for drinks prior to another destination. Sampled one their specialty drinks, The Moscow Mule. Vodka, orange bitters and ginger beer. Yum! Very light and refreshing for a hot summer night.
Derek, one of Decatur’s most seasoned BT’s, sure knows how to mix an adult beverage! If I lived in Decatur, this would definitely be my watering hole.
Making plans to come back and try the menu. Everything looked and sounded great.
I thought they did a great job with the space considering there was not much they could do about the shotgun look. Seemed very comfortable and inviting. Wish them lot’s of success!

Cat

June 28th, 2012
4:32 pm

Can you give me your thoughts on whether the food is a good value? The prices of the kabobs sound high. But it may be worth it for good food with a decent portion size.

Baltisraul

June 28th, 2012
5:20 pm

Daniel…….It got 2 stars!!!!!!!!!!John liked it. A worthy addition to the neighborhood. Read the scale!

Wont make rent

June 28th, 2012
6:43 pm

Based on the few comments so far, (other than the 4 from the owners), these guys wont make it a year. the owners of the block charge MAJOR rent, and two nights a week,(sat and sun), wont make payroll. Stick a fork in it, this place is DONE!

Karen H

June 29th, 2012
9:20 am

Meh. Had a marginal meal here last night, as a result of Mr. Kessler’s review. Food was ok to ho hum, but the joojeh kabob was awful. And the service was, as the first commenter indicated, atrocious. I live in Decatur but next time I need a Persian fix it will be rumi’s or sufi’s for sure.

John

June 29th, 2012
9:36 am

Won’t Make Rent- Great insight on your longevity opinion for this restaurant. Basing your astute opinions on a few blogger comments and your market intelligence of “Major Rent” should definitely land you a spot in the business section or even the Economist. Wait, you ate there right? Hmm not mentioned.
Here is an idea- go to the restaurant, eat a few things and share your opinions. Or don’t but please spare us your economic analysis.
Unfortunately this blog has digressed into 1. Owners or PR Reps that have the gall to use the same IP address and believe that they can fool the others into thinking that they are impartial. Never works.
2. People like WMR- Curmudgeons who do not eat at the restaurant and yet spew ridiculous and unfounded economic research and analysis. They also do not being called out.
3. People who actually eat at the restaurant and give credible opinions, whether good or bad.

John Kessler

June 29th, 2012
10:25 am

Sorry I let you down, Karen. Joojeh kabob was awesome when I tried it, but you make me wonder if this place has consistency issues. I still really like the idea of one kabob, a little bit of rice and a nice beer at the bar.

Ned Ludd

June 29th, 2012
11:00 am

John…Agreed! I assume Wont Make Rent probably read/wrote some of the posts deleted.
If I may….4) People who appreciate John’s reviews, and can’t wait to go there.

FM Fats

June 29th, 2012
12:34 pm

I get a kick out of the PR companies that have been “nominating” their clients for the various “Best of Atlanta” categories on the woeful Patch. In the “Best Festival” category, there are multiple nominations of the Sandy Springs Artsapalooza. The first Artsapalooza doesn’t happen until next month. Reminds me of how Chevy’s won “Best Burger” in AJC’s Best of Atlanta blog.

ls1z28chris

July 1st, 2012
11:55 am

You went to a Persian restaurant expecting monkey brains?

You are one horrible, racist person. This is like posting: “I went to Five Points and was surprised I found something other than fried chicken and watermelon. Shuck & jive; shuck & jive; shuck & jive!”

Food Freedom

July 1st, 2012
12:21 pm

If you like Persian food, get it before our government decides (like Persian rugs) that it will no longer be allowed in this country because our government hates the current government of Persia (Iran) and wants to kill all of its people. How truly sad. Thankfully for this culture they have a past (Persia) that they can brand their cuisine with so that the chronically fearful and hateful americans don’t have to be scared off by knowing its from Iran.

DecaturFour

July 1st, 2012
12:21 pm

We were in the Decatur square last night and saw Colbeh – wow let’s give it a try next weekend – we said. After the first few posts and subsequent comments there is no way we’ll go. Nice catch John, thanks for calling it like it is.

Kirk

July 1st, 2012
12:28 pm

Food was fair. Service was the worst I have ever experienced — ill-trained, poorly timed, clumsy, awkward. Server was removing plates and trying to take dessert orders while part of our party was still on the entree. We won’t go back.

Ned Ludd

July 1st, 2012
3:07 pm

I’m sorry DecaturFour, if you were dissuaded from trying Colbeh because of posts you know to be fictitious and JK’s review which was actually positive (note the two stars if you even bothered to read it) then it makes me wonder how you survive day to day. Are all of your decisions in life based on such specious missinformation? As to other similar posters with a vendetta, the greater majority of the thinking public will choose to visit or not visit a restaurant based on many rational factors, your obviously biased and childish posts not being one of them. Chef Rahimi for some reason I can’t picture you being behind all of this folderol and look forwrd to visiting your establishment and making up my own d..n mind. If you don’t like a restaurant the answer is simple, don’t go back!

