I finally tried Banu, the Iranian restaurant on Queen West (south side, about a block from trinity bellwoods park), and have become an instant fan. Not sure when they opened, but I think it's a relatively new place on the strip. Very nicely designed, stylish without being pretentious or overly stuffy. I think the owners really want you to hang out - there are hukkah (shisha or nergilah to some) on the tables and backgammon sets available. Having just come back from Istanbul, those two things signify instant comraderie and laid back attitude to me now.
About the food: I only had lunch there - the dinner menu is more extensive. We shared three dishes: chicken wings marinated in citrus juices, cow tongue served with a tomato, saffron and cardamom sauce, and the potato salad. The first two came with very thin flat bread (almost paper-like), while the salad was served with a thicker sesame flat bread. The wings were listed with kebab plates and so also came with grilled tomato, fresh basil, mint etc. Everything was delicious! the wings were juicy, the tongue was perfectly cooked - soft, slightly spongy, but not overcooked. the salad was similar to polish-style potato salad - very small cubes of potato, mixed with pickles, green peas, carrots and other things, in a mayo/mustard dressing. it was tangy and crunchy and refreshing, and perfect on the warm fresh bread. in fact, the freshness of ingredients impressed me most.
the restaurant bills itself as a vodka bar, and the vodka selection is impressive. there is a small beer and wine list as well, which includes mill street beer. the desert list included 5 items, but we didn't try any so can't speak to it.
if i have a criticism, it's that it's meat heavy. there are a couple of mains for fish/seafood eaters, and some of the appetizers are vegetarian, but most dishes are organized around meat. but if you are a meat lover, and not squeamish, there are some interesting choices. i think this is also a great hang out place, perfect for drinks and snacks.
definitely worth a try!
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