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Cafe 21

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After reading Naomi Wise's review in the Reader a few weeks ago (http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20... ), I decided to check out Cafe 21 on Adams near Idaho. It's an Azeri restaurant, which is a cuisine based mostly on Persian and Russian influences (as well as Turkic and Caucasian).

We opened with the baked grape salad, which is a basic spring mix with some light vinaigrette, a roasted almond-coasted goat cheese, and the baked grapes. The grapes were really interesting, a pleasant new flavor I've never tried before. This was a nice starter, though the salad could have used a bit more dressing.

We also shared the piti (lamb stew with chickpeas and mint), and the dushpara (lamb dumplings in a cilantro cream sauce). The stew was nice and homey, not dominated by any one particular flavor, and served with some grilled bread. The dumplings were really good, nicely spiced with a strong lamb flavor. The cream sauce wasn't too heavy, and served as an excellent complement to the dumplings.

One last note, the owner Alex was very friendly and helpful. When I did pick a wine, he cautioned me that he wasn't a big fan of it and was taking it off the menu, and suggested some alternatives (at the same price, not trying to upsell me). He also brought me a taste. I did end up picking something else, and I thought that was a nice honest touch not often seen in restaurants in this town.

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  1. Cafe 21 is really good. I'm surprised it doesn't get more attention on here.

    1. Haven't been to Cafe 21, but they did a demo at the Adams Avenue farmers' market, smoked duck breast on flatbread with a fruit sauce, that I thought was delicious, and of course I love that they are supporting the local farmers' market, since I'm a big supporter myself.

      1 Reply
      1. re: juantanamera

        I haven't been for dinner. At lunch and breakfast, the food is quite tasty. But for some reason, it weighs really heavily upon my wife and myself. After we eat there, we always feel a little overstuffed and have to take a nap. The portions are generous, not gigantic. So we are never quite sure why we have this reaction to the Cafe.

      2. I love the place, been going there for breakfast and lunch for ages. I finally went in for dinner a few weeks ago, and it was spectacular! Alex and Leyla are so very awesome, too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Jenkay

          I have only been there for lunch and that was a few months ago. I am thinking that perhaps they serve more "standard" food at lunch (like chicken pesto sandwiches) and the more interesting stuff at dinner?? I don't remember seeing anything like what you mentioned on the lunch menu. I really want to go for dinner now!!

          1. re: uberkelly

            Yeah, I think their lunch menu is more American/Californian, the Azeri stuff comes out at dinner.