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Restaurants

Banu

Posted by Tim / Listed on June 12, 2007 / review policy

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Mr. C has been excited to go for Iranian food at Banu ever since I discovered that you can smoke from a Shisha/Hookah on the patio. Friday night, we did just that.

777 Queen Street West has been reviewed by the likes of Alex Kapranos who is not only the lead singer of Franz Ferdinand but a renowned food critic in the UK. If this doesn't get you there, the interesting menu will. Discovering that Dom balan [read: grilled lamb testicles] was one of our choices, Mr. C and I decided we should take the plunge. I mean, we HAD to...right?

While we waited for our Fear Factor-esque meal, we ordered two appetizers. First up was the Nan O Paneer which was lighvan sheep's milk cheese served with sesame barbari bread, walnuts and fresh herbs. It was the most delightful cheese I've had in quite some time--so much so that I found myself incorporating it into every dish we were served.

We also split the Khaneh salad that included mixed organic greens with grilled artichoke hearts in a tarragon pomegranate dressing which we devoured in mere minutes.

Banu is all about healthy eating and they are adamant about telling you just that on their menu: "PLEASE EAT YOUR GREENS-THEY ARE NOT INTENDED TO MAKE THE PLATE PRETTY." Not only that, all of the certified organic meats are provided by The Healthy Butcher which is just down the street.

Before Mr. C and I could finish our appys the Dom balan was placed in front of me. My facial expression must have alerted Mr. C of my hesitancy for he offered to sample the dish first. No problem. SWITCH!

He made it look effortless as he delved in. He gave it the green light and told me to test the wares. It took me awhile to psych myself up but I did it! I ate the testicles! Marinated in vodka (as Banu is known as a vodka bar) and served with cornichons and "other pickled delights" the meat had an interesting taste and texture. They were a little too mushy for my liking but they weren't as bad as I was expecting. I gave it a good go but I was having mind over matter issues, so Mr. C was the one to finish most of THAT meal. He quite enjoyed it.

The Beldarchin was a whole butterflied saffron quail. This one was easier to stomach, but I couldn't help but say "sorry birdie" as I cut into it. Quails are tiny and as expected there wasn't very much meat. The quail was accompanied with various greens, flat bread, grilled tomato, onion and a radish which thankfully made the meal a little more substantial.

Banu also serves freshly squeezed juices for five dollars each. We decided to share a glass of Honeydew Melon and a glass of Black Cherry. Both were quite tasty but I preferred the Cherry because it had that extra little zip for my taste buds.

To end our meal we tried the Samovar Chai which is bottomless black cardamom tea served with an assortment of house sweets. Along with this we shared a scoop of rosewater and rice noodle sorbet. Mr. C noticed my eyes widen on my first bite and knew this switch up would be a good one. I'm not sure how they figured it out, but noodles WORK in sorbet. Who would have thought?

Finally we were onto the Shisha. This is what we had been waiting for all week. For $17.00 you can choose from a variety of flavours to smoke. We mutually agreed on Blackberry. Curious looks and questions were asked when passerby's saw us smoking the fancy water pipe. The good Samaritan in us assured everyone that what we were doing was completely legal and there wasn't any "funny stuff" inside the bowl.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't working in our favour and cut our smoke session short. Luckily we came prepared with our umbrella so we gave it the ol' college try and stayed outside for as long as we could. To my surprise one of the staff outfitted me with a jacket when they realized the temperature was dropping and I wasn't dressed for the elements. A very sweet gesture indeed.

I've had flavoured Shisha sessions in the U.K. and don't remember it being very expensive--so the price threw me off a little but I guess it's still a novelty here in Canada and they seem to getting away with it. I think if you had a good group of people and you split the cost, it would work out a little better. Regardless, it was a neat experience. Oh and a word to the wise, the patio is small-so if you're in for a smoke reserve your Shisha at the beginning of your meal.

Banu isn't for the frugal diner but if you want a really nice atmosphere, friendly service and an experience that is a little out of the ordinary, I'd say try it out. Heck, it's not everyday you can sample a lamb's "bits and pieces". Fully licensed...with vodka.

Discussion

11 Comments

Ali / November 5, 2007 at 12:09 pm
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Great authentic Iranian food - their jooje (chicken kebab is delicicous!), lots of great appetizers..my favorite is their pom-martini's and their always-warm and friendly service.
CanadianAbroad / April 23, 2009 at 07:27 am
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I'm really sorry Tim but I had a horrible experience at Banu just a couple of weeks ago.

I was out for my last day of holidays in Canada and decided on Banu as I expected a unique take on Iranian culture and food there. Boy was I in for a surprise. From the moment I entered the restaurant I was bombarded with what can only be described as orders on where to sit, how to pay etc..

