Cat often teases me that my palate seems to have converted to Islam. Certainly, my favorite cuisines geographically coincide with what is considered the Dar al-Islam -- from Moroccan in the west to Indonesian in the east, and just about everything in between. At the golden center of this region, and one of its most influential cultures, is Persia. I am of course bananas about Persian food, so I'm really glad Miraj is here.
Cat and I have eaten several times already at Miraj, and our barkadas have also come to like it. Aside from the ubiquitous shawarma (which by the way is good here), there's kebabs, ox brain, curries, and staple side dishes like hummus and moutabal. Last Wednesday we visited Miraj again to shoot (and of course eat!) some of their signature dishes. Another marathon session at the trenchers -- and as the following day was Maundy Thursday, a good prep for abstinence and fasting during the Holy Week! We had Hummus, Kheema, Ox Brains, the Double Beef Kebab with rice, and the newly introduced Masala Burrito.
I requested to have the Ox Brains served first, as I was thinking it would be the most challenging dish to shoot. How do you make a dish of chopped braaaains look as good as it tastes? With hardly any effort at all, it turned out. Fried in turmeric and cumin, and served with a calamansi to bring out their buttery flavor, the brains had a beautiful golden color that stood out beautifully with the green accent of the calamansi. It was Cat's first time to try brains, so I let her have the first forkful. I already had a very good idea what to expect, having ordered this before, so I wasn't surprised at all when her eyes lit up and she grabbed her own fork to get some more.
Next came the Hummus, a paste of ground chickpeas (garbanzos) sprinkled with spices and drizzled with olive oil, made to be scooped up with pieces of flat pita bread. Now Cat usually doesn't like chickpeas, but hummus is the one exception on her list. As soon as I finished shooting it, the hummus plate magically migrated to her side of the table and stayed there! We rounded off our appetizers with the Kheema, a ground beef sauce with mild spices, also made to be scooped up with pita. It's quite a hearty dish, for an appetizer, and Cat really liked the fact that its spicing doesn't overwhelm the beefy taste but just complements it. Me, I usually mix a good dose of the chili sauce into my portion; goes better with San Mig Lite.
Double Beef Kabab
Speaking of sauces, Miraj serves its own fresh sauces -- a yogurt-and-garlic white sauce, and a fiery chili-yogurt sauce. As I usually go straight for the hot one, I actually got to taste the garlic-yogurt sauce for the first time that night with the Double Beef Kabab. Miraj's ground beef kebabs are made the traditional Persian way, very simple and formed onto a spatula-like metal skewer (it's said they cook more evenly that way), and served with buttered rice and a grilled tomato. You moosh up the butter and tomato into the rice, bathe the meat in the yogurt sauce to add flavor and juiciness, and -- fight with the wifey for portions!
Our last dish was the Masala Burrito, a reinvention of the Tex-Mex burrito with Persian fillings. This one came with Persian saffron rice, fresh tomatoes and onion, and their Masala Beef. This is one nice hearty dish, something I'd consider ordering if I only had time to eat one item and needed to fill up fast. With a good-sized group, though, I think the best way to enjoy Miraj is to order up a lot of different appetizers and kebabs, and if no one else in my barkada will eat the brains, that's just more for me and Cat! Our gang is going to invade Miraj again -- soon.