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New restaurant @ Avenue Road/Eglinton: Darbar (Persian) - long

We were anxiously awaiting the opening of Darbar Persian Grill at 288 Eglinton Ave West (just east of Avenue Road, north side). There aren't too many Iranian restaurants (at least in that area) so it's a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, since they've only just opened, they don't yet have a takeout menu so forgive me for not being able to give the exact names of dishes (I should have brought pen and paper!). They also don't have a liquor licence, but I understand that's coming soon,

Ambiance: delightfully understated - quite the surprise when we walked in to a spacious, tastefully decorated room with touches of the traditional (dark woods, china, crystal) and the modern (unique framed collages and a painted mural that spans the walls) in shades of gray, off white and black.

Service: the staff are exceptionally gracious and attentive. Our server was happy to explain and elaborate on the menu items (none in our little group of 3 were familiar with Persian food).

The food: the menu (presented in elegant hard cover binders) spans appetizers, entrees (mostly either kebabs or stews) and salads. Darbar's has a separate dessert menu, and as mentioned earlier, they are not yet licensed so beverages at this time are limited to sodas, yogurt/soda drinks (an acquired taste!), water, coffee/tea etc.

We chose the smoked roasted eggplant and stuffed vine leaves as appetizers. Both were delicious and we would order them again. The eggplant was creamy and dressed with finely chopped mint and shreds of carmelized onion. The vine leaves were the best we've ever tasted: quite unlike the Greek version, these were doused with honey and lemon juice that gave them an unexpected sweetness. The vine leaves themselves, which I find often overpower the dish and can be tough, were tender and mellow. Lovely, We were also served gratis pita, honeyed walnuts, some kind of soft spreadable cheese, and fresh parsley and mint. You can spread some of the cheese on the pita, add nuts and the fresh herbs and roll it up for a novel wrap.

Our mains were two different types of kebab, one made from finely minced chicken - quite moist and nicely spiced with lemon - and the other chicken breast with saffron. All mains come with ample servings of perfectly cooked basmati rice and we also had grilled tomatoes, lime wedges and again lots of fresh parsley. My basmati rice was dressed with barberries, which I hadn't tried before and liked them - they are tart yet sweet. Saffron, lemon juice and parsley seem to be the dominant flavours - understated but definitely present.

The portion sizes are huge. Our server packaged the leftovers up for us and we have enough for another full meal for three.

The bill, which included 2 apps, 3 mains and 2 yogurt/soda drinks, came to just over $80 including tip. Incredible value for money.

Darbar's doesn't have a website (I'm guessing that will come soon) but if you're in the mood for delicious Iranian food please check them out. They are well worth it!

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  1. Thanks for the review. We have been awaiting their opening as well. Glad to hear it was good as Eglinton is severely lacking in decent resto's. We'll check it out when they have their liquor licence.

    Just west on Eglinton there is another new restaurant "opening soon". It is called Doppio Zero. Don't know anything about it though...

    2 Replies
    1. re: saltyanchovy

      Excited to have a Persian restaurant in the neighbourhood. Looking forward to trying it. BlueGoo, did they only have grilled main dishes or were there braised/stewed dishes, as well? Love these.

      As for Doppio Zero, my bet is that it's a pasta restaurant. Type 00 (double zero) flour is the best flour for making fresh pasta...

      1. re: Tatai

        Yes, Darbar's does have stews and salads too, in addition to the grilled mains.

    2. Has anyone else been recently to this restaurant? Would appreciate reading other reviews. Thanks!

      1. We ate at Darbar Persian Grill tonight and it was fabulous. The food is beautifully prepared and presented, with great depth of flavour.

        We had a warm eggplant appetizer that was incredible, as well as an excellent yogurt dip. For mains we chose a grilled chicken leg skewer/beef kabob combo and a stewed lamb shank, the meat of which was falling-off-the-bone tender. Both were served with rice; the one that accompanied the lamb contained fava beans and was flavoured with dill. All were excellent.

        Dessert was wonderful, as well. Can't remember the name of it, but one was a lemon, rose hip and cooked noodle sorbet (I know it sounds odd but it was great); the other was a frozen chocolate pavé (called a mousse on the menu) served with saffron pistachio ice cream. (This dessert was "Darbar Surprise"; they change it all the time and don't tell you what it will be.)

