By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The revered Soltan Banoo in University Heights recently closed. The family-run Persian restaurant opened originally as Cafe Caspian in 2000, and then three years later it moved across the street as Soltan Banoo. It was owned and operated by Sanam Govari along with her sister, Roxanne, and mother, Mahin.
Because Govari is attending graduate school, and her mother began experiencing health issues, the trio decided to close.
“I feel that we are losing something beautiful and historic in the community, but I’m happy to have my freedom back. It’s the first time I’ll have Saturday nights off in almost 20 years,” Govari quipped.
The family owns the property, which was once a residence. Govari added they will lease the structure to an unspecified business, revealing only that it will not be a restaurant. 4645 Park Blvd.
Restaurateur and former “Top Chef” contestant, Frankie Terzoli, is aiming for a Jan. 26 soft opening of his latest venture, Sirens, which will launch in the Hillcrest address last occupied by Pardon My French.
Terzoli originally planned on calling the venture Fishmonger’s 2.0, a spin off his original Fishmonger’s Market & Seafood Bar that operated within the now-shuttered 57 Degrees in Middletown. The re-imagined name refers to the half-bird, half-women sirens in Greek mythology that lured sailors and fishermen to the shores — and to their destruction.
Crudo and whole branzino will appear on the seafood-focused menu, although Terzoli also promises prime rib, free-range roasted chicken, duck, pastas and some vegetarian dishes.
The space, he adds, has been updated with a separated bar area and a color scheme of black, turquoise and gray. 3797 Park Blvd.
San Diego and Olympic Cafe in North Park are home to Mister Supranational USA 2018, a title bestowed to the Greek cafe’s co-owner and general manger, Nicholas Kotselas. As an aspiring model who has been catching the attention of New York modeling agencies, Kotselas also recently represented the United States in Mister Supranational’s international competition in Poland. For that, he placed in the top 10 and came away with the title, Mister Supranational Americas.
In celebration of Kotselas’ newfound celebrity and to raise money for one of his favorite charities, Smile Train, the family-run restaurant will hold a benefit from 7 to 9 p.m., Jan. 26. The event will feature drinks and appetizers along with other pageant contestants in attendance as well. The suggested donation is $10 per person. 2310 University Ave., 619-692-9082, olympiccafesd.com.
Joining a collective of 30-plus culinary tenants at Liberty Public Market is the upcoming Hold Fast, a fast-casual concept featuring sashimi and hand rolls by Chef Rob Ruiz, who also owns The Land & Water Company in Carlsbad.
Committed to ocean conservation, Ruiz is slated to becoming the first chef/restaurateur in San Diego to be officially certified by the James Beard Foundation for sustainable seafood practices. Hold Fast will use locally sourced seafood, California-grown organic rice, and organic produce from area farmers. The venture is due to open in February. 2820 Historic Decatur Road, 619-487-9346, bluebridgehospitality.com.
Bakers Andrea Hazel Bender and Jade Warner have teamed up to open Hazel & Jade, a vegan bakery that launched this month in the address previously occupied by Bardo Lounge. Both women are vegan and worked in the pastry industry for eight years before starting their company as wholesalers a year ago. This is their first retail venture.
The daily inventory features fresh croissants made with coconut oil-based butter, plus cakes, muffins, brownies, scones and more. The offerings also include coffee drinks using beans from Steady State Roasting in Carlsbad. 3852 Fourth Ave., 619-295-2001, hazelandjade.com.
Mission Hills has seen the much-anticipated arrival of Fort Oak, a restaurant specializing in wood-fired cooking by Trust Restaurant Group, which includes executive chef Brad Wise and general manager Steve Schwob.
The 3,400-square-foot venture opened Jan. 16 to a menu featuring seafood towers, rabbit sausage, aged rib-eye, local duck and hearth-grilled branzino.
Anchored in Jonathan Segal’s new mixed-use building, The Fort, customers enter through an old Ford dealership facade and into an inviting bar and four distinct dining areas. The bar opens daily at 3 p.m., followed by dinner service starting at 5 p.m., and brunch is offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. 1011 Fort Stockton Drive, 619-722-3398, fortoaksd.com.
After fulfilling a five-year lease in University Heights, chef Mike Almos will close Circa Restaurant next month. His last day of service is on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), when customers can savor a prix-fixe meal of three courses that are still in the planning.
Almos is concluding his run with the “California soul food” restaurant because of his involvement with a local culinary project that he can’t publicly discuss yet. In addition, “My wife and I are going to enjoy spending more time together,” he said.
In the lead-up to the Valentine’s Day dinner, Almos plans on holding customer-appreciation events at the restaurant, which he will post on the website and Facebook once they are scheduled.
Operating the restaurant, he added, “has been lovely and hugely rewarding.” 2121 Adams Ave., 619-269-9152, circasd.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.