Shiraz: From Persia To PG

By chris dias.  photos by James Doyle on September 22 2014

Despite claims from my great Aunt that my Portuguese blood tracks back to Vasco Da Gama, I believe there must be a drop of Persian flowing somewhere in my veins. How else can anyone explain my appetite for rosewater?

The inclusion of this ingredient in several dishes at Shiraz is as much an indicator of the restaurant’s pride in its heritage as its colorful décor or ethnically-titled dishes. Where some people testify that it’s akin to eating perfume, I find it in small quantities an incredibly robust addition. Try a drop in your butter chicken next time (a drop-for god’s sake, a drop). What’s most impressive about Shiraz is it’s resistance to compromise. When it first opened, it offered no westernized cuisine, no American hallmarks, a stance it maintains today. To indulge a metaphor, Shiraz is Koenigsegg.

No, I didn’t just have a stroke or mash my keys frustratingly on the keyboard, though you could’ve made that assumption; I just mashed my keys and got “farthinder”, which is also Swedish and sounds a little dirty (though it’s not). Koenigsegg is car a manufacturer focusing on oddly enough cars. They’re not about selling t-shirts, caps, or novelty mugs. They refuse to concede to any pressure to conform, which is why their cars go 242 miles per hour and have 1300 horsepower. Shiraz matches that level of commitment and is equally proud of its heritage…I’m just happy it uses less syllables to do it. When I first encountered Shiraz, I exclaimed to friends, family, and my hypnotherapist every second Tuesday that it was proof that patrons in Prince George were not single-minded fataholics (copyrighted). The success of the restaurant lends itself not just to the owners of Shiraz but to Prince George as a whole. It was like opening the gates of Troy, only this time, the horse was full of diverse cuisine (though some of it was Greek, so…you got me there).

We’ve already been blessed by a second Persian restaurant; how long before we get Lebanese, Turkish, or Spanish (TAPAS!). Meanwhile, Shiraz isn’t standing on its laurels, expanding its menu by pulling inspiration from Morocco, Nepal, and Brazil (coincidentally where the chefs are from) while still clinging onto its Persian roots like a G.I. Joe doll with plyer-like kung-fu grip. Those roots permeate the foundations of the restaurant. When I first passed through its entrance less than a month after opening, Shiraz was like Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs—still parading in the skin of its predecessor. Over the course of its first year, its culture oozed to the surface like Albertan oil, and we as a city embraced them. In many ways, I’m as proud of my city for welcoming Shiraz as I am to Reza Akbari, the owner, for opening it.

One only needs to encounter the insane buzz on those occasional Saturdays when live bands are present, an occurrence so frequent that Reza stopped tearing down the stage. I hope its success continues, for it validates the faith in my initial review, in the restaurant, and in my city entire.

WGO2014Norm Coyne