Tasty Kabob–El Paso, TX

Tasty Kabob
6110 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 234-2255
Tasty Kabob

Tasty Kabob


Tasty Kabob is not the first Persian restaurant to open in El Paso, but it is reflective of the fact that a larger variety of ethnic food is available than ever before. Moreover, the food I have eaten here has been genuinely good, and seems to be a worthy example of the cuisine of Iran.

Tasty Kabob is small and possibly gets most of its business from take-out orders. There are not a lot of items on the menu, a fact that I think may change once Persian cuisine gets “discovered” by the masses. For now the kabobs seem to be quite popular, and the other items are there for those who care to be more adventurous.

Ghorme Sabzi

Ghorme sabzi

Ghorme sabzi on basmati rice

Ghorme Sabzi is a traditional Persian dish that is on Tasty Kabob’s menu, and is offered at a fairly good price. The best way I could describe this dish is that it tastes like parsley, but the flavor becomes very complex with the other ingredients that are mixed in. There is the fruity flavor of sundried limes, along with tender chunks of beef and kidney beans made with the traditional recipe.

I have tried this dish at three different restaurants (one was a former Persian restaurant in El Paso), and the one here is the one I thought was best. I think it is because while all ghorme sabzi dishes have the parsley, beef, and kidney bean flavors, Tasty Kabob seems to add a different dimension of flavor (probably mostly from limes). I am not an expert on this dish, but I do know that the one here is quite good.

Other Menu Items
Kabobs are the most prominent feature of the menu, but there is also a large selection of Middle Eastern appetizers and Persian entrees. I tend to think of kabobs as a snack, but many of the ones here are quite elaborate meals served with rice, salad, and vegetables. They also have sandwiches, though, for an inexpensive lunch or dinner.

There is a special meal on the menu called the “Tour of Persia” serving 3 to 4 people and offering several Persian entrees including a bone-in chicken kabob plate.

Overall Comments
To me the ambiance of this small restaurant does not quite match the food, but discounting the fact that they do not have belly dancers or some of the features found at other Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, I really think this is one of the best places to go for traditional food. I have only tried one of the menu items but I highly recommend it.

The Basmati Rice had the same high quality as the main dish. I should not have to mention this as one of the reasons to come to Tasty Kabob except for the fact that not all restaurants match up to this one in the rice that they serve.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Persian
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun. evening and Tue.
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Mar. 8, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Ghorme Sabzi

 

Special Ratings
star 5 Ghorme Sabzi
star 5 Basmati Rice

Travel By Taste–Warr Acres, OK

Travel By Taste
4818 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 787-2969
Travel By Taste

Travel By Taste


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.

The market

Patrons enter through the market, and the dining room is through the door on the left.

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”

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

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.

Persian salad

Persian salad

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)

Shish kabob

Shish kabob

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

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

Ghormeh sabzi

Ghormeh sabzi

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

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.

Khoresh Bademjan

Khoresh bademjan

Khoresh bademjan

The Khoresh Bademjan, had been discontinued for a while because of not being ordered very often, but on a recent visit I was able to order it again. This is a beef and eggplant stew listed under “Specialty Dishes” that I thought was very flavorful. As with all of the dishes here, Travel By Taste does an excellent job with the sauces. I was informed that all of the Specialty Dishes have meat which is halal, and I thought the meat in this dish was excellent quality.

Desserts

Persian ice cream

Persian ice cream

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).

Overall Comments
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.


RATING: 25

Cuisine: Middle Eastern (Persian)
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun & Mon. (in 2017 I got information that it was open Sun. lunch, but I do not know if this is still the case)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No
Special Features: “Specialty Dishes” on the menu are halal

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 16, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Ghormeh Sabzi, Shish Kabob, Lamb Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Turkish Salad, Gheimeh, Hummus, Saffron Rice, Persian Ice Cream, Fruit and Nut “Trail Mix” from the Market

Special Ratings
star 5 Shish Kabob (filet mignon)
star 5 Lamb Kabob
star 5 Chicken Kabob
star 5 Ghormeh Sabzi
star 4 Falafel Sandwich
star 5 Turkish Salad
star 4 Greek Salad
star 4 Persian Salad
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Saffron Rice
star 5 Persian Ice Cream

