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Jun 13, 2007 04:45 AM

Khyber Pass Afghan

It’s not a particularly user-friendly place.

For example, they don’t tell you it’s a BYO place until you order the wine. By that time, it’s too late to dash out and buy a bottle. And they don’t tell you they don’t take Mastercard until you’re paying the bill. Fortunately I had enough cash.

But the food’s good.

The back terasse is moderate. The tables are covered with plastic tablecloths, the silverware is expected to be re-used for each course, the chairs are plastic… you get the picture.

But the food is good.

There are two table d’hôtes to choose from. One is a prix fix; the other one allows more choice. I chose choice.

They start you off with some flatbread along with three dipping sauces: a mint yogurt sauce, a cilantro vinegar sauce and a sweet red pepper sauce. These were fine. Nothing special, but it was satisfying while waiting for the food…If only I had BYO’ed.

The salad is chopped tomato, cucumber and onion, with a generous portion of cilantro and a little oil over the top. It’s kind of like a gazpacho before you blend it up. It’s pretty good, actually, and refreshing.

The next dish was unbelievable. It was the mantoo, which is steamed, obviously homemade dumplings. The skins were the most tender I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve had a LOT of steamed dumplings). The filling was beef with cilantro, and on top was an interesting mixture of spices and yogurt sauce. I am going back just for this dish.

The main course was described as “sauce with chunks of lamb.” In fact, it was several large pieces of lamb osso buco that were extremely tender. Like fall off the bone tender. The sauce was a red pepper/tomato/spice sauce that complimented the lamb quite well. It’s served with three different kinds of rice: a nice yellow curry rice, a green cilantro rice and white long grain rice. These rices were wonderfully fresh. Alongside is a helping of the same salad I got at the beginning of the meal. Next time I’ll order the soup to start off with instead of the salad. This dish was quite tasty and satisfying. I couldn’t finish it. With the appetizers, this was a lot of food.

For dessert, they bring a bowl of white rice custard, with a delightful green spice mixture on top. This had a very different taste, and I liked it.

According to their menu, the Khyber Pass is roughly the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I guess this is what Osama and the Taliban eat.

Oh, and the service is outstanding. The above was $25 before tip.

Khyber Pass
506 rue Duluth Est (3 blocks east of St. Denis)
(514) 844-7131

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  1. There is a dépanneur right next to it (... I know ... ) and an SAQ Express open late at the corner ot St-Denis and Dululth, very close by (they are short blocks). Funny, they prominently advertise that they are a BYOW.

    I'm glad to hear it is still good; I haven't been there in a couple of years (last time was in colder weather - the resto is nicer indoors). I think I just had starters because I like small dishes. Will definitely have to go back again soon.

    But I'm sure being Muslim fundamentlists and all, Osama and the boys didn't get any wine either, and I doubt the average Afghani, Taliban-supporter or not, eats as well these days. It is an intriguing cuisine as it has both Middle Eastern and South Asian facets, though not as spicy as most South Asian cuisines.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lagatta

      I also noticed the nice mix of Middle Eastern and Indian/Pakistani flavors. They kind of pick the best of both.

    2. I think the problem you have with this place is simply one one of expectations, you were expecting an upscale restaurant, and what you got was a Mom & Pop casual dining experience (with great food). I've never been disappointed at Khyber Pass, and have always found the servers friendly and attentive (I'm glad you did too). I must admit I have a bit of a bias as this resto is one of my all time favorite places, and it's hard to hear criticism of something I hold so dear.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Moosemeat

        Wow, who would ever expect a resto on Duluth to be BYO?
        And plastic seats on the terrasse? That's it, cancel my subscription. I mean, how can anyone expect to eat under these conditions?
        Especially some of the best lamb in the city. And Amazing dipping sauces.
        This place went through some difficult times following 9/11, and I'm glad they pulled through.
        Strange, though, I never expected Osama-ignorance in Montreal. Colour me surprised. And disappointed.

