After reading Naomi Wise's review in the Reader a few weeks ago (http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20... ), I decided to check out Cafe 21 on Adams near Idaho. It's an Azeri restaurant, which is a cuisine based mostly on Persian and Russian influences (as well as Turkic and Caucasian).
We opened with the baked grape salad, which is a basic spring mix with some light vinaigrette, a roasted almond-coasted goat cheese, and the baked grapes. The grapes were really interesting, a pleasant new flavor I've never tried before. This was a nice starter, though the salad could have used a bit more dressing.
We also shared the piti (lamb stew with chickpeas and mint), and the dushpara (lamb dumplings in a cilantro cream sauce). The stew was nice and homey, not dominated by any one particular flavor, and served with some grilled bread. The dumplings were really good, nicely spiced with a strong lamb flavor. The cream sauce wasn't too heavy, and served as an excellent complement to the dumplings.
One last note, the owner Alex was very friendly and helpful. When I did pick a wine, he cautioned me that he wasn't a big fan of it and was taking it off the menu, and suggested some alternatives (at the same price, not trying to upsell me). He also brought me a taste. I did end up picking something else, and I thought that was a nice honest touch not often seen in restaurants in this town.