Thursday, November 3, 2022

One Man's Culinary Journey Continues at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge in Makati Avenue

Since 1985, one name stands above all the others when it comes to authentic Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine driven by the dreams of one man who set out to find a new home. Thirty-seven years later and counting, Hossein's Persian Kebab remains one of the few establishments in the metro offering authenticity continuing one man's and one family's culinary tradition.

The popularity of Persian cuisine through the years can be traced back to the very first Middle Eastern restaurant offering authentic dishes satisfying curious palates always in search for new flavors and expats looking for a taste of home fueled by returning overseas workers craving for the dishes experienced abroad. Hossein's Persian Kebab, considered the metro's oldest Persian restaurant located in Makati Avenue, fired up the kebab craze that continues to this day. With its milestone 37th year, Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi is more than ready for the post pandemic new normal now with three branches including Greenbelt and Serendra as well as the new Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge located below the original restaurant offering yet another authentic Persian experience. 

The ornate design theme which includes elegant lighting fixtures from Morocco with its warm glow and colorful murals are just some of the elements along with its cuisine that clearly define an exotic eastern aesthetic at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge. The new shisha lounge with traditional water pipes or "hookah" and well-stocked bar may be another first in the metro as Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi, his wife and children create yet another unique experience for the iconic brand. 

The story of food is about journeys reflecting the transient nature of migration, bringing one's heritage with each recipe and dish to wherever life takes you. Leaving Iran in search of a new home back in the late seventies, Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi packed everything he had including cherished family recipes from childhood to start a new chapter. Arriving in Manila alone in 1978, the young Hossein didn't speak a word of English but it's a barrier that did not hold him back. With the help of an English tutor who would eventually become his wife and co-founder of the revered dining institution, Hossein completed his studies and focused on the future in a new home. 

It's an inspiring story that began with his experiences as an Iranian immigrant, yearning for a taste of home and Halal-certified dishes. Determined to add even more dining options to the local culinary scene, Hossein decided the timing was right for an authentic Persian restaurant. Along with his wife Gloria and soon his children including Arash Sohrabi Langroudi, Hossein opened Hossein's Persian Kebab as the first Persian restaurant in the metro and never looked back. Though Hossein is still hands-on with all his restaurants, a new generation is now involved in the day-to-day operations continuing the family tradition.

And the secret to the brand's enduring success? "Honesty...and cooking from the heart." The words still resonate years after I first met Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi almost eight years ago at Gilak by Hossein in Greenbelt 3 (for more on the man and Gilak by Hossein, see my post Eastern Flavors at Gilak by Hossein from 2014). And the food at Hossein's Persian Kebab remains as good as I remember it.

For many from my generation, a trip to Hossein's Persian Kebab was almost like a rite of passage after more than a few rounds of drinks to end a night out. After all, is there anything better than a hearty feast of kebabs or a hefty shawarma after drinks? From the simple set-up back in the eighties and nineties, Hossein's Persian Kebab has evolved and changed with the times. But the food remains just as you remember it. The expanded menu now includes some Asian dishes to complement their Persian, Mediterranean and Indian offerings. At the cozy Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge, you can start with some pre-dinner cocktails...

...from their extensive bar selections. Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge features a high-tech ventilation system so you can enjoy your shisha without dampening the mood of non-smoking patrons. A culinary pioneer, Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi's newest concept complements his existing restaurants while showcasing Persian tradition and heritage. 

But first, a soothing cocktail to set the mood and tone for an evening of infinite possibilities at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge... the classic Negroni with gin, sweet vermouth and Campari garnished with an orange peel. That's as classic as it gets. If you're feeling game, then Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge has a tempting assortment of specialty cocktails...

...just ask Hossein or his son Arash for their recommendations. For dinner, you can head up the second floor but if you like the casual vibe at the lounge then that's no problem. You can enjoy another round of cocktails at the lounge while waiting for your dinner to be served.  

And here's where it gets interesting, as the comfortingly familiar flavors of Hossein's Persian Kebab takes you back to the day you first tried it. An enduring all-time favorite, the Beef Shawarma still packs all the flavors from the savory fork-tender beef to the garden-fresh and crisp vegetables and that silky smooth and creamy garlic sauce all tightly wrapped in a soft pita. The weight of the Beef Shawarma tells you it's a substantial meal in itself and one bite delivers the savory richness of the beef and fresh, clean notes of the vegetables in a seamless and balanced blend smoothened by the garlic sauce for the perfect finish. 

The name of the traditional and popular Middle Eastern street food is derived from the Arabic rendering of the Turkish çevirme which translates to "turning" in reference to the slowly rotating rotisserie used to grill the meat. And the Turkish connection goes even further. Shawarma, the Greek gyros and even the Mexican tacos al pastor through Lebanese immigrants were inspired from the Turkish doner kebab illustrating once more how the story of food is about journeys. Some food for thought as you enjoy another bite of Hossein's best-selling Beef Shawarma. 

