The gauntlet thrown to identify the best Middle-Eastern restaurant for vegetarians in the South Bay, I decided to hit up an oft recommended place for Afghan cuisine, Kabul Restaurant in Sunnyvale. With Chelokababi as a basis for comparison, I wanted to see how different Afghan cuisine was from Persian, and to determine which restaurant made the better experience for me.
Three of us- two vegetarians and a Turkish friend who considers Kabul as a personal favorite went to Kabul for lunch. Lunch time crowd was solid not overflowing which made things easy. We got seated and quickly ordered our dishes. We decided to skip the appetizer. Not that there was much for vegetarians- it would be worth finding out next time if they could tailor make one though.
Challaw or Afghani white rice seems to be the staple base around which the curries are structured. The Vegetarian entrees were 4 in number with an option to get smaller portions of three of them in a sampler with the challaw. I opted for the latter.Before the entrees came in, we were offered some bread which was very tasty and elevated by a spicy mint chutney to go with it.
Service was quick for all of us and we were soon rewarded with our entrees. The Vegetarian platter consisted of three curry’s. The kadu which is a sweet pumpkin dish topped with yoghurt is sweet as the name indicates and incredibly tasty. I just loved the texture of the cooked sweet pumpkins complemented by the yoghurt topping. The second dish, a sabsi (surely the origin for our sabzi) is a spinach curry which is very similar to how its done in India but with a slighly different flavor to it. For someone who doesnt enjoy spinach curry but for the Keera(spinach) Kozhambu preparation, this was great. The third element was a cauliflower stew called gulpi. This was probably the one was the most spice in it and it rocked. The best part of the sampler entree was that they complemented each other very well. From the relatively spicy gulpi to the middle-of-the-road sabsi to the sweet kadu, the dishes worked extremely well with each other. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
And then there was the Baklava. Baklava is originally a Turkish dish as wikipedia points out. But I have eaten it in Moroccan, generic Mediterranean, Turkish, Persian and now Afghan cuisine. But I love the dessert wherever offered and the three of us decided to split one. The big baklava (has to be shared unless consumed as a meal in itself) came in dripping with honey and some interesting filling different from others I have eaten. Worries laid to rest, the baklava was outstanding. I mean, the three of us were scraping for pieces by the time the bill had been paid. I would gladly recommend a trip to Kabul just for the baklava. It is that magical.
Ambience: 4/5. Nothing extra-ordinary. Some Afghan pictures and costumes. Normal cutlery and furniture. Nothing outstanding. Nothing bad either.
Service: 4.5/5. No complaints. Food came in quickly and everything was to order.
Food: 5/5. Yep, it is that awesome. Now, given the limited vegetarian fare, it might only warrant a trip every couple of months or so but I will most certainly look forward to those trips.
Price: 3.5/5. Not the cheapest for lunch. The entrees are 9.95 (goes up to 11.95 for the same dish for dinner). The baklava was ginormously priced to its size at $6 (same as Chelokababi by the way).
Overall: 4.5/5. I fell in love with Kabul and regret not going here earlier. Strongly recommended.