Hours: Open seven days, noon-10:30 p.m. Prices: A la carte entrees, $5.50-7.50. Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
With the proliferation of Arabian and Persian restaurants in the area, hummos is practially a household word. But there is still a little mystery to this Middle Eastern storefront -- mostly lingering between the menu and the kitchen.
What they serve is usually good and often intriguing, but what can be more intriguing is what they don't have.
Two pages of the plastic-coated menu (the off-color pictures may be off-putting, but that the printer's problem, not yours) are devoted to the apparently established "daily specials."
They include some of the most interesting of the offerings:
"Baqala polo," described as fried rockfish (though that may predate the rockfishing ban); baked lamb shank; sauteed calves' brains, and chicken in a fricasee of walnut and pomegranite syrup. (And an only moderately interesting strip steak.)
What is not really clear is that only one of these dishes is available at a time; and because the waitress often forgets to tell you which beforehand, you may find your heart set on the brains, only to be stuck with the shank.
And sometimes, while the kitchen blithely serves up "kashk-e bademjan," a dip of roasted eggplant with onions and sour cream, it can't come up with the closely related baba ganouj.
But there are plenty of other strong-flavored enigmas to get into, beginning with the quartered raw onions laid out as relish, or the various pickled vegetables called "torshi," whole garlic, cucumbers, eggplant, onions and hot peppers, or a combination, for $1.00 a bowl.
Arm yourself with a cold drink, and rock the casbah:
Try "qorme sabzi," or "green stew," one of the most fascinating herbal treatments since jojoba shampoo: cubes of beef stewed in a spinach-colored sauce of coriander, parsley, leeks and green onions.
It not only looks green, it also tastes green -- almost barbaric.
One of the other specials, a dish of buttery-fat fava beans stewed with dillweed and topped with lamb shank, makes no compromises to the American palate: The shanks are gamy and ungentled, baked to the shredding state (although the deep pink color surprises novice shanksters) and with a garlic-strong aftertaste.
The more cautious might order the classic stuffed green peppers or the various kebabs (strongly marinated and prettily grilled, if a trifle dry) of beef, ground beef or chicken.
Vegetarians should look into the "qeyman bedemjan," halved eggplant stewed with yellow split peas and tomato paste into a very gentle glop to be eaten over the fragrant Persian rice that is one of Kolbeh's hidden treasures.
For a slightly lighter meal, try the thick, Afghani-like noodle soup called "ashe-reshteh" (the original thick-enough-to-eat-with-a-fork stew) or the kufteh appetizer ("a substantial sized meatball").