Singapore–El Paso, TX

Singapore Cafe
3233 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 533-2889
Singapore Cafe

The new Singapore Cafe at 3233 N. Mesa


To truly enjoy Singapore Café I think customers need to place greater importance on fresh ingredients, healthy eating, and a home cooking style of food than on truly authentic Thai cooking. I call it “Thai fusion” because many of the best dishes are ones created by Becky, the owner and chef, rather than the traditional Thai dishes that are on the menu. Even the name of the restaurant implies that she borrows recipes from Singapore, Malaysia, and surrounding countries.

Singapore Café has fulfilled a great need in my life by providing vegetarian dishes at a time when that was the only type of food I was eating, preparing them with individual care and making them flavorful enough so that a meatless meal could be genuinely satisfying. I have enjoyed the food a lot more by asking for fish sauce and other normal Thai flavorings to be included that are not necessarily vegetarian, but Singapore Café has a greater variety of tofu dishes than I can find anywhere else in town. True vegetarians have always flocked to Singapore, though, knowing that any dietary request made here will be honored, and that it will be made as flavorful as possible. Becky makes sure the food is cooked to customer’s specifications.

I cannot say for sure that the food at Singapore Café is inauthentic or unlike the food that would be found in Thailand. I do know, though, that patrons are not supplied a tray of Thai style condiments as they are at many other Thai restaurants. I definitely do not taste some of the flavors here that I have found in Pacific Northwest Thai restaurants, and the menu offers quite a small selection compared to most Thai restaurants. Instead of ordering the traditional Thai dishes, though, I have found that some of Becky’s creations are quite good, and in fact many of them seem to be “one of a kind.” Some of the best sauces also seem to be on the Malaysian and Singapore style dishes.

The Southwest in general and El Paso in particular does not do vegetarian food very well, thus I usually think meat dishes are the best choices. Singapore Café, though, is one of the few restaurants that serves good quality tofu, but more importantly makes tofu dishes that are balanced and provide a satisfying meal. I have tried some of the meat dishes at Singapore, but most of the time I go back to the vegetarian dishes because this is one of the few places that does them really well (although I usually make sure to ask that fish sauce be added).

Ginger Dishes
Over the years one of the entrées I have enjoyed very much at Singapore Café has been Veggie Ginger Tofu, although I would not rate it the same as many of the ginger dishes served in the Seattle area and other cities. The one here includes tofu, ginger, mushrooms, peanuts, and snow peas as the primary ingredients, set on a bed of lettuce that I only consume if the rest of the plate is not sufficiently filling. I find the dish to be sickly sweet and off balance in flavor, but still the vegetables and tofu are of good quality and this is something I do not mind ordering. It is much better with fish sauce, which does not come in the vegetarian version, but can be requested.

Yu Sang

Yu sang broccoli

Yu sang broccoli with brown rice

Yu Sang Broccoli is generally good in its vegetarian version, but can also be ordered with meat. Becky describes this as a “Chinese ex-patriot” dish, and it probably came from the large Chinese population in Thailand that mixed their own recipes with the local ingredients. To me this is one of the few dishes at Singapore Café that does not taste too sweet or “Americanized;” rather it has a good balance of flavors. It is surprisingly spicy, though, considering the lack of spice found in many of the other dishes.

Curries
Curry dishes are the ones that have been the most disappointing to me. They do not seem to have the rich and full flavors I have experienced elsewhere, and in this case I would like them to be more “authentic” (as I have experienced them in other restaurants).

Mi Goreng

Mi gorent

Mi goreng

A very good vegetarian choice is the Veggie Mi Goreng, consisting of noodles with tofu and vegetables. I think this is usually considered to be a Malaysian dish, and over the years has been one of my favorites at Singapore Café. It is not one of the dishes that taste “sweet,” although it seems to have a sweet and sour contrast done in a traditional Asian way.

