Photography: Tyllie Barbosa

With its turquoise, saffron, and natural brick walls, bubbling fountain, and mosaic columns topped with carved bulls’ heads, Shiraz (4425 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-777-7275) certainly does not appear to be occupying a former auto parts shop. Along with his two partners, the first-time restaurant owner and host, Iranian-born Ray Babaghos, took less than six months to replace spark plugs and oil filters with sizzling shashlik and olive oil–spritzed hummus. The result: an opulent oasis, complete with sidewalk seating, that adds a dash of Persian spice to a low-key stretch of Montrose. Meals get under way with a colorful spread of nibbles highlighted by crisp pickled vegetables, mint-flecked feta, and warm slabs of babary, a ciabatta-like bread. Babary is just the ticket for scooping up appetizers like smoky baba ghannouj, hummus, and a lime-scented Shirazi salad of finely diced cucumber, tomato, and onion. Kebabs rule the entrée roost, skewering everything from prime rib to koubideh (a succulent mixture of ground beef, lamb, and veal) to veggies. But it is chicken soltani, a plate-dwarfing combo of plump, lemon-infused chunks and a foot-long link of juicy ground chicken ($12), that takes us straight to kebab heaven. More daring appetites will be stoked by gheymeh bademjan, an earthy stew of eggplant, beef, and split pea ($9.95), and fessanjan, chicken strips in a sleek, sweet-tart pomegranate sauce (above; $9.95). Liquor license imminent, but hot tea offers a soothing finale.
–Jill Rohde

Koda (10352 S. Western Ave.; 773-445-5632), which opened in mid-May, offers dining-deprived Beverly “a contemporary upscale restaurant with an urban feel,” as co-owner Janice Daley puts it. Daley and her husband, Patrick-both former hairdressers-opened this atypical French bistro (classics and beyond) with absolutely no restaurant experience. But their chef, Aaron Browning, spent time at Le Vichyssois and a year cooking in Lyon, and with dishes such as his sautéed Alaskan halibut set atop a bed of artichokes and confit tomatoes in a pesto broth (pictured here; $22.50) on the menu, this place sounds like the real deal.
–Alison Chanon