Last week my great girlfriend Laurel and I headed over to Bandar Persian Restaurant in the bustling Friday night heart of old San Diego for a terrific and authentic meal of middle eastern flavors.

Our starter, an eggplant appetizer slow roasted with fresh garlic and onion topped with homemade yogurt, was blatantly addictive. We sprinkled plenty of dried sumac on top and enjoyed every single bite, along with soft lavosh. I adore sumac, that lemony, sour condiment that somehow jumpstarts every dish in the Persian repertoire.

A stew of spring baby lamb shank – buttery and delicious, slow-cooked with red beans, lime and herbs – was intensely rich and pungent. As was the mountain of saffron rice that accompanied my dish.

Ditto my companion’s order of ground filet mignon kabobs. My eyebrows rose a bit when she ordered this dish, since I consider the very idea of grinding filet mignon to be verging on sacrilege.  But, she was right. It was tender, delicious and moist. Excellent. We made our generously-poured glasses of pinot noir last to the very end, and then hustled across the street to the jewelbox Balboa Theater to hear mezzo-soprano Fredericka von Stade, offering her “farewell recital.”

From what I heard, this finish to her operatic career came a few years too late. Ill-advised choices of material that ranged from sap to dreck, with a few poorly-rendered moments of Mozart in between, literally set my teeth on edge. Stade is a beauty, no doubt about it.

But looks do not a performance make.