The encyclopaedically well-informed Auckland music writer Graham Reid once reviewed a new album by the crooner Kamahl (ask your mum) as follows (I quote the review in full): "If there is a better Kamahl album than this, I haven't heard it." You can see what he did there, which was something much more subtle than faint praise. The initiated would doubtless have been queuing at the record store doors the next morning, and it was scrupulously fair to Kamahl.
Scrupulous fairness is nothing less than they deserve at Rumi, which I am sure is a very good Persian restaurant if judged by what it is trying to achieve. But it should be said that what it is trying to achieve will not spin a foodie's wheels.
"You can't review the place," the Professor told me. "It wouldn't be fair." And she got me thinking. Only once have I been to a restaurant with the intention of reviewing it and written nothing. A "Vietnamese" place in Otahuhu, it was about as Vietnamese as egg foo yong and it seemed pointless to file 600 words castigating a Chinese restaurant for calling itself Vietnam Cafe.
Rumi, by contrast, is what it says on the packet - or rather the streetfront sign, which says "Persian cuisine". Persia, in case you are wondering, is the old name for Iran (sort of; it's complicated) and the one often used by the Iranian diaspora, to reference the time before theocratic thugs took over the place.
The narrow premises are wide open to the summer evening - you nip down one of those cute Parnell brick-cobbled lanes to go to the loo - and the room is sparsely decked out with vaguely Middle Eastern paraphernalia: a sheesha pipe, some brass dishes and a hurricane lamp.
As it turned out, we'd booked for the first day back after the holidays, so the soup of the day was no soup because they hadn't got around to it. Ditto baklava, which they spell baghlava, though saffron and rosewater were features of the two desserts we tried, which were bloody good.
But the rest seemed a little offhand, really. An oily eggplant dip flavoured with yoghurt, garlic and saffron was to die for but the cheap pita bread was stone cold and the accoutrements, and a separate salad, bog-standard.
We were presented with a plate of yoghurt rice - a single-serve foil pack of butter was to be stirred through - a salad plainly made some time before, and some main dishes arrived. I was enchanted by the ghormeh sabzi, a herby stew of lamb and beans with dried limes, but the two dishes of grilled meats, which jointly cost $55, were not noticeably better than beachside barbecue.
In short, and I really do mean this kindly, if there is a better Persian restaurant in Auckland, I haven't tried it. But I feel safe in saying that there are better restaurants in Auckland than Persian ones.
Verdict: Think really good kebab shop, with some nice side dishes.
Dishes $6-$32; desserts $5-$9.