On the Table: Sultan Mediterranean

first impression »
What a fabulous new spot! Located in The Grove, Sultan has elevated Middle Eastern cuisine with an array of exciting (and largely unfamiliar) offerings. Most of us haven’t sipped Leben or nibbled on Munto. Everything I had was amazing and delicately seasoned with sumac or mint. The spacious corner spot is tastefully done in warm woods, and the tables are not on top of each other. Plus, our servers on both occasions were efficient and friendly.

wash it down »
No alcohol here, but they have an amazing lemonade with fresh mint ($2), as well as pomegranate juice and Middle Eastern teas and coffees.

hummus & baba ganoush » $5.95 each
Even if you are tired of these staples, order them here. Their bright, clean flavors say ‘freshly made just a few hours ago.’ And they come with the most amazing house-baked naan, soft and chewy in wonderfully misshapen, large, bulbous discs.

sultan pilau » $14.95
This dish steals the show. The impressive volcano of rice, garbanzo beans, Marcona almonds, raisins and slivered lamb shank is baked inside a shell made of phyllo sheets. Crack it with your fork, and the riches come spilling out, hot and delicious. Its earthy taste of sumac stands up well to the savory lamb. As if that isn’t impressive enough, it comes with little saucers of a shaved cucumber and yogurt mixture tinged with garlic and a raw salad of chopped cucumber, onion and tomatoes.

dolma » $8
The vegetarian option elevates stuffed grape leaves into a satisfying entrée. There must have been about 30 of the tangy little rolls, slick with olive oil and artfully stacked around a chunk of similarly stuffed zucchini and a stuffed tomato.

saffron curry » $13.95
Do not pass up this entrée offered with chicken, beef or shrimp (my pick). The orange sauce melts in your mouth, releasing exotic Middle Eastern flavors mixed with rich cream. It is faintly spicy, but the heat is tempered by the cream—and by a mound of rice and the classic raw mix of onions, cukes and tomatoes.

lahmageen » $7.95
The Mediterranean-style ‘pizza’ comes with a spread of ground beef-laced tomato sauce topping a flattened naan. Instead of mozzarella, a drizzle of fresh yogurt completes the dish. Warning: It’s spicy!

pistachio custard » $4
One of only three desserts, this is positively orgasmic, so don’t miss it. It’s like a cup of melted pistachio ice cream, topped with more cream and crushed pistachios. There is enough of it to share.

overall » This is a wonderful addition to our dining scene. Sultan has it all: fresh, inventive food; generous portions; friendly service; a pleasant atmosphere; and attractive prices.

4200 Manchester Road | 314.390.2020

Pictured at top | Pilau Rice with Chicken Kabob: Basmati rice with lentils, onions and almonds served with salad