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Kabul offers exotic elegance in Sunnyvale
Dining Out/Douglas Alton Smith

After dining in many new Japanese, Mexican and Italian restaurants recently, I was delighted to stumble upon something really different, an Afghan restaurant.  Kabul is the creation of an Afghan family that has operated a dinner house of the same name in a suburb of Washington, D.C., for nine years.  The food and service formula perfected, they brought it to Sunnyvale in August.

Kabul’s atmosphere is simply and elegantly exotic, a factor of a few oriental carpets on the walls and soft native music on the Stereo system.

The menu is neither large nor varied, but it has many exotic twists on familiar foods.  The dinner menu features eleven meat entrees and four for vegetarians.  Among them are skewered lamb marinated in herbs and spices, lamb with carrot strips and raisins, and thick stews (challaw) of lamb or beef.  Among the vegetarian items are a stew of cauliflower, tomatoes, onions, ginger and spices, and another showcasing spinach.

Dinner entrees come with salad and Afghan bread and are quite reasonably price for the ambiance, especially the vegetarian items clustered around $7.  Portions are ample, too, so I’d advise restraint with the tempting appetizers and side dishes. 

We began with aushak and pakawra-e-badenjan appetizers ($2.50 each), the former consisting of dumplings filled with leek and spring onions, the latter of sautéed eggplant.  The aushak was like a thin Asian lasagna dominated by a fascinating fresh mint taste.  The eggplant in a flaky crust was marvelously tart, flavored by a tomato meat sauce and by yogurt.

The dinner salads were nondescript, just iceberg lettuce pieces with yogurt dressing and a couple of snow peas.  The Afghan bread was a chew treat similar to the fogaccia I’ve eaten in Italian restaurants.

My companion ordered gulpi challaw ($8.95), a delicious, thick stew of beef and cauliflower, ginger and herbs on rice.  The beef chucks dissolved easily on the palate, and the blend of flavors in the sauce was consummate. I tried the combination kabab ($11.95), a skewer each of lamb and chicken.  The three large cubes of lamb were slightly pink inside, absolutely melt-in-your-mouth tender. 

Kabul’s wine list is brief – 18 bottles – but select. Our host, one of the owners, was extremely gracious.  Since Kabul is as yet relatively undiscovered, the evening was leisurely and quiet.  At $56 for all that food and wine for two, including tax and tip, our foray was moderately priced by today’s standards.  Lunch entrees range from $6 to $8, with the vegetarian items under $5.

TimeTribune, Thursday, September 15, 1988

Kabul Afghan Cuisine - 833 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA. 94086