Chapli Kebab Greatness at Darbar (SF)
The alert that Darbar had fallen on hard times reminded me that it had been too long since my own last visit. So, I headed there for lunch on Saturday. I ordered my two favorites for old times sake: sarson ka saag and chapli kebab.
In the last year or so I've been sampling chapli kabob at Fremont's Afghan eateries, anywhere I can find this Pashtun signature dish. Darbar's has been my standard of comparison, and revisiting it once again, the version here still rocks.
Why is this great chapli kabob? The exotic scent of toasted cumin and coriander mingled with sizzling grilled meat. The crunch of the crackly brown crust embedded with bits of chopped onion, red chili flakes and tomato. The velvety tenderness of the micro-ground beef interior. Fiery hot spicing carrying through to the long slow afterburn. The cooling sensation of the chilled mint chutney that erupts into jalapeño raw heat. How fresh the white onion and cilantro garnish is. And, two gorgeous patties are only $3.99.
Behold, chapli kebab greatness!
Darbar [Polk Gulch
]1412 Polk St
San Francisco 94109
It might satisfy curiosity to know the "theory" but in
practice, I dunno how precisely these words are used ...
like if you ask "kielbasa" you get quite a range of product.
So I just ask if it is ground meat or chunks-o-meat.
I seem to remember hearing "sheesh kabob" to be the "chunks of
meat served on a skewer" ... like what you'ld BBQ in the
backyard. But that does seem to be what pakistani places
around here call the "sheek kabob" ... chunks of meat
with a "spice rub" that are grilled. Their "sheesh kabobs"
is the ground meat item ... mixed with spices into a sausage
shape cooked on a skewer.
I've gotten what one place called a sheek kabob appetizer
under a totally different name in entree size at another place.
There can also be some differece between east/west use of
"chop" as well as "cutlet".
Oh Chapli is supposed to be from "chappal" [like "sandal"]?.
I thought it was from "chapta" [which means smashed or
flattened] or "chap/chapa" [a noun/verb with a *lot* of
meanings, including to push/press/pressure].
(not an informed opinion ... just what i would have
guessed from the word. sort of like you'ld guess
German chocolate cake was affilated with the country
rather than some dood named German
Umm as far as I know, in India Seekh or sheekh or sheek kababs are all pretty much the same thing - usually ground beef or lamb or goat mixed with spices, shaped into long shapes and skewered on metal rods and cooked in open fires or grilles.
The religious group is the Sikhs and they don't have anything to do with the nomenclature of Seekh kebabs as far as I know - (Seekh means rods or skewers in Urdu / Hindi / other North Indian languages)
Are you referring to shish kebabs as in Persian food which is sometimes chunks or cubes of meat (usually beef or lamb) interspersed with tomato or onion quarters or green pepper slices and so on? Maybe we should ask on the Home Cooking Board?
They are quite different from one another.
On another note, Melanie, I was a Shalimar (Pine & Polk)regular, had never ever been to Darbar. Based on your above recommendation, just hopped over for a quick lunch with a mate, and devoured some Chapli kabab and Sarson ka Saag. Excellent recommendation !!
I forgot to mention that Darbar serves North Indian/Punjabi/Moghul cuisine. The owners are from Pakistan, Lahore, iirc.
If you take a look at the .jpg photo of the chapli kebab in my original post, you'll see that this is a round patty. "Chapli" means slipper and it's like the sole of a shoe. It is fried/griddled on the flat-top and pressed down hard to get that crunchy crusting. The ones I've tried have all been made with ground beef and very finely ground like for Persian koobideh.
The seekh kabobs I've had at Punjabi restaurants are formed around a skewer into a long sausage shape, then hung in the tandoor oven. My favorite version at Shalimar on Jones is made with beef, but the all-lamb version at Sultan also rates very high with me. One the ones I've had, the meat is not as finely ground as for chapli kebab.
Thanks for taking the plunge in support of the overlooked, but I think better place across the street aka Darbar! While I still like Shalimar on Jones, especially for tandoori and the best seekh kabob around, two not-so-good experiences at the Polk location turned me off. I haven't been back since getting to know the more personalized chow and warmer service at Darbar.
Didn't mean to make short shrift of the sarson ka saag, as it's no slacker. The version here is very authentic made with fresh mustard greens, rather than the frozen spinach substituted at too many other South Asian restaurants. Good and garlicky, I also love the almost fluffy texture of it. The chef whips it to get that texture, I'm told. Usually I ask for it "medium", but forgot this time. Good thing, as spiced a little milder than usual, it was a great foil for the flaming hot chapli kebab. Very nice with the fresh naan.
I noticed that you liked the nihari and haleem at Lahore Karahi. You should try them at Darbar for comparison.