When my mom visited San Diego a few weeks ago, she wanted to go somewhere “exotic” for dinner – something that would be hard to find in Texas. We looked through my Yelp bookmarks, and when she heard that Cafe 21 served Azerbaijani/Central Asian food, she immediately wanted to try it out. I’ve only been for brunch once, a few years ago, and really enjoyed the experience, so I was also looking forward to trying it out for dinner!
We didn’t make a reservation, and luckily, we were seated almost immediately – on a Saturday night! The restaurant is quite cozy, and you can choose to sit either inside or on the small patio. We’re both pretty afraid of the cold, so luckily we got an indoors table. I remembered liking the tea selection last time, so Mom and I decided to share an apricot green tea. She really enjoyed the IngenuiTEA pot, haha.In case you didn’t know how this worked, basically there’s a level on the bottom of the tea pot, so when you’re ready to fill your cup, just set the IngenuiTEA brewer on top of your cup, and the liquid will be strained into the cup. It’s pretty nifty. I actually thought about buying one, but I have several teapots already so I refrained. Maybe if there’s a good deal for it on Cyber Monday, hehe.
Anyway, I asked my mom what she wanted to eat, and she immediately said the “duck wings.” Wha? It took me a minute to find it on the menu, and lo and behold, duck wings. Haha.It’s impossible to tell what each individual piece looks like, and I apologize for lack of better pictures… well, I guess they look sort of like chicken wings. Hahaha. The wings were slow-cooked in a pomegranate glaze sauce, which went really well with duck! I loved the flavor combo, and the meat was fall-off-the-bones tender. You can tell that these had been cooked for a long time. I brought some of the leftovers home to S, but he didn’t like them because it had too much “duck” flavor. Haha. We had to be healthy and order a salad. I was actually pretty intrigued by some of the salads, and in the end we settled on the grilled pear, because Mom was so fascinated by the idea of grilled fruits! That said, grilled pear is brilliant. I’ve had grilled peach before, and I didn’t really enjoy the caramelization that much – I preferred the natural peach flavor – but grilling brings out a really nice sweetness from pears. It also softens them up slightly, but they still retained their crispiness. The rest of the salad was composed of mixed greens, almond slivers, dried cranberries, feta cheese (on the side), and a honey balsamic dressing. The dressing was very light, which we liked – I hate it when salad is doused in dressing. Overall, one of the best salads I’ve had in a restaurant. We also wanted to try one of their entrée items, so we went with the kebab platter, which I thought would best showcase the Azerbaijani roots of this restaurant.
The meats were (left to right): Zatar-seasoned steak kebab, lamb sausage kafta, and marinated chicken skewer. It was served over a curry-almond rice pilaf, and with three sauces. I believe they were garlic aioli, avocado hummus, and maybe a peppercorn sauce? Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what the sauces were, but all three of them were pretty good. I particularly like the garlic aioli, because garlic.
As for the meat, the chicken and lamb kafta were my favorites. The steak was a bit dry – although S liked them, even when it was reheated. Mom’s fave was the chicken – it was really tender and juicy, with a hint of lemon. Overall, I liked everything about this dish.
I really wish that we had room to try more of the entrées, but alas, our stomachs were too small. Mom really loved this place and insisted that we bring my stepdad here next time he visits San Diego. I definitely hope to return for dinner and try more of their menu items, too!
Read about Cafe 21 on…
A Radiused Corner – Jul 2010
Food Coma 911 – Jan 2011
Food Revu – Mar 2012
Kirbie’s Cravings – Aug 2012
Pink Candles at Ridgemont High – Sep 2012
San Diego Food – Oct 2010This Tasty Life – Oct 2013
2736 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116 (Two locations: Adams Ave. & Gaslamp.)
Hours: Sun-Thu 8AM-9PM; Fri-Sat 8AM-10PM