        We're definitely making this one of our regulars. Most of the patrons were Iranian, coming from as far as Richmond Hill, where the family who owns and runs both back and front of house had a restaurant under the same name a number of years ago.

        Darbar Persian Grill
        288 Eglinton Ave. West
        416-519-4545

        4 Replies
        1. re: Tatai

          Just realized I forgot to mention the stuffed grape leaves (served warm) we also had as an appetizer. Not to be missed.

          1. re: Tatai

            What were the vine leaves stuffed with, Tatai?

            1. re: prima

              The dolmades stuffing is vegetarian, made with rice and, I believe raisins, with very delicate and fragrant spicing. These vine leaves don't have the acidity from, I suppose, the citric acid used in canning vine leaves that often turns me off. (I don't know if they just soak canned/jarred vine leaves really well or if they're using frozen leaves.)

              I actually ordered some for takeout a couple of weeks ago, to serve as an appetizer in my home. I was told to pick them up anytime after 12 noon, because the mom makes them fresh daily. When I picked them up, the daughter asked if I wanted some of her mom's homemade yogurt (yes, it turns out she makes her own yogurt, too!) on the side.

              1. re: Tatai

                Thanks, Tatai. I look forward to trying them out.

        2. I too was excited to try this restaurant. I am often in the area. I have had Persian food with Persian friends at two other restaurants. My first visit was pleasant. It was 5:00 pm on a weeknight. My friend had the white skewered chicken with saffron rice and barberries. She also had the yogurt soda. I had the chicken stew. We both had shirazi salad. We were happy with the food and for the most part the service. One complaint was the waitress had a cloth bracelet on with a long tie. She kept reaching across our plates to pick up the empty bread plate etc. At one point her frayed bracelet touched my rice. Although grossed out I said nothing and did not eat that part. I chalked it up to new servers. We tipped well and made reservations for our holiday dinner on Friday December 22. We actually cancelled our annual dinner at Auberge du pommier we liked Darbar so much.

          The good news ends here. We arrive on the stated time. Warmly greeted we sit in good moods although our reserved table had been given to someone else. It happens. The server was asking to take drink orders before we had our coats off. They still have no drink menu. Okay I guess staff are still inexperienced one month from our initial visit. We order shirazi salads. Now I love red onion but the salads were 75% onion. Still palatable. We both ordered the white breast chicken with barberry rice, the dish my friend had last time. At our last visit my friend loved it, I had a taste and loved it too.
          Our mains arrive too quickly. The server, another one, all told we had 4 people serving us that night but none well, tried to snatch my friend's unfinished salad. Okay we begin our mains. The rice is lukewarm with globs of unmelted butter in it. The chicken is raw in the middle, raw!!!! I tell the manager?? Owner?? Sunni, she apologizes nicely. I know mistakes happen. But wait. She takes my friend's chicken back asap. Not mine. Finally I get her attention and she takes mine. My friend asks if Sunni can take our rice and heat it because it is cold. She agrees.
          We are given a complimentary appetizer of olives and nuts, a paste. Nice.
          But I throw in the towel when the rice comes back stone cold, my friend is given a new chicken dish but I get her and my leftovers mixed up on the same plate, very overcooked.
          When addressed I am told I ate half the chicken before sending it back. I calmly explain I am quite willing to pay full price. I explain it was more towards the middle that the chicken skewer was raw, I had eaten more then my friend and asked my friend to check her chicken, and indeed hers was raw too. I was not going to quibble over how much damn chicken I had eaten. You serve raw chicken, cold soggy rice, I suggest if sent back you remake the whole dish. I was civil and pleasant throughout.
          We decide to try desert. It was our holiday dinner. I asked the server is the cheesecake made in house, she said yes. Well it was okay but obviously bought frozen as it was frozen in the middle. Lol a farce. We got Persian tea and it was barely warm.
          In parting I told Sunni we were so looking forward to the dinner and so disappointed. She gave a card for 15% off next time. Big deal. I can understand a mistake. But it is all In how it is rectified, this was dealt with badly and was mistake after mistake.
          I will not go back. My work and friend's work were going to book office dinners but we advised to go elsewhere.
          Dismal.

