Every few months, I'm able to break away, and have a nice lunch with the Missus. On most occasions, I'm still in a bit of a rush, so lunch will usually consist of soup from Mien Trung, or something similar. Still, there are those days....when the planets seemed aligned, which are too few and far between for my tastes, where the Missus and I are able to have a more leisurely meal. Over the last 6 months, we had the pleasure of having lunch at Soltan Banoo twice. Located on Park Avenue, Soltan Banoo, is a small, cozy, colorful restaurant which seems to embrace you as you enter.
In a former incarnation, Soltan Banoo was the Cafe Caspian, the tiny hole-in-the wall across the street next to El Zarape. Mahin, the warm and welcoming Owner of Soltan Banoo, has always been on hand when we've had our meals there, and is quick to explain the various dishes on the menu. You can tell that there is a great deal of pride in the food that Soltan Banoo serves.
The menu is small but diverse, with an interesting sampling of dishes, ranging from the usual(hummus) to more fusion fare(Salmon and tofu dishes). But to us, Soltan Banoo excels in the various stews on the menu. Like the Friday lunch special, Gourmeh Sabzi(with lamb - lunch $8.95):
This wonderful savory stew of greens, scallions, kidney beans, and preserved lemon, was nicely flavored without being overpowering. The quite generous potion of lamb was very tender. The basmati rice with saffron-rice drizzled on it was cooked to perfection. The stew was not salty, but still full of flavor. We noticed right away that the fare at Soltan Banoo was on the lighter side. The Missus had picked a winner, that fared better than my Koubideh Kabob(lunch - $8.95):
Though this was a good amount of food for the price, especially for lunch, I found the Koubideh, while moist, to be under seasoned, and a bit on the bland side. Not wanting to salt the meat, I ended up hitting it with a good amount of Sumac. The shirazi salad (cucumber-tomato salad), was nice, though again, a bit under salted. The roasted tomato was not ripe, and thus very bland. Overall, this was a pretty large amount of food for lunch.
And that Gourmeh Sabzi was enough to draw us back for another lunch several months later. This time I had my eye on a few other items. I started with a cup of the Ash Anar, Pomegranate Soup ($2.95):
The sweet-tangy-sour soup initially shocked my tastebuds, but the more I ate...the more I enjoyed it. It went well with the slices of pita provided. The soup was both hearty and delicate at the same time...very nice, I'd have it again! The Missus's Chinese-based tastebuds also suffered from the same shock, but didn't recover.......
I had the Baghali Polo (stewed lamb with dill-fava bean rice - lunch - $8.95):
How good was it? Well, once the Missus saw my plate, She grabbed the lamb shank, and sucked the meat off it like it was a chicken drumstick....the only point of reference I have is Fred Flintstone...... Did I mention that the Missus loves Fava Beans? It was gone...totally gone....
The Missus had ordered the Zereshk Polo with Lamb Shank($9.95):
The sweet combination of dried cranberries, barberries(aka berberis), orange zest, and carrots proved a bit too much for the Missus. The lamb was very soft and tender, but lost in all the strong sweet-sour flavors. I didn't mind it too much, though I did think that the dish went a bit far over to the sweet side, but that is probably based on my taste preferences.
I've found the fare at Soltan Banoo to be lighter, and less salty than what I've previously experienced. The service was very warm and friendly, though it is not a place for a quick lunch. We adore the Owner, Mahin; on our first visit, she came over and chatted about the food, and knowing we weren't from the neighborhood, asked us if we'd be back....our answer was a definite "yes". When we returned a few weeks later, She greeted us with a warm smile, and said, "you know, everyone says they will come back, but you really returned......" And we will return......when the planets are in alignment again!
4645 Park Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92116