A Bad Reaction: Sabzy Cafe

Though I do my best to make it back to eateries I’ve written about, sometimes it doesn’t happen until months later, mostly due to timing or geographic location. Sabzy Cafe, a Persian restaurant run by a lovely family I had the privilege of meeting with back in February, was one of those instances. When my sisters and I needed a spot for dinner in the Old Strathcona area to precede our night of fashion, I immediately thought of Sabzy.

We weren’t sure how busy it would be in the evening, so made sure to reserve a table in advance, but it turns out it wasn’t necessary. A few other parties arrived over the course of our stay, but by no means was the restaurant packed. I arrived before my two sisters, and chose the sunny table by the front window.

It’s an oddly designed space, by no fault of the Sabetghadams. With jagged corners and shadowy enclaves, the room can provide diners with a feeling of both privacy and isolation. The multicolored walls, bright with fall shades of deep yellow, purple, and a spring green did help bring some cheer into the cafe, but there was a reason why I was drawn to the windowside table.

Great spot for peoplewatching

Sabzy asserts its casual atmosphere by inviting customers to place their orders with staff at the counter. Though I am not adverse to this (one of my favorite cafes, Leva, is set up this way), the entrée I ordered was definitely priced at an amount where I would expect a different level of service. The kabob platter, with chicken and beef/lamb kabobs was $16.99. My sisters opted for something a bit lighter – the grilled chicken sandwich ($10).

A few minutes later, three glasses and a small jug of water were delivered to us. Our food arrived shortly after – both plates a mirror image of the photos included on the menu. I was happy to find that the meat had been taken off the skewers for me, and that the plate was piled high with a generous serving of full-bodied saffron rice. The chicken kabob was all right (it actually tasted similar to my Mum’s satay), but the lamb really shined – moist, flavourful, and grilled to perfection, I didn’t even miss a potential dipping sauce accompaniment.

Kabob Platter

I loved the mint garnish on the grilled chicken sandwich – a simple but effective way for the kitchen to remind diners of their fresh focus. Amanda found the sandwich good, albeit small (and pricey without an included side dish), but Felicia was left literally with ill feelings. After a single bite, her tongue started to feel fuzzy, and she leapt to ask the staff if the sandwich contained any nuts. Bingo – there were nuts in the pesto spread. The server was actually quite rude to Felicia, as she said this ingredient was listed on the menu – on our double take, we couldn’t locate it at all (ideally, there should be an asterisk next to all items containing the pesto, indicating the nuts used). The kitchen ended up remaking the sandwich, and provided Felicia with a sliced cucumber (which the family’s dad said would help cool the allergic reaction), but she was still itchy and bothered all evening. Needless to say, this left a blemish on our otherwise fair experience.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Having interviewed the family behind Sabzy, the fact that they are new to the restaurant industry may have played a part in their mistake, but it is one they will need to rectify straightaway. While I can’t say this situation will prevent me from visiting Sabzy in the future, I can tell you my sister won’t be back anytime soon.

Sabzy Cafe
10416 82 Avenue NW
(780) 758-1005
Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Monday 3-9pm