The sumptuous Chef Mezze featuring Hossein's popular bestsellers in one platter including Hummus or mashed chickpeas, Moutabal made with eggplant and olive oil, tzatziki or yogurt cucumber dip, Samosas or fried pastries with savory fillings and Tabouleh or tomato, onion, parsley and mint salad served with warm pita bread is another snapshot of traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. The different dips of chickpeas, eggplant and yogurt offer creamy notes while the parsley salad brings fresh and mildly sharp lemon hints to the palate. The Samosas in meat and vegetarian variants offer satisfying savory bites before the sumptuous mains at Hossein's Persian Kebab.  

Deciding on a dish isn't easy with the extensive menu at Hossein's Persian Kebab with its array of Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean and Asian dishes. The famous Punjabi chicken dish of murgh makhani better known as Butter Chicken presents another savory option for dinner at Hossein's Persian Kebab. Tender chicken simmered in a thick, rich and creamy curry made from spiced tomatoes and butter combine for a taste of Indian flavors best paired with long-grain basmati rice, pita or lavash bread.

Unlike most of the traditional and centuries-old dishes served at Hossein's Persian Kebab, the popular Butter Chicken is a fairly recent culinary invention from the 1950s. And by accident too. The dish is credited to two Punjabi immigrants who would soon become the founders of Moti Mahal restaurant in New Delhi where the accidental dish became famous. It's said that mixing leftover tandoori chicken by mistake with tomato gravy made richer with butter resulted in the now famous Butter Chicken. This simple kitchen mistake is now celebrated and enjoyed around the world, including Hossein's Persian Kebab.     

It's the wide assortment of meats fresh off the grill that defines the Hossein's experience. The Chelou Barg Sultani Kebab with its duo of savory beef tenderloin and ground beef marinated in Hossein's specialty spice blend, chargrilled and served with long grain saffron rice, grilled tomatoes and red onions is always a winning pick. Both the tenderloin and ground beef kebabs bring bold beefy notes to the palate, and a dab of garlic sauce and the red chili sauce adds that layer of soothing heat. Late night carnivores, this is your dish. 

Meat on a grill may be the simplest and oldest method of cooking cutting through various cultures. The traditional Persian style includes a rich blend of spices to flavor the meat with fiery charcoal infusing it with a subtle smokiness. At Hossein's Persian Kebab, this centuries-old culinary tradition is celebrated with each dish from their extensive Kebab menu.   

Dare to try something different? The Fried Brain with ox brain sautéed in a rich blend of Arabic spices finished with a hint of lemon is one of those dishes that you have to try at least once. Back in the day, the unique dish was often the gauge of one's bravery mustered by one too many rounds of drinks. The egg-like richness is perfectly tempered by the blend of spices, releasing a burst of savory notes as it melts on the palate. Served with thin and soft lavash bread, the buttery texture along with the spices combine for lavish flavors and a unique experience. At Hossein's Persian Kebab, the preparation of the dish results in clean favors without the usual gamey notes. Open your mind, and let the flavors sink in. One bite, and you'll want another. 

As with other food cultures, the snout to tail philosophy ensures none of the animal is wasted with each cut and part used for specific dishes. It's not easy to find this delicacy in the metro, and I'm told the dish usually runs out pretty fast in all of Hossein's outlets. 

Prepare to feast at Hossein's Persian Kebab with their specialty platters. Straight off the grill, the Supreme Kebab I with Persian Lamb Chop, Lamb Kebab, Shrimp Tandoori and Saffron Chicken served with Biryani Rice and Saffron Rice is a grand feast for both the eyes and palate. Perfect for sharing, the Supreme Kebab I highlights the richness of eastern cuisine with Persian and Indian flavors elegantly laid on a platter. From the deep savory notes of the lamb chop and kebab with smoky hints to the briny sweetness of succulent shrimps draped in a rich sauce and fragrant finish of the saffron chicken, the flavors of the east are masterfully recreated transporting you to the fabled lands of the Levant.

Hossein's Persian Kebab offers a variety of platters featuring a wide assortment of meats from the Mix Kebab I and II, the Supreme Kebab I and II and the Mega Kebab I and II. Another must-try dish is the Roasted Ribs of tender lamb marinated in a savory mix of Persian, Arabic and Indian spice blend delicately grilled over charcoal served with Persian and Indian sauces.

One of the many enduring culinary legacies from the Ottoman empire is the delicately layered dessert, the indulgent Baklava for the perfect sweet ending at Hossein's Persian Kebab. The mix of honey and pistachios in thin and crisp layers of filo pastry drizzled with chocolate teases the palate with its contrasting textures, sealing the deal with another bite. 

One more round for the road to cap the evening at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge, and a toast to one man's epic culinary journey behind the metro's oldest Persian restaurant. For Hossein Sahroubi Langroudi, his successful restaurants are enduring reminders reflecting his roots and heritage in his new home right here in Manila.

Refreshing cocktails, shisha and authentic Persian cuisine, you'll find it here at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge below his long-running Hossein's Persian Kebab restaurant along Makati Avenue. Come on in, and savor the unique Persian experience refined over 37 years driven by Hossein Sohrabi Langroudi's culinary journey with even more stories yet to unfold. Discover his newest chapter at Hossein's Hookah Shisha Habibi Lounge, and have a drink. And a sumptuous meal...

Hossein's is located at 7857 LKV Building, Makati Avenue across Burgos Street, Makati City. You can call 890 6137 and 890 5928 for inquiries or visit their FB Page at for more updates.

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