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Bandar Restaurant -- A Persian/American dream

The presidential elections looming in two weeks will have Americans choose a candidate that, in each voter's view, will help him achieve his dreams. But, what are those dreams? Are they just about a home surrounded by a white picket fence, with two cars in the garage and a 'frig full of food? Aren't those universal dreams, for security and good living conditions -- dreams that are shared with every Iraqi, Afghani and Palestinian?

In my view, the American dream is really about opportunity. We want to live in a country where each of us has the chance to develop to the maximum of our potentials, to achieve all that we can reach. The rest of the benefits follow.

That dream of opportunity extends not only to our native sons and daughters but also to our immigrants, those who choose to build their lives in America, to add to the melting pot of cultural diversity that makes our total community so vibrant and rich.

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

Faharani is Iranian, a country which is very much in the news lately, often not in a favorable light. Several years ago, Faharani was distressed by what he saw developing in his native country and decided to immigrate to the United States.

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

When he arrived in our city, he worked in the restaurant business. But, given his ambitions to achieve success and to provide for his family, he decided to go into business for himself. He found a location across from Horton Plaza to which he saw lots of consumer traffic that could be willing to cross the street to his restaurant. He used his architectural training to create an interior that reflects the ambiance of Persian culture while providing modern amenities. (More recently, he opened a second location only a few feet away from his initial restaurant called B-Lounge. This location, which he also designed, is ideal for group events and parties. His design concepts here are 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 has won numerous awards and has been named "Best Persian Restaurant" more than 10 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. Bandar Restaurant is located at 825 Fourth Ave., in the Gaslamp. Call 619-238-0101 for information and reservations.


Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association. Send comments to the editor@sddt.com. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.

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