FOOD- THE DISH- ZamZam Kabob: Taste of the Middle East on Route 29
In March, Fraidoon Hovaizi took over the space on Route 29/Rio Road formally occupied by Zandi's and opened ZamZam Kabob (ZamZam means "holy pure water" in Arabic, Hovaizi says).
Since then, word about the Iranian-style kabob shop has leaked out slowly, as Hovaizi chose not to advertise too much in the beginning. However, next week Zam Zam Kabob will finally have its "Grand Opening," and Fraidoon appears ready to spill the beans– or perhaps the Persian saffron rice– and give us the scoop on this new ethnic addition to the Charlottesville restaurant scene.
"We realized there was no kabob shop like this in town," says the Iranian-born Hovaizi, who emigrated to the U.S. 30 years ago and has lived in Charlottesville with his wife and family for the last decade. "There are many places like this in Northern Virginia, but nothing like it here."
Hovaizi would seem an unlikely owner of a kabob shop. He has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts and owns another business in town, Dell Tax & Mortgage. Before moving to Charlottesville he worked for the World Bank and taught economics in Amherst, Massachusetts. His wife has a Ph.D. as well, in organic chemistry, and they moved to Charlottesville when she took a senior research position at a local biotech company.
His venture into the restaurant biz appears to be a labor of love. "We are very health conscious, very well-read in these areas," he says, pointing out that the restaurant slogan is "one meal healthier." In addition, Hovaizi, who has been active in the local Muslim community, has hired cooks from the Middle East and hopes to contribute food to local homeless shelters, something he and his wife have done from their home for years.
As for the food– well, Hovaizi says it won't be much different than what his family eats at home: traditional kabobs and Middle Eastern dishes prepared with spices from Iran, including the most expensive one in the world– hand-harvested Persian saffron.
"It's considered like gold," he says.
OXO on the block
On Wednesday, July 2 the assets of OXO– all the restaurant equipment, including tools, furniture, and furnishings– were to be sold off "in a single lot" at a public action at the restaurant on Water Street. As we reported recently, co-owner Alice Kim, who ran the restaurant with her partner John Haywood for nearly a decade, had finally grown tired of running the restaurant.
With news of the auction, however, it appears they were also struggling with some outstanding debt. The auction, says Kim, was all part of a pretty complicated sale agreement– worked out with their long-time landlord, downtown developer Allan Cadgene– to get out of the business.
"The auction is knowingly a part of a creative selling of the restaurant," said Kim before the auction. "It's a harsh but necessary part of the agreement we made. In hindsight, we should have taken the time to gather better information about our options, which would have allowed for a prettier ending."
Unfortunately, the auction happens after this issue of the Hook goes to press, so check our food blog (readthehook.com/food) to see who grabbed the goods. Who knows? Maybe the OXO name will live on. Word on the street was that a certain local collector of restaurants expressed interest in buying OXO, adding yet another jewel to his Downtown restaurants crown.
However it turns out, Kim and Haywood appear to be taking the end in stride– even with a dash of humor.
"We had a magical, intimate funeral and memorial service for OXO Restaurant this past weekend," says Kim, "complete with a casket, burial, and eulogy."
Savour to open..finally
When restaurant biz veteran Ed Nafei bought the old Hong Kong Buffet building on Emmet, he thought he'd be opening his new restaurant, Savour, in a few months. That was almost two years ago. Since then, Savour's sign has become a familiar site along that section of Route 29, especially since Nafei has amended it from time to time to say "soon," then "very soon," then "very, very soon." As a result, Savour may be the most familiar restaurant in town where no one has eaten yet.
Well, all that is going to change, as Savour's new General Manager Jeff Hale, of Northern Exposure fame, has announced that Monday, July 7 will be the mystery restaurant's grand opening date.
"This will be my last big project," Nafei told the Hook back in May. "It's all I know how to do, and I want it to be a Charlottesville landmark."
Mobile juice unit on the Downtown Mall
Sublime All-Natural Food & Juice Bar, the Elliewood Avenue eatery that exists, according to its owners, "to further an emerging, yet ancient paradigm of nourishment," has gone mobile.
Recently, the juicery launched what it's calling an SMU (Sublime Mobile Unit) to satisfy the juicing and healthy food desires of folks on the Downtown Mall. Parked in the Wachovia Bank parking lot from 11:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Friday, the SMU serves up Sublime salads, sandwiches, juices, smoothies, shakes and teas, made fresh on the spot.
The SMU is also down at Fridays after Five and at the summer concerts at the Pavilion. They welcome call-in orders for pick-up or delivery. You can reach the SMU at 982-4SMU (4768).
Most of this food news was first reported online. Check it out at readthehook.com/food/