The food at Kabsa House on Robson St. has a lot of similarities with local Persian restaurants like Zeitoon and Cazba (of which “Kabsa” is a near anagram of). There’s a focus on rice and kabobs (skewers), but with the addition of rotisserie chicken and a few other Saudi Arabian/Gulf touches. Food was generally good, but slightly higher prices and slightly smaller serving sizes means not quite enough reason to choose this place over other more established places (some of which have killer daily specials that offer even more value), unless you’re in the area or have a hankering for their moist, well-seasoned rotisserie chicken.
Located on the second floor, next to Cactus Club on Robson.
Kabsa House is in the space the used to be Belachan Kitchen (and Tropika before that).
An explanation, with text partially copied from Wikipedia.
Lentil Soup ($5.49). A touch too salty and a little laidback in the spices department, but otherwise ok.
Molokhia ($6.99) – stew made with Egyptian spinach. It’s supposed to come with pita bread but they forgot to pack it, so that was a bummer. There’s a thickness/viscosity to this stew that’s like gooey okra. In fact, Kabsa also has an okra stew called Bamiya, and I thought maybe they gave me that by mistake, but Googling revealed that Molokhia is supposed to be like this. If you don’t like slimy okra texture, stay away. I thought it tasted fine, if a bit too salty (which was a common thread with their soups). I thought this might taste a bit like Persian gormeh sabzi, but it’s less bright and complex.
1/2 Shawaya Chicken ($24.99). Marinated rotisserie chicken with rice and salad. You get a choice of saffron rice or Bukhari rice. I chose saffron rice for my chicken, and Bukhari rice for my kabobs (down below).
Wicca ate this dish and said the chicken was seasoned wonderfully. All the fat was rendered. Meat was fairly moist.
A few raisins and carrots in the saffron rice. The rice is as good as any typical Persian place, with separated grains and an overall loose, fluffy texture.
Both entrees came with ranch dressing and a mystery green sauce that tasted like tart green salsa with a watery consistency. The ranch dressing might be just for the salad, but I enjoyed dipping any of my meats into it! The green sauce gave a contrasting flavour, and is something that makes Kabsa different from Persian places.
Mini Mixed BBQ ($23.99). Comes with a skewer of ground lamb kabob, white meat chicken kabob, and marinated boneless lamb kabob, plus salad and grilled tomato.
The tomato in the photo is actualy half a tomato, which I thought was really stingy. Persian places give a whole tomato. Why be so cheap with the tomatoes? You can’t give me a whole tomato for my $24 meal? I know it’s a small thing but it bugged me over my entire meal. You can keep your raw onions if I can have a whole tomato 😛
I chose the Bukhari rice for this entree. It’s more seasoned than the saffron rice. Seasoned with what, I’m not sure. Googling says turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, etc. Much more raisins and strips of carrot than in the saffron rice.
Nice colour on the meats…but at what expense?
Ground lamb kabob wasn’t dry but wasn’t what I’d call juicy either. Flavour and texture was ok.
The Lamb Awsal (marinated boneless lamb) was fine. Could be more moist but flavour was good. A bit chintzy with only five pieces on the skewer.
It takes a miracle to keep white meat chicken moist, and Kabsa didn’t do any miracles here. Just standard stuff here.
The rice is done quite well here. Out of all the meats we tried, the rotisserie chicken was the best. Not wowed by the mixed kabob platter. Sauces helped overcome the lack of juiciness. I can’t shake the feeling that the kabobs are overcooked. No rush to go back.