One of my favourite restaurants here in Toronto is Banu on Queen Street West. To most people, tell them you are going to an Iranian restaurant for dinner and they will probably beg you not to ask them to accompany you. Images of shwarma and dona kebabs are probably flashing through their minds while their throats are becoming parched with the thought of not being able to indulge in an alcoholic beverage of some sort. However tell them that you are going to Banu and they will beg to be taken along.
They call themselves Banu – Iranian Kabob Vodka Bar and it does not disappoint. Walk in to this average sized restaurant and all your preconceived notions of what an Iranian restaurant should look like, might as well be left in the trash can on the street. Here is a sleek modern interior that gives you a feel of what a hip nightclub/restaurant would have been like in pre-revolutionary Tehran. There is definitely a retro 70’s vibe to the place. Dark hardwood floors highlight the low white leather chairs and banquettes that are used for seating. They are islands floating in space surrounding wonderful turquoise tilled top tables. The walls decorated with wonderful teal blue arabesques similar to what I have seen in the coffee shop at the Nile Hilton in Cairo.
The menu doesn’t disappoint either. Who would have thought that a normal kabob could taste so good with melt in your mouth organic meats and the freshest flavours that you have ever experienced. After taking your first bite of several menu items accompanied with the fresh basil and mint that are provided, you are in culinary heaven. Don’t let the inclusion of several items from dubious parts of an animal’s body put you off, as I believe they are an integral part of the cuisine and have been sometimes unavailable attesting to their popularity.
Again think Iranian restaurant and you would be forgiven that it is going to be a dry evening with nothing but juices or water to indulge in. Wrong again! Twenty-five different vodkas on offer! Not being a vodka drinker, I am sure that the vodka aficionado has probably thought that they have died and gone to heaven after reading the list. However, don’t despair if you don’t drink vodka, there is a small but comprehensive wine list that pairs perfectly with the menu.
So if someone asks you to Banu, GO! Raise your glass and eat your kabob and feel part of the jet set!