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The Gossiping Gourmet: Persian and Italian food blends well at Urban Kitchen

It is always a treat to find some new, small neighborhood restaurant that has very good food. I recently discovered Urban Kitchen, tucked away just off Jamboree Road on Scholarship Road near Campus Drive in Irvine.

The restaurant has an extensive menu, in part because it features both Persian and Italian food. My dining companion and I elected to stick to the Persian selections, but we will definitely go back to try the Italian specialties.

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We began with dolmeh, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice, split peas, tarragon, green onions, basil, parsley and Urban's special sauce. They were very good. The leaves were soft and tender, and the filling was complex with a lemony finish. The six rolls were displayed around the dish and in between were salty, crisp, dill pickles, tomato wedges and a little bowl of yogurt dip.

The baked eggplant (kashke bademjan) was even better. The base was seasoned eggplant that was baked until quite soft. Sauteed mint, caramelized onions and garlic, as well as the kashk (drained yogurt) that was drizzled over it, brought a complex finish to the lush eggplant. The portion was also generous for an appetizer.

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From the many choices of kabobs, I opted for the beef soltani, which featured two kinds of beef. One was a skewer of filet mignon and the other a strip of beef koobideh, which is beef that is ground and remade into a long strip. The filet was tender and full of flavor, and the koobideh was well seasoned and very tasty.

The dishes from the grill are all served with basmati rice topped with saffron, charbroiled tomato and jalapeno as well as a mista garden salad made of roasted green peppers, charred onions, cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and pitted black olives. Pita bread also comes with it.

My dining companion tried the adas polo with lamb shank, which was moist and tender. It came with a small ramekin of gravy and was served with basmati rice mixed with raisins, lentils, dates and caramelized onions. It was just wonderful. The sweetness from the raisins and dates added another level of goodness to the complexity of the dish.

The dessert menu has six offerings, and we chose the baklava and the house-made tiramisu. The baklava was too sweet, but the tiramisu was great. It had just the right amount of sweetness from the chocolate bits on top, and the layers of cake were light but rich.

Urban has quite a range of other dishes that include Italian pastas, gnocchi, lasagna, sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas, calamari, mozzarella and zucchini friti and buffalo wings, to name a few. It even has avocado cheeseburgers.

A smaller lunch menu still has many tasty specials from the grill and all kinds of kabobs — filet mignon, salmon, shrimp, chicken, lamb and veggie — as well as gyro plates, falafel plates and four lamb shank selections.

The catering menu offers Persian and Italian dishes. Take-out and delivery service, which includes corporate events, social functions and on-site grilling, are also available.

As of this writing the restaurant does they do not serve alcoholic beverages, but operators are awaiting their beer and wine license.

We found the staff to be friendly and the restaurant simple and clean looking, with big windows on one side and outdoor dining space as well.

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Location: 6200 Scholarship Road, Irvine

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays

Prices: appetizers: $1.99 to $9.99; entrees: $7.99 to $19.99; desserts: $4.99 to $5.99

Wine: Coming soon

Information: (949) 221-8282; gourbankitchen.com

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TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at themarkos755@gmail.com.

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