Erin and I checked out an Afghani place, Sultan Palace, located in Main Gate Square the other night at the behest of Jimmy Boegle’s review in the Tucson Weekly. To quote J-Boeg, “Trust me, folks: Sultan Palace offers some of the best food in Tucson.” While his review isn’t entirely inaccurate, I have to slightly disagree.
We were dubious as soon as we approached the restaurant, it is tucked away off of University, next to Which ‘Which which I’ve never tried either even though Jason Terry has always been one of the few Wildcat basketball players I was ever able to stand (Go to hell Mike Bibby). There was no one in the vicinity and as we got closer I started to have second thoughts. I actually expressed it verbally to Erin saying, “We can still turn around, it’s not to late if it looks wrong.” But then one of the employees walked out of the door and saw us standing there and he guilted me into going in. Needless to say, we were the only people in the restaurant which gave our waiter a chance to be a little overbearing and creepy (He looked like an older fucked up Jonas Brother who no one ever talks about), but who can blame him we were probably his only customers his whole shift. I counted no less than six parties walk up to the door, look at the menu only to turn around and go somewhere else.
Anyway, the food. I had wanted to start with a lentil soup but our waiter told me they were out of all soups. How could they be “out” of soup? Maybe they were busier early in the day but I think it might have been more accurate to say, “we didn’t bother making soup today.” Not that I would’ve been any less displeased. I ordered the mantu and an order of meat sambossa’s. Erin had chicken with flavored rice which I’m pretty sure meant that it had carrots and raisins instead of just rice. She also added a side of qorme kofta. We each got a small salad with greens, mint and cucumber topped with a really nice yogurt dressing. It was delicious. Erin declared the dressing something she would “drink” were it socially acceptable. Luckily for her the sambossas came with a small dish of the same dressing as a dipping sauce. The sambossas were wonderful. Think samosa with a spicy ground beef and vegetable mixture inside only flakier. With such a thin, layered dough, I could see the sambossas coming out sort of spongy and soft, but these were crisp throughout and had wonderful texture.
My mantu were quite good, though they were completely slathered in sour cream. A mantu is a sort of meat dumpling that is steamed and topped with more of the filling and the aforementioned sour cream. They were pretty tasty, the filling was rich and well spiced but the dish offered little depth as it was basically a pile of mantus. Erin’s chicken and rice was a pretty thorough disappointment. The rice was pretty good, Erin’s a big fan of carrots which was fortunate since the plate was crawling with them. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an orange dish. The chicken, however was the real mystery. I wish I had brought my camera so I could have Luke identify what part of the chicken this thing came from. My best guess was that it was a drumstick, we debated the possibility of it actually being lamb but it really didn’t taste like lamb either. What it did taste like was nasty meat strapped to a suspect bone. Imagine a Thanksgiving where you manage to wrestle one of the turkey legs from you grandma and then you take it out back to the porch to devour only to become distracted and not return to find it until mid April. If I’m right though, that was the biggest god damn chicken of all time. Well, maybe not.
Erin really did enjoy her qorme kofta. They come two to an order and really were pretty good. Though not as dense as your everyday Italian meatball, the qorme kofta seemed to be its familiar Middle Eastern counterpart, smothered in a tasty, oily tomato sauce.
I would agree with the Boegle that Sultan Palace deserves a few more customers, I’d go back to try a kabob, but I’d hardly call it it some of Tucson’s best. There’s no way a place like Cafe Poca Cosa would serve a chicken leg the fished out of their septic tank. Holy Taliban that thing was nasty.
I’m going to have to give Sultan Palace a 5.75 odd dumplings full of meat. If I were to go back and try a kabob, I wouldn’t be opposed to raising or lowering my score.