When a person steps through the door and enters Sultan Bakery and Grill in Murrieta, they’ll probably see the polished tables and swept floors and they’ll likely smell the fragrance of exotic spices wafting in from behind the counter where a myriad of Lebanese and Syrian dishes are prepared.
Here people will find all sorts of dishes that hail from the Middle East such as hummus, kabob shawarma and baklava. In addition to these more familiar staples, the menu offers up a variety of flat breads that are prepared with fresh toppings and cooked only after a customer orders.
Almost everything the bakery and grill makes is composed of fresh ingredients, according to Sultan’s owner, Tony. He said he’s always cooking up fresh batches of hummus, pita and garlic paste among a number of other items. Nothing is left to sit and nothing is more than a day old.
But in the case of Tony’s restaurant, fresh doesn’t always mean easy. His hummus takes many hours to create. Chick peas are soaked for a full day in water before being boiled, ground and combined with a list of ingredients that includes tahini, lemon, salt and more.
For Tony, food is a labor of love. His restaurant is a means by which to share the foods of his homeland in Lebanon and his wife’s homeland in Syria.
He said they decided to start a restaurant in November of 2013 because they wanted to have a place that not only offered traditional food staples like kabobs, but also a place that would offer up a variety of baked goods.
Many area restaurants specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine might offer one or the other, he said, but not a combination of the two types of food.
Sultan’s versatile offering of traditional foods has been a big draw and has brought in people from all over Southwest Riverside. Normally these individuals might drive far outside of county lines just to go to a restaurant with similar food offerings, according to Tony.
“They’re very excited we came into this area,” Tony said. “They usually drive all the way to San Diego, Los Angeles or Anaheim to get these kinds of items.”
Tony said the dishes are a big hit with members of the Arab Community, who come to try traditional dishes that are a part of their heritage.
But the restaurant also gets a large number of individuals who are completely new to Lebanese and Syrian food items, and when that happens Tony and other individuals associated with the bakery are willing to give them a crash course.
“I give them a little input on the menu and they usually try something,” Tony said. “Then after that time they feel comfortable coming in here, they feel like this is home, and they try something different every single time.”
One of the menu items Tony recommends is the Zaatar and Cheese Flatbread. Zaatar is a mixture of thyme, sesame seed, sumac and extra virgin olive oil; this mixture is spread over half of a pita bread and a combination of three different cheeses is spread over the other half.
Another popular item that Tony said customers enjoy is the Chicken and Cheese Flatbread. Chicken is mixed with a Lebanese sauce characteristically similar to chipotle and poured over the flattened bread and three cheese spread.
For those looking to get a taste of something both sweet and sour, there’s Sfeeha. This dish has a layering of finely ground beef with pine nuts, onion and tomato on a freshly baked pita bread. Yogurt and pomegranate syrup give the dish its sweet and sour components.
The food may be what draws customers in time and time again, but Tony said being kind is also important. He said he likes to make customers feel at home and is always eager to greet them.
“That’s just the way I am,” he said.
Sultan Bakery and Grill is located at 25285 Madison Avenue, Suite 106 in Murrieta. For more information, call (949) 354-9110.
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