        1. re: rillettes

          I do think Mikey was making a joke. And of course Osama is Saudi, not Afghani.

          Yeah, I'm very fond of Khyber Pass as well, and just glad it is still good. Many small family restaurants here don't take credit cards.

          Next time Mikey will head over to the nearby SAQ (being too much of a foodie to settle for dépanneur plonk) - but in any event I'm thanking him for reminding me that the quality of the food remains great. I want to point out that they have a branch in Laval now - I haven't eaten there yet - friends in Laval with whom I've eaten at the original rue Duluth location have.

          1694 boul. St-Martin O. coin Boul. De L'Avenir
          LAVAL, Québec H7S 1M9
          Tél.: 450.688.5907

          1. re: lagatta

            Do you friends say that the location in Laval is as good as the original?

            1. re: hungryann

              Hmm, they said it was good - but I didn't press them on whether as good as the original. Like many foodie people*, they are sort of apologetic about moving to Laval (he worked north of there, she in Montréal). The reviews of it seem good.

              "Shameful but funny story about the male half of this couple. Way back when lots of young people were doing dope, he was doing gourmet food, and was actually shoplifting expensive cheeses and wines. Until one day he got caught. Fortunately for him, back then one was more easily let off with a warning, and he learnt his lesson! Since then (and I'm talking 30 years ago) he has bought his indulgences...

              1. re: hungryann

                Sarah Musgrave in the Montreal Gazette just reviewed the Laval location on Saturday. She was only luckwarm on the food at Khyber Pass Laval.

              2. re: lagatta

                Yes, it was a joke about Osama and the Taliban. The (obviously obscure and therefore not funny) Osama reference related to the widely-held belief that he's hiding among the tribal villages in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oh well. I'll keep my jokes food-centric.

                And yes, I learned my lesson. Next time I will go to the SAQ before dining there. And I plan to go back. I enjoyed it very much.

                1. re: lil mikey

                  This place looks delicious and I am very much looking forward to dining here when I'm there in a couple weeks. Does anyone know if you need a reservation for an early dinner or if you stand a good chance of getting a table by walking in?

                  1. re: Kat

                    It can get pretty busy there. On the weekends, there is a two service seating. That means that you got to have dinner at 6:30 or 8:30/9 o'clock..I don't remember which. If you go on a weekday, you will get a table there but it can get busy on the weekends...especially on the back terrasse when there is good weather.
                    Even when it is hot, I have their home soup...the one with beef/coriander/ is to die for!

                    1. re: cricri7

                      Thanks for the advice. We'll go on a weekday.

          2. What sort of wines would one want to bring for a dinner described above? Suggestions?

            9 Replies
            1. re: swissfoodie

              Rustic but not heavy Mediterranean reds, like those found in Italy (especially Sardinia, Sicily and the south), Spain, Greece, Lebanon and northern Africa. At a tasting last week, several of us were impressed with two new arrivals from the Peloponnesian estate Domaine de Tselepos, a Cab-Merlot blend and the Nemea Driopi (made from the native St. George variety). Musar, the *petit vin* from Lebanon's fabled Château Musar has also shown up on SAQ shelves, and it would certainly fill the bill. All these are $20ish.

              1. re: carswell

                Do you have any recommendations from Italy in particular - I am going with someone who tends to like wines with a lot of character and I'm thinking this area might be my best bet. Thanks

                    1. re: swissfoodie

                      A bunch of Sicilians:
                      - Not sure there's any left but Benanti's 2001 Etna "Rosso di Verzella", a blend of Nero Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, is wonderful ($21ish).
                      - Another Etna, "Ulysse" from Duca di Castelmonte, is a perennial favourite, though I've not tried the currently available 2003, an infernal and therefore infernally difficult vintage ($19ish).
                      - Spadafora's 2004 Montreale "Vigna Virzi", a Merlot-Nero d'Avola blend, is a bit international in style but still tasty ($19ish).
                      - Feudo Maccari Noto's 2004 Sicilia "Saia", a big-boned Nero d'Avola, is at the upper-end of your range and something to consider only if you're planning to order the lamb ($29ish).
                      - FWIW, an affordable ($15ish) Nero d'Avola I like is the Rapitala.

