- 2740 S. Virginia St., Reno, NV, 89502
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- 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
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Sometimes, service emerges at its best when mistakes occur. Consider the Affair of the Wayward Gyro that unfolds during a recent visit to Naan & Kabab Etc., a new South Virginia Street restaurant serving Greek and Middle Eastern food.
I have a hankering for the classic Greek sandwich — vegetables and roasted lamb enrobed in soft flatbread — because I'd liked it on my initial outing, especially with generous applications of tzatziki sauce bright with dill. (On my first visit, the lamb was in chunks instead of preferred slices, but that wasn't a deal breaker.)
On this second visit, I order the gyro plate (which includes salad and rice) instead of the stand-alone gyro sandwich. Waiting for my gyro plate and other main courses, my party devours two appetizers (more on those in a second) and three baskets of blistered flatbread triangles.
The waiter returns to the table three times to explain the gyro delay; each time, he's more apologetic, but he doesn't fluster or become inefficient. On his fourth return trip — one eagerly awaited by me but doubtless dreaded by him — he confesses that my gyro plate has been bestowed upon another customer. Thus unburdened, the waiter braves the kitchen and quickly arranges a replacement.
Poor man: Things go from bad to worse when the gyro plate arrives. The "plate" option means that the sliced lamb is served without flatbread. What? Why? This is confusing to me. Where's my sandwich? If you want a typical gyro, you've got to order the stand-alone version.
Back the waiter goes, emerging from the kitchen a few minutes later with a standard gyro he doesn't charge me for. Inside, the waiter probably wants to spit roast whoever's on gyro duty today; outside, he's love, peace and chicken grease.
If only the food at Naan & Kabab were so consistently appealing.
Fluffy basmati rice tinted gold by saffron is a standout. So, for the most part, are nicely fried falafel balls drizzled with tahini sauce.
But could the chickpea mixture offer a bit more spice? Middle Eastern food isn't strongly flavored, but still.
The thought occurs again when I dredge flatbread through baba ganoush, the classic Middle Eastern mash of roasted eggplant and seasoning. Does this baba need more garlic? Where is the gentle smokiness imparted by roasting?
The lamb in the gyro, either chunked or sliced, delivers an appealing char and roastiness, but on my second gyro go, my palate quests for seasoning. I begin to wonder: Is the kitchen being deliberately coy with flavor?
I find that puzzling, not least because Maurice Afraimi, Naan & Kabab's chef and owner, is a gregarious, rollicking figure who navigates the dining room in a bobbing toque, greeting customers and handing out samples. ("Here, try some of our hot sauce" — which turns out to be a delicious amalgam of roasted and chopped tomatoes, bell pepper, onions and jalapeño chiles.)
Tender koobedeh kababs, a mix of ground beef and lamb, and lamb kababs are more successful, their flavor profiles assisted by beds of spicy onions.
Naan & Kabab occupies a building that once housed Mario's Portofino Ristorante Italiano and, before that, a Pizza Hut (hence the chain-feel architecture). I'm not saying every Middle Eastern restaurant should sport brass and belly dancers, but I bet Afraimi could enliven the cozy-curtain décor with some Middle Eastern art that he owns but hasn't yet displayed. Just a thought.
There's never been much Middle Eastern food in Northern Nevada (although that's suddenly changed with the opening of Naan & Kabab and two other spots.) Folks here are eager for the flavors of the region. With some fine tuning, Naan& Kabab could please even more of them.