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Tanoor, Frederick Road in North Rockville

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After hours of feeling like a human target practice, I left the arena in search of chow. I fired up the AroundMe app on Ye Olde iPhone to check out the vittlin’ options for this section of Rockville.

A place called “India Palace” popped up as a local possibility. Tiny lentils sounded especially appealing, perhaps due to their close resemblance to plastic bbs. Aiming (ha!) towards the general vicinity, I wound up turning in one shopping center too short. Realizing my mistake, I happened to see another viable lunch option emerge. “Tanoor”, the sign promised, “Persian Cuisine Market”.

“Sweet!” I thought.

“No, Savory!”

“No, Sumac!”

I was obviously in need of sustenance to clear such mental clatter. I parked my car and headed inside. First impression: Arabic. Lots and lots of Arabic lettering. A mosaic of colorful, neatly hand-printed Farsi placards hung on the entranceway windows. I took this as an unmistakable message about the target demographic--perhaps a good sign, no pun intended.

A pristine storefront greeted me upon entry with the arresting aroma of freshly baked bread. Normally forsaking all things wheat, the nan-e sangak (whole wheat sourdough flatbread) would not be escaping my attention on this visit.

Both poppy and sesame seeds dotted the surface. This batch was not fresh from the oven, but still a fine, fine carrier of the kashk-e-bademjan appetizer. The eggplant arrived mindfully leveled on the entire surface of the plate, thick with kashk (similar to sour cream), dotted with charred onion. The description indicated garlic as an ingredient, but I could not taste it. So I ordered a side of seer torshi (pickled garlic) to make no mistake about my vampire-warding powers for the next several hours. This seer was one of my favorite in recent memory—bright pearl color, noteworthy crunch, sufficient muting of garlic’s bite, and an irresistible hint of what seemed like clove or allspice.

Adoration stopped there, however, when the boneless chicken kabob arrived. An alarmingly long and thin piece of flat meat, I wondered what the 2-D chicken behind such a dish might look like. This was probably a large chicken breast pounded for tenderness and uniformity, a successfully achieved effect. With such moisture and tenderness, I was surprised by the lack of flavor, spice, or seasoning. Once coupled with the onions on the plate, tucked into the sangak, and dipped into accompanying yogurt, it became an acceptable although not memorable bite. I requested sabzi to punch up the flavor a bit with fresh herbs, but learned that last night’s customers had consumed the last of them. “The kids are out getting more”, the especially friendly and helpful shopkeeper told me with her smile.

Served alongside the lackluster chicken was an iceburg lettuce salad, sliced tomato, and a mixed vegetable medley of carrots, corn, and green beans. I’ve noticed this same side dish of freezer-to-table disappointment at Afghan Restaurant on Route 1. Is this a cost-cutting measure, or is the carrot/corn/green bean medley a preferred favorite in the region?

Throughout my meal, I enjoyed the wide expanse of windows gracing the space. Tables were new and well-kept, adorned simply and beautifully with Persian filigree tablecloths. Ordering took place at the counter, silverware was self-serve.

On the way out, I picked up a small container of zlabia (pastry). Rich with honey, floral, yet not-too-sweet, I found it a welcomed finale.

If I were to return to the area again (but we all know what Michael Stipe has to say about that), I would consider going back to Tanoor. I would take more time to explore the market at the back of the store. Unlike today’s visit, I would also be far more adventurous in my ordering, aiming for the daily special or one of the polos. Based on the high points of the pickled garlic, house-baked bread, and deftly fashioned pastry, I have a feeling there are treasures to be found elsewhere on the menu of this 9 month-old establishment.

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Can someone please explain this? Based on the pictures, I'm interested in trying both the Sangak and the Taftoon, but is Tanoor really "the first restaurant which does daily fresh bakes on east coast?" Maybe they mean for these two specific breads?

[Anyone who says I don't work hard gets set up on a blind date with Lorena Bobbit armed with Rohypnol in one hand and a butcher knife in the other. Girls, you get to meet Ron Jeremy for a Date Lab column at Ching Ching Cha.]

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