Enjoy the Persian Charm of Chelo

Enjoy the Persian Charm of Chelo

New to Historic Roswell, Chelo delivers on Middle Eastern fare with an upbeat atmosphere.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

The Chargrilled Chilean Sea bass is seasoned with citrus and saffron and choice of polo.
The Chargrilled Chilean Sea bass is seasoned with citrus and saffron and choice of polo.

Atlantans continue to pour praise on Persian cuisine, which is springing up like, well, kabobs over hot cakes. Or maybe it’s the Middle Eastern aromas that call to us.

Opened in Historic Roswell in late 2023, Chelo keeps many traditional Iranian elements, but covers a wider geographic swath. Tangential to the cuisine is the upbeat atmosphere both indoor and out, and the on-site management where Turkish owner, Mehmet Iyibas, stays on the floor, from table to table chatting to assure that the food is well prepared.

In Pano Karatassos’ “school of restaurant success,” things tend to go well when top brass takes a keen interest on who’s who and what’s what, making everyone feel important.

Owner Mehmet Iyibas cordially mingles with guests to assure well-paced service.

Our server was upbeat and happened to be Lebanese with some Jewish relatives as he was from Brooklyn and chatted about his Birthright trip.

We started with the requisite courtesy taftan of feta, walnuts, watercress, and radishes which lends fragrances of what’s to come. Then we ordered Cold Mezze: highly touted shareable Chelo dip ($12) with feta, labneh, green olives, garlic, jalapeno, which was tasty and not overly spicy as the “j” word might portend.

Next, the Muhammra appetizer ($14) was with a whirl of walnuts, harissa, tomato paste, panko, and pomegranate molasses– sweet and spicy at the same time, topped with an artsy sprinkle of arils (the seed pod inside the pom). The Chelo tabbouleh was full of flavor thanks to the garden-fresh parsley as a base to the tomatoes, bulgur wheat, oil and lemon. For next time, Hot Mezze could be feta cheese rolls and Kashke Bademjan (fried eggplant, cream of whey, mint, crispy onion).

Always a table favorite is chargrilled Chilean sea bass (large portion $48) with onion, saffron, onion and citrus (with choice of polo). Perhaps the acme of the fish was the chargrilled salmon kabob ($32) — guessing that a good deal of butter went into it. These kabob chunks are actually served log style. Next time, another option would be the whole bronzini ($36) stuffed with rosemary, thyme, garlic, citrus and olive oil.

The baklava ice cream sandwich is a sweet place to end.

Table dessert splits were baklava ice cream sandwich ($12) and a molten chocolate cake which perhaps was not prepared on site, as the former being the preferred choice. Other desserts: cherry chambourg, Middle Eastern or vanilla ice creams, Kunefe (shredded phylo dough, kefir cheese, simple syrup, and pistachios.) Get used to traditional menu terms like bargs, koobideh, sultani, and chinjeh.

Diners are encouraged to mix and match “polo” rice dishes, with twists and combos of fava beans, dill, saffron, scallions, fenugreek, lentils, raisins, and crispy onion. The operative word is tahdig, crispy golden crusted Persian rice which literally means “bottom of the pot” in Farsi. It’s pan-fried, fluffy and buttery on the inside coated by the golden crust often called “laced” or “layered.” Some refer to it as ‘building a rice cake” where the steam cooks the rice and while the outside crisps and looks like it came from a mold. Most Iranians use Basmati rice. Note that “Chelo” means “plain steamed rice” in Farsi, whereas “polos” has the other ingredients folded in. “Chelo” can also mean “the two step rice preparation.” The Chelo kabob is considered to be the national dish of Iran dating back to the Qajar Dynasty.

Chelo’s letters are graphically displayed at the entrance romantically backed by framed pink roses. Chelo’s outdoor patio is an oasis with its welcoming yellow umbrellas. Inside, try to request a booth lining the sides. The hum and buzz of happy people enjoying the time acts as a backdrop under the hanging vertical blossoms. No one seemed to care that they are plastic. Local Persian epicurean Kamy Deljou gave his stamp of approval, “I like the authenticity of Chelo’s food and the humble ambiance.”

This comfy setting is warm and inviting.

Chelo has valet service Wednesday through Friday during dinner hours or free parking at nearby Roswell City Hall. Limited onsite parking is available. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is from 4. to 10, Sunday through Thursday, and from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

Chelo is located at 964 Alpharetta St. For more information, call 470-294-1167.

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