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Ron Mackenna: Sholeh, Glasgow

It's rare nowadays to find a restaurant that is a genuine culture shock, but for a few exciting moments Sholeh is just that.

At 7.95 the pre-theatre menu at Sholeh represents great value. Otherwise prices err towards the higher end of the scale. Photograph: Mark Gibson

The heaped mound of saffron rice, golden on top, green from dill throughout and dotted with hand-peeled broad beans, is unusual enough on its own, thanks to its sharp, sweet, buttery, herby flavour.

Then there's the chenjeh kebab of skewered, cubed middle neck lamb fillet that's so surprisingly tender it could easily rival the finest fillet steak. The two piping-hot nan breads are also fabulously thin, crisp, buttery without being oily, and peppered with toasted sesame seeds that lend a fabulous smoky flavour to the breads.

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But so far we're on fairly familiar Persian restaurant ground. It's when the ashe resteh - Persian soup of beans, onions, mint and noodles - is passed around that suddenly we're heading deeply off the culinary track.

It's so green with parsley it's almost black, and so densely, intensely flavoured with a pungent sourness from the kashk - or preserved yogurt whey - that its entirely unexpected flavours are almost off-putting. It's sour, dark hits bounce off the side of the tongue and yet behind it all there's another super-strong flavour I can't put my finger on. It's not … Knorr stock cubes by any chance, is it?

And what about the kashk-e bademjan, I hear you shout. This is a sweetly pulped, baked aubergine spread sprinkled with walnuts, mint and more of that pungent kashk. Spread on to the nan bread it's not bad at all and far more familiar than the kubideh, the house kebab of minced grilled shoulder of lamb. It is the conversation stopper of the meal, a dish only I will try on account of its all-powerful, all-encompassing lambness. It's so strong and pungent tasting that even I - pretty much a huge fan of all things lamb and mutton - struggle with its potency.

The waitress hurries over with a little wooden pot of ground crimson-coloured berries - lemon-flavoured somagh, or powdered sumac berries - to counteract what she calls "any fattiness", but apart from a few shimmering moments when I heap so much somagh on that all I can taste is lemon sherbet, the kebab has too much lamb mojo for me and I wave one untouched skewer in defeat.

Now, I know that a huge cultural gap separates me from what may be delicacies in Persian cooking and where I may raise my eyes in humour at the pat of full-fat butter that comes on the rice - as if the whole dish wasn't a big enough fat bomb as it was - I can see Persian families happily eating away at other tables right now. Though they all seem to be ordering, on this Sunday evening, the weekend special of lamb shank served with that dill-flavoured saffron rice and heaps of crisp nan bread.

I should mention that we had dolmades also to start. "Freshly made here," the waiter said after he had magically and kindly extended the pre-theatre menu's operating times by an hour to allow us to benefit from it, although he may have seen me wrinkling my not insubstantial nose at the full-fat main course prices. The dolma may have been freshly made here but the vine leaves were soggy and the packed rice inside a soggier, grey mush.

Still, there are elements to Sholeh that I would come back for. Not the strange water feature in the middle of the floor with its power cable taped on to the tiles - though it is strangely hypnotic. Not the large greenish smoked-glass windows, which make us all look sickly pale. But the flatbreads are superb, the neck of lamb kebab sublime and the saffron and dill rice an experience.

And considering restaurant critics - me anyway - moan plenty when people water down their cultural tastes to make them more palatable to us Scots, I probably have a cheek complaining about any of it. But I did. And you've been warned.

Sholeh, 146 Nelson Street, Glasgow

MENU Authentic Persian - chenjeh and kubideh kebabs, stews, the famous kashk-e bademjaan dip, not forgetting that wacky Persian soup. 4/5

ATMOSPHERE Fairly comfortable restaurant with large smoked-glass windows, a hypnotic mini electric waterfall and electronic flashing beads. 3/5

SERVICE Friendly and helpful but there was quite a long delay between courses. 4/5

PRICE We had two meals on the pre-theatre menu at £7.95 - even though it was long after the deadline - and one at full price, which is a bit dear. 3/5

FOOD Fabulous flatbreads, saffron rice with dill and peeled broadbeans, delicious lamb neck kebab. After that things were too authentic for my taste. 6/10

TOTAL 20/30

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