          3 Replies
          1. re: pluckypear

            Has anyone been to this place since? I'm thinking of going this week with a Persian friend.

            1. re: Flexitarian

              I was back there a couple of months ago and enjoyed the food as much as the first time around.

              1. re: Flexitarian

                I was there mid-december just before the holidays and the food for the most part was good. Fesenjan was small and not as hearty as I've had elsewhere and paled in comparison to the chicken kebab dish. But the eggplant appetizer was great as well as the dolmades.

                Service was amateurish as different servers tried to attend to all the tables. For instance, one would come up, ask us if we wanted drinks, and then a few minutes later, another server would come by and ask the same thing. Same routine with the ordering, if we were finished eating, etc. It wasn't obnoxious, but like they were trying too hard and not exactly hitting the mark.

                Somehow our fesenjan order got left out by accident (could have been a language miscommunication though) and some scrambling had to be done to get it to us.

                Many persian/middle eastern families in the room that night, if that makes a difference. Overall, the room is nice, the food is pretty good and I would go back.

            2. Is this the same Darbar that used to be on Yonge south of Wellesley?

              1. Sounds great. Can't wait to try

                DT

                1. Wow I cannot believe people like this place! I found out recently a persian friend of mine and her family tried the place out not knowing of my bad experience. She went with a party of 6 on a Friday night. She reported back the service was unprofessional and they had to send back food for being cold and that not all of the meals were served at the same time.
                  Try another persian restaurant and steer clear of this disaster. It is pretty inside but unpolished service and they need a new chef.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: pluckypear

                    My Persian neighbour tells me the best Persian in TO is at North at Steeles and Yonge.

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Do you remember the name of the restaurant Davwud?

                      1. re: kwass

                        North.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          It's called North? Thanks TJ.

                          1. re: kwass

                            http://www.northrestaurant.com/

                            Sometimes referred to as Shomal on this board if you want to search for older reviews.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Will do. Thanks again!

                              1. re: kwass

                                I've had more than one Persian tell me it's great.

                                DT

                              2. re: TorontoJo

                                Thanks Jo.

                                DT

                        2. re: Davwud

                          You may be referring to "North". I have been several times and the food is always good, portions are generous and prices fair. Service can be slow and they get super busy on weekends. But never had raw chicken or rude servers unlike at Darbar.

                          Give North a try.

                          http://northrestaurant.com/index.php?...

                          1. re: pluckypear

                            If you would all please look at Davwud's post again (emphasis added by me):

                            "My Persian neighbour tells me the best Persian in TO is AT NORTH at Steeles and Yonge."

                            He specifically refers to North.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Thanks again Jo.

                              DT

                      2. Well I went this week with a Persian friend. The waitress apologized if the service seemed slow as she was the only server there as everyone else mysteriously called in sick (she surmised because the day before was Persian New Year and the place was packed and they were just too tired to come in).

                        Nonetheless the service was pretty good even though a bit slow. The food however was another story. I thought it was tasteless and a bit over-priced. I feel sorry for the owners as they've obviously spent a lot of money on the place. Camros (a small organic vegetarian place on Hayden downtown) remains my 'go to' place if I want Persian food.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Flexitarian

                          You may be referring to "North". I have been several times and the food is always good, portions are generous and prices fair. Much better then place in this thread. Service can be slow though and busy on weekends. But never had raw chicken or rude servers. Give it a try.

                          http://northrestaurant.com/index.php?...

                        2. Three of us went to Darbar for dinner tonight. I hadn't been there for quite some time and was delighted to find that the food was as delicious as ever and the service was friendly and very efficient.

                          For appetizers we had two eggplant dishes, the names of which I can never remember (both served warm, one has whey, walnuts and crispy fried onions; the other is very smokey with scrambled eggs), their exquisite stuffed vine leaves, and a spinach and yogurt dip. For mains we shared a veal kebab, a veal shank stew (the first one on the menu), and the fesenjan chicken stew. We finished with Persian sweets and cardamom tea. The portions were huge and we had leftovers.