Banu is a restaurant on Queen Street West that anyone could miss. It is often written about as a bar. It has virtually no street presence, no profile. But, don't miss it. It is a gem of a restaurant. Dishes are well executed, the food prepared with love and presented well.
We began with several starters that were mostly vegetarian. First, nan o paneer, lighvan sheep's milk cheese accompanied by whole walnuts, sour cherry preserve, crisp. warm nigella seed covered barbari bread and fresh leaves of mint, basil and tarragon. My favourite combination was to spread the cheese on the crisp warm bread, top with a basil leaf and a dollop of the sour cherry compote.....the flavours of heaven!
Our following dish was bourani esfenaj, sauteed spinach with shallots in a yogurt sauce. I much prefer the mellow combination of yogurt and spinach than the creamed spinach found in steak restaurants.
Next, zeitun parvardeh, chopped green kalamata olives mixed with pomegranate molasses, anjelica, garlic and ground walnut. Spread on crisp, warm barbari bread, this was indeed an intriguing and beguiling combination of tastes and textures that creep up on you and make you want to taste again.
Kashk o bademjan, roasted eggplant flavoured with turmeric and mixed with whey paste was another hit. The earthy, slightly bitter taste of the turmeric is a perfect combination with the rich complex flavours of eggplant and as a dollop on the crisp, warm barbari bread, perfect.
And then, zaban, extremely tender slow braised cow tongue, perhaps as good as I have experienced, was covered in a light tasting tomato and cardamom sauce.
Moving on from the vegetarian dishes, we enjoyed koobideh loghmeh, grilled minced sirloin kabab with grilled tomato, scallions, fresh mint, basil and tarragon leaves, seasoned with sumach and all wrapped in lavash flat bread. Any sandwich filled with such a cornucopia of flavours is a reveille of taste.
Bareh Torsh, grilled lamb chops, prepared with a pomegranate molasses and ground walnut marinade was a refreshing preparation.
Also del, cow's heart served medium rare to rare, deliciously tender and accompanied by pickled "delights", a medley of coarsely chopped and piquantly pickled vegetables, the perfect complement of flavours for the earthy tasting heart. Grilled tomatoes lent an acidity that went well with the heart, lamb and wraps.
We finished our meal with warm, slightly sweet almond baklava cake, dotted with pistachios. What a lovely way to bring our palates back to earth. The perfect ending to the experience.
This is a restaurant that flavour adventurers will not want to miss.