Free

July 2nd, 2012
1:27 am

I have eaten at Decatur Square before. Nice atmosphere, but nothing spectacular. I did not understand all the complaints about poor service. Usually the loudest complainers are the worst tippers. Since it is a new restaurant that adds something different to the metro area, how about giving it a chance? I am from Cali and just don’t get Southerners yet….but I’m trying.

Kathy Phillips

July 2nd, 2012
11:48 am

Love the I’m from “Cali and don’t get Southerners”because I bet most of the bloggers are not even Southern but from “Cali”. Most people from California actually use the full name or CA.

As for Colbeh:
I have been a few times. Yes the service can be off but typical. The food has not been consistent but when I pointed out the issues, they were corrected. If you haven’t tried this restaurant, give it a try. If you only get to dine on the square once: skip it. We have much better consistent food choices.
I will return as I am fond of the type of cuisine. It’s nice to say: Thai, BBQ, pub, Mexican, pizza,
Mediterranean, bugers or Persian for the What’s for dinner tonight? Question.

Jay

July 2nd, 2012
12:03 pm

I find The Mirage the most authentic (in Sandy Springs)… Dont need the trendy decor to impress in this place – food is great tasting.

Ash-Marie

July 2nd, 2012
3:09 pm

Wow, after reading all the nasty and good comments its quite easy to assume that Colbeh is a great resturant and will have to prove to all the nasty people on this review how great their resturant really is! This resturant is an EXCELLENT addition to that space and the neighborhood. Family owned and operated! I’m sure they will do very well and exceed the low expectations that these trolls have placed! As a community I’m quite disappointed that anyone would write this terrible things about this great place!

30030

July 2nd, 2012
4:35 pm

I find it odd that instead of a response by the restaurant saying something like “we’ll look into the issues with service” — we instead get a lot of reviews stating that the service complaints are somehow not valid. (and the tie between worst tippers, and people sharing feedback about service on a blog escapes me.) I’d really like to see this place survive — I like the variety. That said, the service is horrible and needs some attention.

Hairy Persian Armenian Guy

July 2nd, 2012
5:00 pm

Any Persian food served on those small Food Network style plates can’t be that good…

Go to Persepolis off Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs. That is some solid Persian food and that’s coming from someone who was born and raised in Glendale, CA, home of Persian restaurants this side of the Atlantic.

An Atlantan foodie

July 3rd, 2012
9:23 am

As my nick inidicates, I’m a foodie and I live in Atlanta, Decatur to be exact. I’m a single professional and my stove is a storage repository for things other than food. As such, I eat out. A lot. I love Persian food. I feel lucky to be in Atlanta with Rumi’s and Sufi’s, long-time Persian go-to’s. I was thrilled when Colbeh arrived in the square. Nice, modern decor. An interesting menu. “Great,” I thought, “no more trekking to Buckhead or Sandy Spring for Persian.”

Oh, how disappointed I was when reality slammed head on into my dreams. Colbeh needs work. Lots of it. One poster mentioned the garlic. My experience, too. Way too much of it. I also experienced ill-timed food deliveries, with my partner’s appetizer arriving 2 minutes AFTER my main course. Which itself took around 45 minutes to arrive. The server’s response: “sorry.” The manager’s response (to both the delivery time, delivery order, and server response: “sorry.” I know I would at least have offered a drink or desert on the house, as a show of good faith. The manager’s offer: “we don’t need difficult patrons.” Seriously. I was neither rude, nor mean, nor nasty, etc. But I felt unwanted and unappreciated. Colbeh won’t be seeing me again. And I think I’ll be seeing a new restaurant in Colbeh’s space. Quite soon. No way they’ll survive with an attitude like that (which seems to be shared by many, many patrons). Rumi’s and Sufi’s, here I come!

Marsh

July 3rd, 2012
10:20 am

Here’s what you can expect at any Persian restaurant; great food, terrible service. It’s par for the course.

I don’t eat at the stupidly expensive ones – the smaller, well-known stand-bys are sufficient for what I’m craving – maybe Sufi’s or whatever has impeccable, fast service, but that would surprise me.

Here’s a good tip: go to Persepolis where you can wait on yourself. They’ll bring you hot bread if you get there early. Call in to Mirage and they’ll put together a delightful take out order – but don’t complain when they don’t include your free soup. It was free. Get over it.

Give this place a chance. Smaller portions are nice. Don’t get the hummus and you won’t have to worry about “too much garlic.” Like there is a such a thing! And enjoy. And stop tearing down a new, local business. It’s hateful and unnecessary.