                      A couple of other worthwhile Italians:
                      - Umani Ronchi's 2003 Rosso Conero "Cumaro" ($29ish), a rich 100% Multipulciano from the Marche.
                      - Argiolas 2005 Cannonau di Sardegna "Costera" ($20ish), Grenache (aka Cannonau) from Sardinia. Bonier and less fleshy than the above.

                      Further afield:
                      - Niepoort's 2002 Douro "Vertente" ($27ish), a suave dry red made from varieties traditionally used for port.
                      - Clos St-Thomas's 2002 Château Saint Thomas ($24ish), a soft, velvety, berrylicious blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah grown in Lebanon's Bekaa valley.

                      1. re: carswell

                        Fantastic - thank you very much. I have in fact tried the Niepoort Douro and enjoyed it very much. BTW, your wine knowledge seems quite extensive, do you offer classes or seminars?

                        1. re: swissfoodie

                          "do you offer classes or seminars?"

                          No, I just drink a lot. ;)

                          Well, that, and I organize more or less monthly, non-profit "new arrivals" type tastings for a group of friends and acquaintances. When I have the time and inclination to write them up, I post the tasting notes on the Wine board. For example:

                        2. re: carswell

                          Oh, those are wonderful - thank you very much!

                          Have you had the opportunity to visit Sicily? It is a wonderful place; so many layers of culture.

                          I think those wines (some of which I have tasted, or similar ones over there) would be a perfect match for the lamb-rich dishes at Khyber Pass.

                1. re: swissfoodie

                  I actually started bringing honey wine the last couple of times I've gone, and found it really goes well with the food there. Also, I find that lighter (by this I mean not strongly flavoured) red wines pair with most of the main dishes. This is just personal preference and I'm sure it will inspire angry tirades by those who really know about wine.

                2. Would this be a good place to go if one was vegan? All the talk of the lamb sounds wonderful, but I'm just wondering what the options are. Are there lots of bean dishes, etc?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: littlegreenpea

                    I went once with a vegetarian buddy (who also has some food allergies.), and they prepared him a special dish that wasn't on the menu. It was absolutely delicious (although they have vegetarian apps. that are worth making a meal of anyway.) I don't know about vegan options, but I would call them and ask, they are usually pretty accomodating.

                    1. re: littlegreenpea

                      Um - I eat chicken and fish but not red meat, and I remember during my one visit that even my choices were pretty limited, so I'm not sure a vegan would be very happy there. Maybe someone who's been there more recently can chime in.

                      1. re: littlegreenpea

                        There is a nice vegetarian plate, though I'm not sure it is vegan. Limited, yes, but the plate is delicious and I've ordered it several times though I'm not really vegetarian.

                        That restaurant is close to one of the best vegan places in town - Chuchai and Chuch, next to it (Chuch is more informal, and a byow). Thai cuisine (perhaps some other East and Southeast Asian dishes. Not everything is vegan. but I believe most things are.

                        1. re: littlegreenpea

                          Great! Thanks... I think I'll start another thread for other suggestions.

                        2. sorry to bump a very old post, but I'm FINALLY eating there this weekend.

                          Here's the thing: I don't really love lamb, and in every review it's all everyone raves about without mentioning chicken/beef/fish.

                          I haven't seen a website or online menu, so can anyone clue me in on a couple of non-lamb dishes I might want to order?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: C70

                            I did post their website way back when - no great website, just one of those restomontréal deals, but it does list their menu (except for daily specials, obviously) There are also dishes that involve beef or chicken (don't see any fish, probably not a long suit of that cuisine) and brochettes of chicken, filet mignon and quails as well as two types of lamb.