PARSA Kabob is tucked away in a corner of the Yorktowne Plaza Mall in Cockeysville. Actually, "hidden" may better describe its location, but the place is worth seeking out. Its modest decor and relatively limited menu belie an honest, unadorned cuisine of good Middle Eastern and Persian foods.
More than a few things about Parsa Kabob reminded us of some of this area's once humble and now very popular ethnic restaurants (most notably the Orchard Market in Towson). These include the nearly invisible storefront, its plain white box of a space, the sparse decorations and finishes, the basic cafe chairs and tables, some small, pleasantly gurgling fountains and a curtained-off retail area with plain metal shelves full of Middle Eastern staples.
The heart of Parsa Kabob's cuisine is the excellent pita bread made in the restaurant's tandoori oven. The bread is made up with each order, so there can be a little wait for food. The fresh, steaming pita comes with practically every dish, although we chose rice (a very fine basmati) to go with some of our entrees. For appetizers, we had pita with ashe reshteh (rich, thick vegetable and noodle soup) kashk-o bademjan (fragrant, delicious eggplant, onion and garlic spread) and hummus. And we spread wonderful French feta cheese from our salad on the bread throughout the meal.
At lunchtime, many of the restaurant's kabob dishes are served stuffed into whole pitas, making any one of the various combinations of meat or poultry and vegetables into a generous and tasty mid-day meal. We tried lamb kabob, which was a dreamy, 1,001 Nights version of a sandwich consisting of cubes of succulent, spicy lamb, a few leaves of crisp, fresh Boston lettuce, non-hothouse tomatoes and tahini mayonnaise all rolled into a hand-held wonder.
Dinner entrees consist of kabobs of various meats and vegetables served with pita and yogurt/cucumber sauce, each garnished with a big sprig of parsley and chunks of the delicious feta. A large plateful of the aromatic basmati rice costs just a dollar more. Both the chicken and lamb kabobs that we tried were straightforward, well-prepared (tender) renditions of the classics. "Beef" kabob is actually more akin to souvlaki - a fragrant and flavorful blend of ground beef and onion. Barg kabobs are chunks of tender, marinated beef, plain and good. And the shish kabob is worth trying too, although it is essentially barg kabob outfitted with vegetables.
Parsa Kabob serves a couple of dipping sauces, including a refreshing mixture of shallots or cucumber with yogurt, good, fresh grilled tomatoes, some very sour pickle relish and a few salads. According to the restaurant's very pleasant owners, the kitchen will soon add falafel - "the best you will have tasted." We don't doubt it. Even with that addition, the menu will remain (as well it should), brief, (Middle Eastern basic) and very good.
74 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville 410-683-7411 Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner except Monday
Credit cards: All major cards
Prices: Appetizers: $2.50 to $3.95; entrees $3.99 to $12.25
Service: ** 1/2
Ratings system: Outstanding ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *