Noise Level: Manageable, unless you’re sitting right next to a large group, but still better than many places in the Bay Area. The place was full (Tuesday night, 7:30pm) and had a lineup.
Prices: Very reasonable, especially since the portions are large. One can get a meal and a half with each order. Appetizers range from $4-$7, entrees range from $10-16, combo dishes are around $35, but enough food for three. Great value.
Selections: good representation of Persian dishes, especially the more popular ones like tah dig (crispy rice with stews), mixed rice dishes, stews, and kebabs. Each entrée comes with a huge plate of rice or salad, or half and half. A bit weak on vegetarian dishes, definitely a carnivore’s delight. We usually order different dishes to share. When we had large parties (up to 18 of us), we just let the owners decide and we’re never disappointed. In fact, there was usually too much food, so we all had leftovers to take home. They are very accommodating to requests for special "combinations."
Quality: Excellent. Very well prepared and seasoned, especially the stews and kebabs; their house made yoghurt is tasty too. We were introduced to this place by two different Iranian couples, who are all great cooks themselves, so we knew we were in for a treat from day one. One of the best lamb sirloins I’ve tasted!
Portion: Large. Perfect for big eaters for one meal, or for leftover the next day since the food still tastes very good the next day.
Wine List: Nothing special. Adequate selection and quality
Parking: Easy street parking; safe neighborhood.
Service: Very friendly and helpful; never slack even when the place was full.
Occupation: High School Theater Teacher
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: South Park Café
Reviewed Shalizaar: Saturday, August 19, 2006
White table clothes and Middle Eastern food? I thought this was unheard of, and while checking the internet, it seemed like few knew of San Mateo’s Shalizaar (on Google they keep asking you: "Did you mean Shalimar?" No!) Yet when we arrived it turned out that that at least all of San Mateo knew of this restaurant; Shalizaar was entirely full for the duration of our dinner. We were lucky and were seated in the center of the restaurant immediately without reservations. The restaurant is definitely bustling with many families and large tables, but I wasn’t bothered by the noise. It seemed like everybody was having a good time.
I believe the key to Shalizaar is the manager. My husband and I are not familiar with Middle Eastern dishes and at first we almost panicked while surveying the menu. I had no idea what to order! Luckily, the manager helped us greatly in this area. He understood that we were novices and made some basic recommendations. We started out with a tangy cucumber and yogurt dip. This complemented what was already on the table: a basket of flat bread and a plate of feta cheese, walnuts, and herbs. This was a wonderful beginning to the dinner, mostly because it was so different from your basic basket of bread.
After our appetizer, the manager again made some suggestions for the combination platter for two. This sounded like a great idea since I wanted to try as many different dishes as possible. Our combo platter came with two plates of rice and a plate that you shared with game hen, lamb chops, and ground beef kabobs. Since all of my prior experiences with Middle Eastern food have concerned falafel, I had no idea what to expect from this kabob platter, but we were really impressed. We were a little fearful that the kabob meat was going to be dry, but everything was juicy and didn’t even need the left over cumber-yogurt sauce that we saving in case the meat came out like the bark of a tree. And you could really almost feed a family of four with the combination plate -- their servings are very generous.
At the end of dinner I thought I should give a dessert a try, even though most of the desserts sounded like the ingredients for a bundle of potpourri (i.e. rose water?). Again, I turned to the manager for a suggestion. He pointed to something and I nodded. What I agreed to turned out to be a few scoops of ice cream over some dried noodles and rosewater. I think the rosewater must be an acquired taste; I was still a little uncomfortable with my dessert tasting like a flower. In the end, we thought Shalizaar was a reasonable deal with good food, amazing service, and a must-try for people in the San Mateo area.
Occupation: Senior Software Engineer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Forbes Island
Reviewed Shalizaar: Saturday, August 19, 2006
The trip from Twin Peaks in San Francisco to Shalizaar in San Mateo was a nice get away from the city after a particularly busy day at work. The drive seemed quick for that time of the night, and before we knew it, the GPS told us we had arrived at Shalizaar, plus we got rock star parking, right in front of the restaurant. After we dried our tears over such a great parking space, we entered into the quiet room adorned with Middle Eastern paintings and hanging tapestries that had authentic music gently flowing from the speakers. The pleasant host sat us quickly and on the table a basket of thin bread, feta cheese, walnuts and herbs was immediately placed. All of the items tasted great.
After looking over the menu for a while, we ordered our choices. First after to arrive after about ten minutes was a yogurt dish, which was thick with the taste of sour cream and garlic and went nicely with some bread and a sprig of mint. The wait for the second dish to arrive was about ten additional minutes. It was a combination platter for two that was somewhat pricey but also large in portions. The platter offered choices of chicken, ground chicken, ground beef, and also lamb. Each item was savory, especially the chicken. Taking pieces of each and placing them on bread was quickly filling us up after the initial basket of nibbles, so we ordered dessert and asked for the rest to be boxed.
For dessert we decided on baklava and saffron ice cream and finally tea. The baklava was somewhat stale and bland, which was surprising. The ice cream was truly great. The fragrance, the taste, and the texture all came together to make one of the most interesting ice creams I’ve tasted, ever. They should sell it in gallons to go. The tea was also good and served hot.
Leaving took a while but taking a look around, I noticed that a table full of Middle Eastern men, who had been there before we were seated, were still chatting and eating. I realized this was truly an authentic Persian restaurant and I was a typical American, in a hurry, even when eating. Overall, the restaurant was a pleasant experience not noisy. The lighting wasn’t harsh, the staff, somewhat attentive but always friendly.
I would recommend Shalizaar to friends in the Peninsula area or if they were passing close by. The food was good, yet slightly overpriced, even if the portions are large. Although the experience was pleasant overall, there is nothing that stood out, besides the ice cream, that would draw me back. If I lived around the corner, I would come more often but try to confine my ordering to smaller portioned, lower-priced menu choices.