Bandar Restaurant, San Diego Metro Magazine

Bandar Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. It is located at 845 Fourth Ave. in the Gaslamp Quarter.

 Bandar Restaurant – A Persian/American Dream

Traditional and family recipes served in the Gaslamp Quarter

By David Rottenberg

Stories about Iran fill newspapers. Most of them are very negative, describing the country as repressive, denying many basic freedoms to its citizens.

When the Ayatollas were about to come to power, may Iranian people fled and emigrated just in time to the United States. Many settled in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles and San Diego. There, through hard work, many began to experience the benefits that America’s opportunities make possible.

One great example of achieving the American dream — building on opportunity — can be found in Behrooz Faharani, the owner of Bandar Restaurant, located in the Gaslamp.

“I wanted to provide a better life for my family and saw great possibilities in San Diego,” he said. Trained as an architect, he was giving up a shot at a good career in Iran to uproot his family — his wife and two daughters — to make the move.

When he arrived, he worked in the restaurant business. Ambitious to succeed and to provide for his family, he decided to go into business for himself.

He found a location across from Horton Plaza. He used his architectural training to create an interior that reflects the ambiance of Persian culture while, at the same time, providing modern amenities.  His design concepts mix the traditional with the ultra-chic, modern and sophisticated.

His restaurant, Bandar Restaurant (“bandar” means “harbor” or “haven” in Persian) serves traditional and family recipes. Farahani actually did much of the work in the kitchen during the early days. The restaurant is a “family affair.” His wife and daughters often act as hostesses, seating guests. Even today, when he has a large staff, Farahani spends most of his time supervising everything.

The cuisine at Bandar is delicious and exotic yet familiar because it combines so many elements of other Middle Eastern dishes.

Folded flatbread is unique, thin, soft and folded in layers. The appetizers feature yogurt, eggplant, hummus and dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves), presented in a number of ways. Eggplant is combined with fresh onion, garlic and yogurt. A Cucumber Dip combines the vegetable with yogurt and mint. Hummus, so wonderful with the flatbread, is made of pureed garbanzo beans blended with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

A salad is often served before the entrees arrive. The ice cold mixed greens, topped with feta, are made even tastier by the amazingly light but absolutely flavorful special house dressing, made with lemon juice.

Persian entrees often include a long grain rice that can be combined with small bits of fruit. These include raisins, dates, cherries and pomegranate seeds. Spices includes saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric.

My favorite dishes are the chicken, served with wonderful rice. Adas Polo has marinated large round chunks of chicken and rice that is mixed with lentils and dates. The rice with Albalu Polo has black cherries mixed in, offering sweetness to the dish.

Bring a healthy appetite for Chicken Soltani, where large chunks of chicken and also of ground beef are served with rice.

Lamb Shank offers the whole shank (great for lovers of marrow). Kebabs present chicken, lamb, fish or beef grilled on skewers, along with grilled vegetables. Fesenjan is an exotic combination of simmered chicken in sweet pomegranate sauce with crushed walnuts.

Bandar Restaurant has won numerous awards and has been named “Best Persian Restaurant” more than 12 times. It is one of my personal favorite places to dine. It is an ideal example of how Behrooz Faharani and his family are living the American dream, achieving their potential and becoming the best.

Bandar Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. It is located at 845 Fourth Ave. in the Gaslamp Quarter. Call (619) 238-0101 for information and reservations.

David Rottenberg is a member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association and past vice president of the North American Travel Journalists Association.

© 2014 David Rottenberg All Rights Reserved