It took forever to get our food and after what can only be described as a mediocre meal and extremely poor service we received our bills. At this stage we noticed several hidden costs for items including bread or pistachios. I mention this not b/c I'm averse to paying 3$ for a handful of nuts but b/c we were not made aware that they were served at a cost.
The final straw was the error in billing: I requested a 50-50 split but was billed 100-50 on two cards. When I went to the hostess to alert her to the mistake I also implied that the least the establishment could do was to offer complimentary tea. I don't even like tea-the point is I was expecting something to remedy the disappointment we experienced up to that point.

Instead, all I heard was a loud and sarcastic laugh from the lady at the grill. As we were leaving I asked her whether she was the manager to which she replied 'I am the owner'. When I asked how I could provide feedback on Banu she basically barked at me to tell her directly. Now how I provide feedback is up to me isn't it?

This woman created a hostile atmosphere in her approach towards a customer not satisfied by the service. When confronted she yelled at me with a KNIFE (!) in her hand, calling me 'tacky' and telling me to 'get out' and tell everyone I know never to come there! (B/c that's the classy thing to do!?!)

This behavior is unacceptable and does not belong in North American culture!

I strongly suggest that 'the owner' of Banu is kept away from customers until she is educated on the art of customer care.

PS: Apparently the two owners have become famous for their discriminatory behavior against Iranians (where they’re from). Unbelievable!
i love eating out / June 11, 2009 at 12:09 am
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Popped in today for a small dinner and was very pleased. The menu is expensive, but it is to be expected w/the decision to use organic meat. Service was polite, friendly and well timed. They didn't list doogh (traditional yogurt drink) on the drinks menu, but made me a glass anyways and it was quite good. Have been getting into Persian cuisine lately and the food here was excellent. I would definitely visit again. One thing that ppl might not like though, is that they do not serve rice which some diners might expect.

As for the price of tobacco, as far as I know, the flavoured stuff straight from Iran isn't cheap in general, at least not in TO.
samira / September 18, 2009 at 09:52 pm
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you are a bitter bitter bitter girl Canadian Abroad i have noticed that you have cut and paste this same insipid review on every obscure website that can be found and to no avail. I understand that you are a corporate events planner for a multi-national company. However, banu is not Walmart and believe it or not the customer, as you displayed quite vividly that evening, is not always right. I was sitting at the table right next to the kitchen when you came down and bombarded, to use your word, the owners and servers with ridiculous and outlandish requests. If you want your food in ten minutes i suggest you try swiss chalet; not a multi-national company but hopefully still good enough for you.
best

sepideh
Trisha / April 23, 2010 at 04:46 pm
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WOW CandianAbroad just got called out! lol Thanks Samira for clearing that up for us. They're two sides to every story
Trisha / April 23, 2010 at 04:47 pm
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Wow CanadianAbroad just got called OUT! Thanks Samira for clearing that up for us. There's two sides to every story.
mary / October 6, 2011 at 02:10 pm
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so is that Samira or Sepideh responding to CandianAbroad ? she signs Sepideh at the end of her comment but signs in the site with Samira. so which one is she? and wait! isn't Samira the name of one of the owners at Banu? I think it is. wow! weird! ha?
Calingo / January 25, 2012 at 05:52 am
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The food is good, bit expensive and the portions could be bigger. The Pomegranate on College is better but you almost always have the book a table. The service at Banu was fine, don't know what "CanadianAbroad" was talking about, hate comments like that, gave me some doubts about trying this place out. I did not have to pay anything extra for the bread. Btw...classy comment about what does not belong to the North American culture.
S / May 26, 2012 at 02:39 am
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The shisha is herbal and overpriced. DO NOT RECOMMEND! I'd rather go to Shi Shawarma on Yonge Street if shisha is what you're looking for. Food is pretty decent though.
Word of Wisdom / January 3, 2014 at 12:38 am
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Here is a little hint for you about this place: it is owned by two sisters, one of them is severely rough around the edges, which is clear in her comment! She needs a PR lesson.

I've heard of this restaurant from many, many people. I've been to this establishment a few times myself. The food is consistently fantastic, and the atmosphere is quite nice. The service can be salty! Almost anyone who comes to contact with the lesbian girl is to some degree dissatisfied. Now hold your horses, I'm gay myself; so no this is not a homophobic remark.

I'd say give it a try - at least for the food. You'll love it. Expect the service to be good, with the chance of showers and thunderstorm!
Anita / April 11, 2014 at 02:26 pm
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This restaurant is AMAZING. FLAT OUT AMAZING. I have NEVER EVER had bad food there and the service has been exceptional. Fine, one time the food took a little bit longer than normal, but news flash, the kitchen gets busy. The owners are the best, so kind and welcoming. One of the best, if not the absolute best restaurant in the city.

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