We were anxiously awaiting the opening of Darbar Persian Grill at 288 Eglinton Ave West (just east of Avenue Road, north side). There aren't too many Iranian restaurants (at least in that area) so it's a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, since they've only just opened, they don't yet have a takeout menu so forgive me for not being able to give the exact names of dishes (I should have brought pen and paper!). They also don't have a liquor licence, but I understand that's coming soon,
Ambiance: delightfully understated - quite the surprise when we walked in to a spacious, tastefully decorated room with touches of the traditional (dark woods, china, crystal) and the modern (unique framed collages and a painted mural that spans the walls) in shades of gray, off white and black.
Service: the staff are exceptionally gracious and attentive. Our server was happy to explain and elaborate on the menu items (none in our little group of 3 were familiar with Persian food).
The food: the menu (presented in elegant hard cover binders) spans appetizers, entrees (mostly either kebabs or stews) and salads. Darbar's has a separate dessert menu, and as mentioned earlier, they are not yet licensed so beverages at this time are limited to sodas, yogurt/soda drinks (an acquired taste!), water, coffee/tea etc.
We chose the smoked roasted eggplant and stuffed vine leaves as appetizers. Both were delicious and we would order them again. The eggplant was creamy and dressed with finely chopped mint and shreds of carmelized onion. The vine leaves were the best we've ever tasted: quite unlike the Greek version, these were doused with honey and lemon juice that gave them an unexpected sweetness. The vine leaves themselves, which I find often overpower the dish and can be tough, were tender and mellow. Lovely, We were also served gratis pita, honeyed walnuts, some kind of soft spreadable cheese, and fresh parsley and mint. You can spread some of the cheese on the pita, add nuts and the fresh herbs and roll it up for a novel wrap.
Our mains were two different types of kebab, one made from finely minced chicken - quite moist and nicely spiced with lemon - and the other chicken breast with saffron. All mains come with ample servings of perfectly cooked basmati rice and we also had grilled tomatoes, lime wedges and again lots of fresh parsley. My basmati rice was dressed with barberries, which I hadn't tried before and liked them - they are tart yet sweet. Saffron, lemon juice and parsley seem to be the dominant flavours - understated but definitely present.
The portion sizes are huge. Our server packaged the leftovers up for us and we have enough for another full meal for three.
The bill, which included 2 apps, 3 mains and 2 yogurt/soda drinks, came to just over $80 including tip. Incredible value for money.
Darbar's doesn't have a website (I'm guessing that will come soon) but if you're in the mood for delicious Iranian food please check them out. They are well worth it!