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Afghanistan dining makes area debut
By Joseph Izzo, Jr.

Overcome by uncontrollable curiosity, we made reservations as soon as we heard that Kabul had opened.  How often do restaurants serving authentic dishes from Afghanistan come to the South Bay?  Never.  The restaurant claims to be the first of its kind in the Bay Area.

What a pleasant surprise Kabul turned out to be.  Our experience here was one of the best we have had in a restaurant serving Middle Eastern cuisine.  And it all began the moment we stepped through the door, heard the music and saw a dining room of stunning design.

We were not expecting to find such handsome quarters in a  shopping center, but money obviously has been spent to create and inviting atmosphere that embraces the spirit  of the Afghan culture.  Upon freshly painted white walls hang striking hand-woven Afghan carpets and wall hangings with captivating patterns.  Their bold colors splash the room.  Deep rose carpet and linen-clad tables provide warmth and comfort for the diner.  Photographs of Afghan tribesmen bring mystery to the quiet beautiful décor.

Reflects rugged culture
The cuisine is simple and nutritious, reflecting a culture of great diversity and rugged tradition.  Uncomplicated presentations exude flavors coaxed by the measured use of aromatic herbs and spices.  The chef dazzled us with his graphic interpretations of native recipes prepared with a skillful hand.  His menu is a select compilation of Afghanistan’s most-appealing dishes.

We knew we were in for a great meal after the first bite of aushak ($2.50)), dumplings of incredible lightness filled with a mince of leek and spring onions robed with yogurt and tomato-based meat sauce and finished with sprinkles of mint.  Each bite dissolved in the mouth. 

Our second appetizer was Pakawra-e-badenjan ($2.50). fried slices of eggplant served with a similar marriage of yogurt and meat sauce.  These were not greasy, but airy and ringing with a  delicate crispness.  With the eggplant came a piquant coriander chutney.

Of the selections of red meat, I most enjoyed the perparations of lamb, all of which were marked by high quality and remarkable freshness.  Quabili pallaw ($9.95) was seasoned chunks of braised lamb under a mound of tender brown rice garnished decoratively with carrot strips and raisins.  The natural influences of its ingredients blossomed without the burden of heavy spices and seasonings. 

Kabul’s combination kabob ($10.95) offers a skewer of charbroiled chunks of lamb tenderloin with a skewer of inordinately juicy chicken breast, both marinated in a tangy substance with whispers of garlic.  With these kabobs came brown rice and large, yeasty slices of morning=baked Afghan bread studded with black seeds.

Our beef entry, Korma challaw ($8.25), was our least favorite, though it still displayed the chef’s skillful method.  Chunks of beef were simmered with green pepper, onions and tomatoes to form a spicy stew with a rich, cohesive gravy.  With this dish came special white rice seasoned with cumin and cardamom.

Crisp, nutty pastries
On the side, we had segments of pumpkin sautéed to succulence and veiled with yogurt.

Strong cardamom tea and crispy, elephant-ear-shaped pastries dusted with cardamom, sugar and pistachios prompted quiet digestion.

The servers of Kabul were sincere.  They showed sharp professionalism in their care for both diner and dining room.  The place was spotless and our tables were maintained without a hitch in timing.  Our waiter knew his food and painted accurate pictures when answering our questions about the cuisine in general and the particular dishes we had ordered.

Kabul is clearly a restaurant with high goals and great potential.  Our experience here was an education not only in the fine points of Afghan cuisine, but also in the way an aspiring restaurant should work to achieve its dream.

Value 3.5 stars; Portion 3 stars; Food 3.5 stars; Service 4 stars; Ambiance 4 stars; Overall 3.5 stars

San Jose Mercury News- 1988

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