Read Time: 6 min

rumi’s kitchen

Redux Extra May 4, 2022
Reading Time: 6 minutes


How many times have you heard, “The food is great, but the service was meh”? Or “What a great location! But the food was meh”?

If you want to drop the “meh” for good and experience, a spellbinding cuisine coupled with a level of service that is second to none, spend some time at Rumi’s Kitchen in Downtown DC. It’s worth the trip.

You may be thinking that this will be another pretentious establishment that is trying too hard to be the next showpiece in the downtown DC restaurant scene. But you would be wrong. Ali Mesghali, 54, owner of Rumi’s Kitchen and several other restaurants nationwide, is working toward one goal: customer experience.

If you are in the restaurant business or have been a server at any point in your life, you know that it’s easy to identify a kitchen that’s well-staffed and working efficiently. With Rumi’s open kitchen design, this is the first thing you will notice. The “line” (as the row of cooks is called), is working like a fine-tuned machine, with everything in its place and the staff not letting up for a second, always working on the next service. At the same time, it doesn’t feel chaotic. It’s quite elegant and enjoyable to watch — a real conversation piece if you’re into people-watching. (By the way, the people working here are unmistakably attractive. Again, if you are into people watching.)

After you are greeted by the host, likely with a big smile, she will ask you to take a quick temperature check for Covid safety and will recommend a quick sanitizing of your hands. As safety is the standard, Rumi’s Kitchen takes it to another innovative level. I’ll get to that in a moment.

After the host whisks you away to your table, you will notice something amusingly odd and impossible to not inquire about to your host.

“Is that a mannequin?” I asked.  (A very well- dressed mannequin, I would add.) “Yes, it is,” the host said. “It’s to keep space between our customers for safety, and so you don’t feel like there’s nobody next to you.”

It’s pretty innovative if you think about what the alternatives are: empty spaces and awkward-looking dining floor plans. If you think that sounds odd, wait until you are sitting next to a mannequin that’s dressed better than you are. But it’s all in fun and a new experience, so no complaints here.

Now for the main event, the food at Rumi’s.  At the risk of sounding overstated, the food at Rumi’s will blow your mind. OK, maybe that was a bit over-dramatized, but figuratively? Absolutely true. If you are in the mood for cuisine that will make you only want more, plan on making many trips to this location because you will only have room for one dish at a time. The portions are extra generous, from the cuts of meat to the copious amounts of rice and bread. Depending on your appetite, you can order your entree and very likely have a portion to take home for lunch the following day.

So here are the menu highlights through my eyes: One, I’d recommend the Gheymeh, it may not look inviting at first glance, but trust this — it’s a dish that requires some careful and delicate hands before it gets to your plate with very tasty beef, split peas, dried lime, cinnamon, crispy potatoes, and saffron basmati rice.

No guarantees, but this dish is very likely to be a sure thing.

Now here comes the cliché Middle Eastern dish that anyone and everyone will identify with: the kabob. Again, at the risk of sounding grandiose, there is no kabob like a Persian kabob. It’s made with the best meats and marinated with the most natural ingredients like yogurt, garlic, and onions. It tastes amazing, and if the Gheymeh wasn’t your speed, this will bring you back to Rumi’s again and again.

When I spoke to Mesghali, I asked this very first question: “How do you stack up against the other Persian restaurants in the area, as there is a lot of competition?” He gave me one answer that said it all. “I don’t compete with other Persian restaurants. I compete with myself and strive to be the best restaurant in the area, from food to service.” From that point in the interview, we went off the script of questions, and it went something like this:

RE: It’s a bit unusual that food that tastes like yours would also place so much emphasis on service. In other words, if the food speaks for itself, then most establishments may likely fall short in other areas.

AM: Rumi’s Kitchen was always focused on the customer and the customer experience. It’s very important to me that the customer leaves my restaurant with a good feeling and that our staff took care of them, from the moment they walked into the front door.

RE: Beyond the service and food, you invest quite a bit of money into your locations, from the décor to the outdoor ambiance. What goals are you trying to reach by taking on these large endeavors? Are you looking to create a chain of restaurants?

AM: I would like to eventually be in a few more metropolitans cities, like New York and Houston, and down the road a bit, in Los Angeles, where I grew up after coming here from my home country of Iran.

RE: How do you feel being a successful restauranteur? Is it what you always wanted to do? Was it always your dream?

AM: Actually, in my home country of Iran, being a restaurant owner isn’t the most dignified occupation. In fact, my former mother-in-law and I had some differences because she was not very accepting of the choice of my job. But I love creating new restaurants and managing my staff. I am very happy with how things are going.

RE: The one thing that was very obvious when I walked into your 640 L St. establishment was the staff and how well they were prepared for the customers. They knew the menu from front to back. They could pronounce the dishes that are sometimes very difficult to annunciate. And they seemed truly happy to be working there. Is this your goal, to establish this type of environment?

AM: This is precisely what we want to create: a well-run restaurant that puts the customer first and gives them the best possible experience. Of course, everyone strives for this, and we are wanting to take the experience to the best place, which will make me happy as an owner and probably why my staff also feel happy to come to work.

This is precisely what we want to create: a well run restaurant that puts the customer first and gives them the best possible experience.

Redux Extra has interviewed a number of people since our inception. But very few have stuck us in the way that Rumi’s Kitchen owner Ali Mesghali did. He truly wants the best for his customers, which, of course, is what we all want; but more so, he wants his competitors to also thrive because it only ups the ante for his peers to offer a better experience for their patrons.

Rumi’s Kitchen is not only a restaurant. It’s a true game changer in the arena of service, food and innovative customer experience.

Rumi’s Kitchen 640 L St. NW. 202-900-9106.

Open: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11
p.m. Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Reservations can be made, but not guaranteed,
for outside dining. Prices: Appetizers $8 to $12,
main courses $19 to $42. Delivery via Caviar and
DoorDash. Accessibility: Call ahead for curbside
pickup. Wheelchair-friendly entrance and

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