Feel good falafel
Naan & Kabab2740 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502
I spent 2005 as an AmeriCorps volunteer traveling around Nevada completing environmental restoration projects. My crew formed wonderful bonds building trails and thinning forests, and then hanging around the campfire at night. Those demanding days required us to take dinners very seriously. A young woman named Kate was our crew’s best cook, and she made falafel every other week. She’d buy the dehydrated stuff in bulk. I neither liked nor hated the dish.
I thought having Naan & Kabab’s falafel ($4.75) might set a new benchmark for falafel in my life. I was a little troubled that it didn’t taste that much different from what we ate in camp, and now I think maybe falafel is not for me.
Naan & Kabab serves Mediterranean food at the former location of Mario’s Portofino across South Virginia Street from the Peppermill. It’s a little disconcerting to walk into a restaurant and not be able to pick out its theme—the painting of wine bottles in a kitchen suggests Italian, but the pastel flowers suggest bed and breakfast. Give it some time, though. Naan & Kabab just opened on Valentine’s Day, and I’m certain the chefs are focusing on the food over the flair.
Naan & Kabab’s servers are exemplary. Our waiter never missed a beat in spite of my wife, Kat, and I asking question after question. What’s this, what’s that, what’s koobedeh? I listened to other waiters serve their customers, and they all spoke with the same enthusiasm for the food. The only thing our server did not fervently endorse was the doogh ($2.50). He called this beverage consisting of chopped mint leaves, yogurt, and a floater of soda water, “interesting.” I should have known better than to order it because deep down I knew nothing surprising would come from mixing yogurt and soda water. Though it did make my stomach feel quite pleasant.
For entrees, Kat ordered the marinated fish filet kabab ($12.50); the fish on Saturday night was salmon. All entrees come with a side of delicious basmati rice and charbroiled vegetables, including heaps of onion and zucchini. Kat commented upon the salmon’s freshness, which was cooked expertly on a skewer over flame, though she had to add some lemon from her water to perk up its flavor. I ordered the gyros plate ($9.50)—slices of marinated beef and naan. The beef, like the salmon, was wonderfully cooked, but its flavor was so much more powerful. I ate it with piece after piece of naan, which I can’t really explain because the naan was very plain and unimpressive.
Our meal ended on a superb note. We split a serving of Akbar Mashdi’ ice cream ($3.50), Naan & Kabab’s homemade pistachio ice cream. Toward the bottom of the dish, the server mandated that Kat get the last bite. My first thought was for him to keep his nose out of my affairs, but once I saw Kat digging into that ice cream, I knew he only had my best interests at heart.
The people of Reno certainly embraced Naan & Kabab on the Saturday evening we visited. It was packed. As a Mediterranean restaurant in Reno, it offers something unique at a good price, and the chefs have brought deep culinary backgrounds to the restaurant. Someday I’ll venture back to try some of the other flame-kissed dishes I’ve never seen before.