Oklahoma City, OK
For some time I have had a love for Persian music and Persian cats, and Travel By Taste has convinced me that Persian food should be added to the list. The name “Travel By Taste” may be more than a little bit appropriate since few restaurants contribute as much to expanding the food experience in Oklahoma City as the Persian cuisine served here.
Travel by Taste’s “deli” style service makes it look very casual, and I was somewhat surprised by the “fine dining” experience I got from the food. Orders are taken at the cash register (but unlike Nunu’s and some other restaurants, you pay for the meal when you are finished eating). It is also not a “fine dining” restaurant in the sense that it closes at 8:00 P.M., so some may find this a bit too early to sit and enjoy a leisurely dinner (although I have felt no pressure to eat quickly and leave so that they could close up and go home). In spite of these constraints, though, Travel by Taste is really one of the places I go for a fine dining experience in OKC, where the food lives up to the expectation.
The fact that they serve Middle Eastern flavored hot tea is another factor that makes this restaurant one of my favorites. Food is brought to the table, and customers are served just as in any restaurant, but the only difference here is that you place your order at the cash register. I do enjoy browsing the market when I go to order and to pay, and I am sure this is by design.
Travel by Taste serves “halal” meat in the “Specialty Dishes” section of the menu (these are equivalent to kosher meats). Meats include the lamb shish kabob, grilled chicken, kabobs, and ghormeh sabzi. Probably not surprisingly, these are among my favorite items at the restaurant. The rest of the menu is non-Persian and does not include halal meat, but I have found it to be very good as well.
Items from the “Regular Menu”
The non-Persian portion of the menu also has the less expensive items. One of the best items I have found is the Falafel Sandwich, which by itself makes a very substantial meal. The freshness, texture, and flavor of the falafel are its most notable features, and this is definitely one of the best in town. The bread was very fresh with a traditional pita flavor, but was large and thin like a wrap. I liked the fact that the bread did not fall apart when it was saturated by the sauce as is frequently the case with with this type of sandwich.
Hummus was another standout item from the “regular menu,” placing it in contention for being the best in OKC. The hummus and other appetizers here come in fairly large servings, and may be better shared than for just one person.
The Persian Salad had a dressing that for me was a little disappointing, but the salad itself was quite good. I really thought the Greek Salad was more enjoyable in terms of flavor, but the one I tried had only one olive that I could find and very little feta. These salads did not reach the point of being a “disappointment,” but I think they are better at other restaurants.
Shish Kabob (from the Regular Menu)
The Shish Kabob was not one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” but I think it is probably one of their best items. This was made with filet mignon, and it was like eating steak in a high end steak house only with a flavor from being marinated that makes it better than the typical steak.
One feature that put the shish kabob among the top ones I have tried was the Saffron Rice served underneath the meat and vegetables. This was very fresh and delicious, and the rice was something I would enjoy eating by itself.
Lamb Kabob (“Specialty Dish”)
The Lamb Kabob is one of the restaurant’s “Specialty Dishes,” and I would say is equally as enjoyable as the beef version (although I would not say this about all the lamb dishes I have tried in various restaurants). Some people would like the lamb better, and I would say that both are good.
Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa
Grilled Chicken with Turkish Salsa has been my favorite item since I first tried it, but with the new menu in 2014 it is no longer served. The good news is that customers can still get the same thing by ordering two dishes: the chicken kabob and what is now called “Turkish salad” (formerly Turkish salsa). The bad news is that there is about a fifty percent higher price tag ordering it this way (but I think it comes with a larger serving).
The Chicken Kabob accomplishes a very hard feat by making the chicken as flavorful and tender as the beef. The seasoning is a major part of the meat’s appeal, and of course coming from the “halal” section of the menu, this is undoubtedly some of the best meat available.
The Turkish Salad is made with tomatoes, onion, parsley, pomegranate sauce, chile peppers, and walnuts for a taste that is a little bit like tabouli (but sweet with pomegranate and crunchy with walnuts). This was quite a unique combination that I have not found in other Middle Eastern restaurants.
Ghormeh Sabzi was one of the Specialties I was hesitant to try because I had a rather disappointing experience with it at another restaurant. Travel by Taste, though, knows how to do it right (at least it was right for my taste buds). The flavor and color seem to come mostly from shredded parsley, but Travel by Taste has mixed in enough kidney beans, dried lime, stewed beef, and green onions to give it quite a delicious flavor. Some of the other patrons, on seeing this dish being delivered to my table, have commented that it is one of their favorite dishes.
Gheimeh with Potatoes
Gheimeh with Potatoes is a mild dish with tomato sauce, covered with French fries. None of the items at Travel By Taste are spicy, but this dish is quite mild in terms of not having as many spices as some of the others. It does have a very good flavor, though.
Travel By Taste has a limited dessert menu, but the Persian Ice Cream was one item I had not seen elsewhere. This was home made ice cream with pistachios and rose water. Rose water is a prominent flavor in Iranian cuisine, and I think it is worth splurging a little bit to try this ice cream (normally in restaurants I go for cake or baked goods).
My previous review mentioned the Khoresh Bademjan, a beef and eggplant stew listed under “Specialty Dishes.” The discontinued items seem to be among the more expensive ones that were not ordered very often, but I think the ones still served offer a good choice of Persian dishes.
So far almost everything I have tried has gone on the “best items” list, and I think this is truly a sign of a consistently excellent restaurant. Of course my view of the restaurant may be skewed because of ordering mainly the “Specialty Dishes” which are the most expensive items. Even so, this is one of the least expensive restaurants in town which I consider to have “fine dining” type of food. The falafel sandwich is certainly more casual than other dishes, though, and in some situations can be just as satisfying (and there are still many items from the menu I have not yet tried).
The Iranian music sometimes played over the speakers is very enjoyable, and the dining room is very comfortable. The back of the dining room looks like a place where people can sit around, enjoy a drink, and plug in a computer.
The “market” is very good for imported goods and some Middle Eastern style food produced in the United States. I particularly like the fresh fruit and nuts which can be purchased separately or combined to create your own trail mix.
Cuisine: Middle Eastern (Persian)
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon.
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: “Specialty Dishes” on the menu are halal
Most Recent Visit: Jun. 24, 2016
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ghormeh Sabzi, Shish Kabob, Lamb Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Turkish Salad, Hummus, Saffron Rice, Persian Ice Cream
|Shish Kabob (filet mignon)|
|Persian Ice Cream|