Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >
Jul 21, 2007 05:56 AM

[MSP] Crystal Bistro (Afghani) chowdown report, Crystal, MN

Thank you to everyone who came out to Crystal Bistro for our chowdown.

Because we wanted to do our usual thing of sampling a bunch of different things from the menu, we just asked the owner/chef, Hadi, to prepare us a sample platter of his “most famous” appetizers (I think we tried them all, actually) and his “most famous” and best entrees. And we couldn’t help ourselves, we had to order every dessert on the menu. Here’s what we ended up trying:

Sambosa(#1)—baked pastries with seasoned ground beef & onions with yogurt sauce
Boulanee (#2) – stuffed and pan-fried turnovers, one with spinach and green onions, the other with seasoned potatoes, served with yogurt sauce
Spinach pie(#3)—spinach and feta cheese, with yogurt sauce
Stuffed grape leaves (#4)—chilled grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice & vegetables with yogurt sauce
Gyros (#5)—seasoned & sliced rotisserie beef and lamb
Combo spread (#8): Baba ghanoush-roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil AND hummus –chick pea spread with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, served with pita bread

Combo pasta (#33): Mantu with mint—homemade dumplings with ground beef AND Aushak—homemade steamed pasta filled with chopped sautéed spinach and oni, with tomato, yogurt and garlic sauce

Bouranee banjaan (#42)—eggplant with sautéed onions, tomato sauce. Topped with garlic yogurt sauce and dry mint.
Chicken tendori (#45)—baked chicken in light curry hot sauce, served with vegetables and basmati rice—red sauce on the side
Kabeli palaw (#35)—sautéed lamb with tomato sauce, julienne of carrots, raisins, and sliced almonds
(#36) Kofta chalow --ground beef meatballs, with onions garlic and tomato sauce

The entrees come with lentil soup, two sauces (red—chili, spicy-- and green--cilantro), and Afghan flat bread. Many of them come with basmati rice, too.

Baklava (two variations, sorry, I don’t know the names, you can hopefully see them in the photo)
Shir-berinj (rice pudding)
Some kind of chocolate cake
Bread pudding with ice cream

He brought out complimentary chai tea for us all at the end of our meal.

And, indeed, there are carpets, clocks, paintings and all kinds of housewares for sale in one corner of the restaurant. We didn’t buy any, though tempting.

City pages review:

And I believe Hadi brought out a sandwich of some sort and French fries, plus a couple of pieces of candy, for the one toddler among us.

EDIT: the photos won't seem to post. I'll try to post them later.

Crystal Bistro
6408 Bass Lake Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55428

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. So a positive experience I'm guessing? Any thoughts on how it compares to Khyber Pass (our favorite) or the one in Bloomington (which we enjoy but didn't find the flavors as delicate/elegant)?

    2 Replies
    1. re: katebauer

      Overall, positive experience, yes. The hospitality is amazing: Hadi really knows how to be a welcoming and attentive host. As far as the chow itself, I've only eaten at a couple of other Afghani restaurants in my life, and none of them recently. I've never made it to Khyber Pass (that's the one on Grand near Snelling, in St. Paul, right?) My most educated comparison would be against Turkish food, with which I am much more familar.

      Of the dishes we tried, my most favorite were the aushack, the lentil soup (try it with a bit of the green sauce, too~!),and the rice pudding. I don't really know how to describe the afghan bread (the photo feature still doesn't seem to be working, alas), but it is very similar to the flatbread (think more along the lines of foccacia than pita or tortilla) I had in Turkey that I loved so much. They seem to sell big sheets of something similar at Holy Land deli (the main location, not the MGMkt location in Minneapolis), but I haven't gotten around to trying it. Anyway, the stuff I had in Turkey was always best when it was hot out of the oven (that goes pretty much for any bread, really)--I wish Crystal Bistro's had been hot. Nevertheless, it was the perfect vehicle for sopping any extra sauces, and for scooping up the "red" and "green" sauces on the table,both of which were fantastic.

      Here's a random photo I pulled off a google search of the kind of bread I mean:

      Because of the similarity in the name, I was hoping the mantu would be the same as the manti I had in Turkey. Both are handmade dumplings filled with ground beef, onions, and other spices and served with a yogurt sauce. Crystal Bistro's were larger dumplings though, almost the size of ravioli, but with more delicate wrappers, whereas the ones I had in Turkey were much smaller, more the size you'd think of a tortellini. Because I was hoping for manti, I'm not sure I gave the mantu a fair shake and think I have to go back and try it just for itself. I do know these are rather labor intensive.

      Actually, I'd like to go back and try the restaurant again and maybe focus on fewer dishes--because so many of the dishes had yogurt sauces, for instance, I personally got a little overwhelmed by all the dishes and found it hard to distinguish them after a little while.

      I do hope some of the others who were at the chowdown chime in when they get a chance!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Yes, Khyber Pass is at Snelling and Grand. We had similar sounding dumplings there - flat, about the size of raviolis, filled with ground meat and leeks, and topped with a yogurt sauce. They were really quite amazing, I remember commenting to the owner how wonderful they were. We'll have to get out to Crystal Bistro's to compare (doesn't it seem like there are a lot more bistros around MSP lately?).

    2. I really enjoyed the Aushak. I find it interesting how it seems that every culture has their own take on a dumpling. I guess this is the Afghani dumpling and I found it quite lovely. I liked the blend of spinach with the tangy tomato/yogurt sauce. yummy..

      1. Photo #1 --all the various appetizers, dolmas, spinach pies, sambosa, turnovers, gyros, with yogurt sauce at center

        Photo #2: combo, hummus + baba ghanoush + pita

        Photo #3 afghan bread

        Photo #4 green and red sauces


        3 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Photo #1 soup

          Photo #2 combo pasta, mantu and aushak

          Photo #3 all the various entrees, chicken tendori from 1 o’clock to 5 o’clock; kofta chalow from 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock; bouranee banjaan from 9 o’clock to midnight; kabeli palow in center

          Photo #4 red sauce for the chicken tendori


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Photo #1 desserts shir-berinj in upper right hand corner, the baklava in upper left and lower right corners, bread pudding with ice cream lower left corner, the chocolate cake is in the center


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Hey TDQ -- I obviously have nothing to add but I appreciate your time in posting the photos. Next best thing to being there I guess.