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Jun 13, 2007 09:32 AM

Afghan Grill; or, a dinner in honour of someone

Hello, I am planning a dinner in honour of someone else's success at something, and am looking at restaurants in the Dupont/AM/Woodley Park area. I read about the Afghan Grill on the Internet and was wondering if it was still any good.

The number of people who might show up is still undecided, but I'm looking at 15 probably. Is it too small? Can it take that size of reservation?

I'm looking for something affordable that isn't spicy Indian or East Asian cuisine, if anyone has any other good suggestions, and I'd like to see if I can avoid mezza/tapas type places because managing the dietary restrictions and the food sharing can get stressful with that many people. The food should try to be under $25 a place. The wine is not such a big deal, I don't drink and I believe neither does the guest of honour, and the other guests can drink on their own time if they don't like the wine :)

Got a week left, want to get a head start.

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  1. I have no recent experience there. I can tell you that they would be very happy to book your group and they have plenty of room. I once tried to arrange a lunch there, and they offered to do it even though they aren't normally open for lunch.

    1. I'd guess that 15 would be right at the upper limit of what they could take. The food is very good, especially the appetizers.

      1. So, very good food, but not more than 15. Well, we are still under 15, but some people RSVP in the last minute. If we go there, expect a report :)

        1. Here's ye olde report. We were about nine people. We arrived between 7 and 8 on Tuesday. I arrived early, being the organizer. This restaurant is off Conn, left on Calvert if you go south from the Woodley Park Metro station. It's upstairs in a converted row house. Decor, very nice, the 2002 Afghan war rug from Afghanistan was a nice touch for the politico.

          Being Tuesday, I was seated fast and our table was already ready 20 minutes in advance.

          Served toasted flatbread with cilantro chutney to start.

          Appetizers: we ordered the sampler, 2 orders. It came with kadu buranee (sautéed pumpkin with meat sauce). aushak (steamed leek dumplings with mint yogurt sauce and meat sauce), some kind of fried leek turnover, and Afghan meat samosas. We ordered extra fried leek turnovers and kadu buranee---it tastes much better than it looked, and I don't even *like* squash, so it was just that good. Lots of it.

          The theme "meat sauce" comes up often here, and it is basically ground beef in a tomatoish sauce, but with Afghan spices rather than italian. A cardamommy/cinamonny/curry taste.

          I ordered, for a main course, the aushak entrée, which is just the same as appetizer aushak, only more of it. It is quite tasty, and they serve a lot of it. Other people ordered mantoo, a beef steamed dumpling similar to aushak, served with mint yogurt sauce and some kind of vegetable sauce spread randomly over it. They have Afghan grill-type food.

          I cannot eat this kind of food without it being hot. I have Pakistani tastes, with South Indian chili-tolerance. There are a lot of similarities between Pakistani food and Afghan food, except for the leek and the steamed dumplings (Pakistanis eat dumplings only deep-fried in oil), which is why I ordered the aushak. But I eventually had to cave in to my cravings and beg for Tabasco. The food is excellent if you do not feel like your mouth has to burn before you are not hungry.

          They have ample kabab on the menu, including a shrimp kabab. (Wait! That's not Afghan! Where do you get shrimp in Afghanistan?)

          Dessert. We shared, germs and all, the firnee (a delicious milk-pistachio pudding), bastani (rosewater ice cream), and baklava. The baklava can be skipped, they are not good at it and it was soggy. Stick to the firnee and the bastani.

          Apparently their coffee is very strong. I didn't have any.

          Total average price, minus a couple of glasses of wine drunk by the only two drinkers in the party, $25 or so. Not bad.

          Service. Well, it wasn't busy enough to harry the waiters, and so we were waited on by three very nice college-age men, all Dari-speaking Afghans, actually. Very friendly and helpful, offered to bring us more food if we could finish what was on our plates. (We declined.) We tipped high.

          Caveat emptor. I do not want to blow this out of proportion, but we saw a roach. The kitchen door is open most of the time and it looks quite clean. It appears to be the building. They do not have their own bathroom, so you have to go upstairs and use the row house's bathroom, which had more of the problem. I was not bothered by it, you may be. It was a ridiculously humid day in DC, these things can happen at times. No other review on the internet mentions any long-term problem.

          In a nutshell, recommended, very good, Indian/Mediterranean cross that is not for chili-heads and a way of introducing timid people to this kind of thing without it being too spicy.

          1. Not much listed about Afghan Grill on Chowhound (after all these years!), so I will add my brief experience this week. Came in late and ordered a couple of appetizers.

            The cilantro sauce they start you off with is good and addictive. Nice warm bread.

            The kadu buranee is quite delicious, and the topping of meat sauce and yogurt was crucial to counter the sweetness od the pumpkin. Good stuff.

            The bulanee (leek turnovers) were deep fried, very crunchy, and too salty. The inside got overcooked and was a paste.

            The cardamom tea tasted more of tap water than cardamom.

            So two hits and two misses, which is about right for this place.