Village Voice Article Top 100 restaurants in NYC
The Zephyrs, my s.o. and I ventured out to #69 on the Voice list: Bahar Shishkebab House, at 984 Coney Island Ave in Brooklyn. Very convenient to Park Slope if you have a car, and I noticed a bus stop right outside too.
The Voice describes this place as an "Afghan meatery" but mentions it has a number of good veggie options as well. We found it pleasant, with a nice decor and friendly staff (though there were a few communication problems--not really language-based, they just didn't seem to know what to do with us and our perhaps unconventional combination of dishes).
We tried the pumpkin turnovers (or Bolani) mentioned in the Voice review, which were indeed delightful--the mixed Bolani platter also included potato and scallion varieties. At $4.00, this appetizer portion was big enough for 4 to share. We also ordered scallion dumplings which came in a wonderful yogurt/tomato sauce. Zephyr had the meat samosas, and a delicious sweet (not mango) lassi.
Veggie entrees were similar to Indian food I've had, including a combination platter of spiced okra, spinach, and eggplant-- rich but not too greasy, wonderfully tender, and with a dollop of tangy yogurt sauce. Vegetables came with a heaping platter of some kind of fried basmati rice.
Not being familiar with Afghan food, I was surprised by fresh pasta dishes. We tried two--noodles with garlic, yogurt, and butter (lots of wonderful browned garlic bits)and noodles with mint, yogurt, and butter. Yes, there is a lot of yogurt and butter on the menu here, and it tastes as creamy and good as it sounds.
Perhaps Zephyr will comment on the kebabs and lamb curry that he and the Mrs. ate.
Portions were very big and prices low. We somewhat tentatively asked whether we could bring beer in (menu specifically states "no alcohol" and some observant Muslim diners were present, eg. women in veils) and the waitress said it was fine. We did have a bit of trouble getting hold of an opener and a busboy eventually brought out what seemed to be the restaurant's main can opener.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this place to meat eaters and veggies alike. We were slightly apprehensive as it was not at all crowded on a Saturday night around 8:30, but that turned out to be a boon.
This list (a great public service, by he way - thanks) prompted us to retry Salinas, which is just a block up the street (5th Avenue between 12th and 13th in the South Slope). An initial 5-second hesitation: "do we really feel like having dinner in this brightly-lit room with loud Latin music tonight?" In retrospect, a foolish qualm.
The two of us shared a delicious and substantial shrimp soup (labelled "small"), the Ecuadorian version of ceviche (which surprised me the first time I had it: instead of cold, marinated fish, it's fish and vegetables in a sort of warm brine. This version was very fresh-tasting and satisfying), and a weekend special, the name of which escapes me, consisting of a tasty and hefty portion of pork roast, a very good tomato-onion salad, and some giant, starchy variety of corn kernels - this more impressive to me for its novelty than for its taste and texture. With three bottles of Pilsener beer, it all came to thirty something dollars, and was more than enough food.
And by this time I'd grown very fond of the place I was in, and found myself savoring the music as much as the food, and looking forward to what the next song would sound like. There's a romantic-Spanish sound to this music that appeals to me more than the sometimes polka-band quality I hear when I go to Taco Nuevo Mexico a block away. In fact if anyone is tempted to enlighten me about this branch of Latin music, I invite you to start a general topics thread.
In case anyone is wondering what exactly the Ecuadorian national dish Robert S. mentions is: Guinea Pig. But there are plenty of other things on the menu to sample before you need to contemplate making that leap of faith. I want to try more seafood dishes there myself.
re: richard b
Its funny, Salinas was runner-up to Bahar for us on Saturday, largely beacause the irrascible, and increasingly controversial Fern C. is a vegetarian of all things.
I'll try it this coming weekend. I hope the guinea pigs don't come from Petland Discounts across the street. They are so cute, especially those with long hair.
re: richard b