Our February dining adventure found us visiting Shandiz, a Persian restaurant and food market in Central Plano. Chances are you’ve been near this Hidden Gem many times, particularly if you’ve visited the U.S. post office on Coit just north of Parker Road.
Shandiz opened in Plano eight years ago. The building sits slightly back from the road in an otherwise nondescript collection of shops and restaurants. However, just like the fantastical wardrobe in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” there’s far more inside than you would expect from a glance at the exterior. The front of the building, facing Coit, houses a spacious restaurant. A large food market can be accessed through a narrow hallway or via a separate exterior entrance.
We were attracted to Shandiz for its daily lunch buffet. Offered seven days a week, there’s nothing like a buffet to try a variety of food items as well as have a satisfying lunch within a reasonable timeframe.
The buffet begins at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays. We arrived a few minutes early (we like to eat!) and discovered the food wasn’t quite ready to be served. It was the perfect excuse to explore the food market.
What a surprise! Often a food market attached to a restaurant consists of little more than a few shelves of imported goods. The Shandiz market is absolutely huge—row after row of shelves, stacked floor to ceiling with teas, rice, herbs and spices, dry and canned foods, jams and much more. The back of the store is lined with freezer cases full of products we’d never seen before, but now desperately want to. How about basmati rice and fava beans for a quick workday lunch? Or perhaps a reheat-and-eat beef kabob?
We were also sorely tempted by the fresh olives and pickled vegetables at the self-service bar, as well as by the baked goods. It’s also a great place to pick up fresh produce, hard-to-find herbs and a wide variety of nuts. A return visit focused on grocery shopping is definitely in order.
Although we could have easily spent another 30 minutes just in the food market, our rumbling bellies and the smell of delicious food soon pulled us back into the restaurant.
The restaurant offers a very comfortable atmosphere. The walls are covered with artwork and colorful tile mosaics. Shandiz truly is designed for enjoyable meals at your own pace. With a bubbling fountain creating pleasant white noise and plenty of space between tables, it’s a good choice for dining when you’d like to easily carry on a conversation with friends.
The buffet features a wide variety of items, including appetizers (don’t miss the creamy hummus!), soups, salads, kabobs, rice dishes, stews and desserts. There were many new-to-us items and we found the wait staff to be extremely helpful in explaining what was in each particular dish.
After piling our plates full (we’re perfectly happy to make this dietary sacrifice for our fellow Planoites), here are some highlights from our meal:
Dolmas: You may have had dolmas before, since they are a staple at most Mediterranean restaurants. However, you haven’t had the best dolmas of your life until you’ve had the ones made by Shandiz. We thought they were perfectly prepared – not too salty, not too oily and filled with the most amazing creamy interior.
Salad Olivieh: This was hands-down one of our favorite salad dishes on the buffet because it was so unique. It was quite similar to a potato salad in texture, but it’s definitely not your mama’s potato salad; unless, perhaps, your mama is Persian. The creamy dish features potatoes, eggs, shredded chicken, green olives and a host of other things that we couldn’t identify but inhaled all the same.
Khoresht Bademjan: Khoresht is Persian for “stew.” This delicious eggplant stew features beef, tomatoes, cinnamon and turmeric, to name but a few of the spices.
Khoresht Ghormeh Sabzi: The fresh herb and lamb stew can be made with a variety of greens, from fresh herbs to spinach to leeks. The version Shandiz offers has spinach, lamb, red beans and lemon. It was delicious.
Fried fish: It’s hard to prepare perfectly fried fish. It’s even harder to do it as part of a buffet. Shandiz has mastered it. Our fish was crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and each bite was punctuated with the bright note of freshly squeezed lemon juice on top.
Kabob Kubideh: Who knew ground meat, grated onion, salt and pepper could taste so amazing?
Chicken Kabob: Unlike any chicken kabob you may have had before, Shandiz marinates its kabobs in a unique spice blend including saffron and orange zest. The result is golden-colored pieces of chicken that are tender and flavorful, but not overly spicy.
This time we did save room for dessert (we learned our lesson from our last meal). The chocolate cake wasn’t overly sweet, but was tender and moist. The orange-flavored cookie dipped in melted milk chocolate was a huge hit. So was the jam-filled pastry, providing an explosion of fruity flavor with every bite.
Bottom line: Shandiz is an excellent choice if you are familiar with Mediterranean food and are ready to try a cuisine that is similar but slightly different. The lunch buffet is offered daily on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on the weekends from noon to 4 p.m.
4013 W Parker Rd, Plano, TX 75093
9 a.m.–10 p.m.