Soups
Several soups are served as entrées, but many of them are not as satisfying to me as at other Thai restaurants. The Tom Kha Gai (with coconut), however, has frequently been better than at many other places.

Tom yum

Tom yum is a spicy soup with lemongrass

Tom Yum is a spicy soup with pineapple and tomato, flavored with lemongrass. This is similar to Vietnamese style sweet and sour soup, but is rather different from the versions of tom yum I have found at other Thai restaurants. I liked the chicken version better than the one with shrimp, even though the opposite is true with some other dishes.

Special Dishes
Some of the best dishes at Singapore have been specials that are not always available including Mango Tofu that may not be great when compared to Thai food available in other cities, but is one of the more delicious and healthy dishes available in El Paso. This is an example of the food at Singapore that may not be the best that can be found anywhere, but is certainly enjoyable (or at least I have found it to be so).

Green tea chicken

Green tea chicken on a take-out order

The Green Tea Chicken started out as a special but was added to the menu in 2005. This is a spicy dish served in a bowl on top of rice with broccoli and other vegetables. When Becky served it as a special I liked it so much I made it a point to tell her, and perhaps this was one of the reasons it was added to the menu (OK, maybe this wasn’t the reason). There is also a tofu version but I think the chicken has a better flavor.

Lunch Specials

Soup served with lunch specials

Soup served with lunch specials

Lunch specials come with a delicious, slightly tomato flavored soup that I think is better than the soups found at just about any Chinese restaurant in the city. The crispy noodles that come with it are excellent, and even if the choices for luncheon specials is limited the soup is always good. I am sure this is a big factor for the restaurant’s popularity at lunch time.

The lunch menu comes with about six choices, and besides the soup includes lumpia. The lumpia, a small fried spring roll, has meat inside, and most of the menu items are meat dishes. Two of the lunch specials can be made vegetarian (pad thai and kao pad), but if you order it vegetarian they do not bring the lumpia unless you ask for it. I will admit to having ordered pad thai quite a few times not because I was craving it, but because I wanted the soup that comes with the lunch specials (and the lumpia is good also).

Lunch portion of pad thai

Lunch portion of pad thai

Pad Thai has been my favorite dish from the lunch menu, but I cannot say it is the best because I have not tried all the others. I do think, though, that the pad thai at Singapore Café is better than average in the universe of American Thai restaurants. This is a white to slightly brown colored dish that I was told is made with vinegar and soy sauce. The regular (non-vegetarian) version is also made with fish sauce (nam pla), and personally I think it needs the fish sauce to have the full flavor that it should. Some restaurants use tamarind sauce that turns the noodles a red color, but Becky does not (perhaps this is why I like Singapore’s version better than others). Bean sprouts provide substance but not much flavor, and are traditionally included in the dish. Crushed peanuts are spread on top, and fresh limes and chiles are provided on the side for extra flavor. While many dishes at Singapore Café seem to be too sweet, the pad thai is not. Scrambled eggs are mixed in, and it is topped off with shrimp and chicken. The shrimp and chicken are both good, and some tofu is included as well.

In A Nutshell
One of Singapore’s main claims to fame (and to my heart) is that it is one of the few vegetarian friendly restaurants in El Paso, and offers dishes that actually have some flavor at times when I do not want to eat meat. It is also noteworthy for the specials and other dishes that are not served in any other restaurant. Most of my favorite dishes at Singapore Café are Malaysian rather than Thai, but calling the restaurant “Thai fusion” probably works as well as any description I can think of. In any case, I know I can call it “delicious.”


RATING: 20

Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun., Closed Mon. evening, Closed Tue. evening
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking

Most Recent Visit: Jun. 7, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Item: Soup Served with Lunch Specials

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Jasmine (bags)/ Thai Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 4 Green Tea Chicken
star 3 Green Tea Tofu
star 4 Pad Thai
star 4 Tom Kha Gai
star 4 Tom Yum Gai
star 3 Tom Yum Gung
star 4 Yu Sang Broccoli
star 4 Mi Goreng
star 3 Ginger Tofu
star 4 Lumpia
star 5 Soup served with lunch specials