Have you ever passed by a restaurant and made a mental note to visit, but never ended up going? Despite passing it on a regular basis and having it come highly recommended by friends, I didn't make it to Soltan Banoo until now, which might make me the last person in San Diego to try the place. If you haven't been, go.
Located on the northern end of Park Boulevard in University Heights (4645 Park Blvd.,), Soltan Banoo is bracketed by other great eateries and bars. Long wait for a table on a busy night? Head across the street to grab a drink and hang out, which is much better than milling on the sidewalk and watching people finish their meals. The restaurant is cozy; we were seated on the covered patio decorated with dark wood and brightly colored pillows. My famished friend wanted an appetizer, but we were indecisive, so we picked the Middle eastern platter for a mix of tastes. Hummus with pita, fresh tabouli (chopped cucumber, tomato, bulgur and herbs), dolmeh (rice and herbs wrapped in grape leaves) and a fresh salad were a refreshing start and a nice contrast to our heartier entrées.
I had the fesenjoon, which is described as a “bewildering” pomegranate and walnut stew. I opted for the vegetarian version, which had tofu, wheat gluten and mushrooms. It was an interesting mix of textures; “bewildering” was an apt description. The stew was sweet overall, with the pomegranate's slightly tart flavor mellowed by the nuts. It was delicious and further amped up by the marinated cucumbers that came with the dish. My friend's albaloo polo was a leg of lamb (chicken and tofu are alternatives) that fell off the bone and came piled high with fluffy basmati rice. The dried cherries and spicy sauce were sweet and savory mixed with the slight gaminess of the lamb.
I was too full for dessert, as evidenced by our leftovers. Soltan Banoo encourages customers to bring Tupperware to reduce waste. As someone who recycles religiously, I was embarrassingly excited about this policy.
Not as excited, however, as I am to finally try this place and find that it's fabulous.