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De Afghanan from Fremont - now in San Francisco and Berkeley

In one of the best pieces of food news I have heard in recent years, I recently learnt that the De Afghanan true-hole-in-the-wall place in Fremont has opened a new location in San Francisco (13xx Polk street). I happened to discover it as I was driving by.
I stepped in and spoke to the gentleman managing the place and he's told me that he expects yet another location to open in Berkeley next week. (Super! Super! Super!)
The Berkeley location would be near the intersection of San Pablo and University (near the Pakistani-Indian restaurant Kabana)
Moreover, the restaurant has a menu that's almost twice as long as the original Fremont location.
Anybody up for a chowhound lunch at the Berkeley location? (assuming it does open next week, as it was suggested)?

For those who are not familiar with De Afghanan ----
As the name suggests its an Afghan food place. It happens to be, IMO, the best lamb and chicken kabobs I have ever come across. Its more famous however, for its beef kabobs called Chapli Kabobs. They also carry a turnover filled with potato and spices and served with curd, called Bhulani. (resemble the Indian Aloo Paratha).
If you like kabobs, I believe this place is a must-try.

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    1. I'd love to try the Berkeley one! Propose a day.

      Just was at Helmand in SF and the food was as good as ever in the new location on Van Ness - but the place was very empty - I hope they can stay in business.

      8 Replies
      1. re: fruti

        Yup. I hope they stay in business too!
        I expect to drive by San Pablo and University some time next week and see if the Berkeley branch is open as I have been told. Once I confirm, I'll propose a day for a chow lunch. Cheers!

        1. re: hippopotamus

          Any more information on the Berkeley location, opening, hours, etc.? I walked around the SP&U intersection yesterday afternoon and did not see any signs of the place.

          1. re: sydthekyd

            Unfortunately --- no... I need to get hold of the SF location phone no. Then may be I could call and ask about the Berkeley location

            1. re: sydthekyd

              Eureka! I was walking on University Ave in Berkeley this afternoon and found a sign for De Afghanan at 1160 University Ave, formerly the site of Kabab N Curry, Mughal and a French cafe. It's on the south side of the street, about 1/2 block east of San Pablo Ave.

              It's not open yet but met someone in front of the shop who works for the owners of De Afghanan and he said that it should open very soon, pending some final inspections. There is no menu printed yet but there might be a few items that are different than the Polk Street branch.

              1. re: zippo

                Zippo: Nice! I was beginning to wonder if the Berkeley location was more an idea in the mind of the person who told me about it, than a legal reality.

              2. re: sydthekyd

                Not-yet-open De Afghanan Kabob House at 1160 University does have a menu up on a window. Hours will be 11 am - 10 pm on Sunday through Thursday and 11 am - 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. The telephone listed is 510-549-3781. I called but there was no answer or voice mail.

                The menu has appetizers and kabobs on it but no mantu (dumplings). Maybe they will be a special.

                1. re: zippo

                  I called them on Saturday and the nice man said they would be opening today, Monday, December 31!

                  1. re: sydthekyd

                    Can this be better than the kabob e murgh and kadu at Kabul in San Carlos. Those are hard to beat

          2. The SF restaurant is the "Bargain Bite" featured in today's Chronicle 96 Hours section. The reviewer didn't exactly rave about it but still can't wait to try the Berkeley location. Was hoping to take my son there for his birthday this Sunday but that may be too soon for them to be open

            1 Reply
            1. My husband and I were driving on University Avenue in Berkeley early on the afternoon of New Year's Day when we saw an "Open" sign on DeAfghanan. Understanding that you can't escape destiny, we stopped immediately. Astonishingly, we were the very first customers - or at least they told us we were...

              "Open" might have been a bit of an exaggeration. There was no heat and only paper plates and plastic knives and forks. (The owner said they would have the permanent ones soon.) The food, however, was terrific. We had a squash bolani and the chopped beef kebab - more than enough food for two hungry people. The rice and vegetables which came with the kebab were excellent, as was the kebab itself. The bolani came with a lovely yogurt sauce.

              We had driven to Fremont several times for a meal at Salang Pass, so we are delighted to find this place close to home. The people could not be nicer or more welcoming, though their English is a bit on the weak side. Unfortunately, the menu is really tiny, at least at this stage. No manti. And the place is really, really small. It probably makes sense to go as soon as you can, because it will be packed as soon as people find it.

              9 Replies
              1. re: mcchowhound

                alrighty -- finally!
                So (if people are still reading this thread) who's up for a chow-group lunch/dinner?

                1. re: hippopotamus

                  I stopped by on Friday afternoon at 1 PM. They were not open although I did see someone inside.

                  I didn't see any hours posted.

                  This was in the middle of the rain storm and the traffic lights at the intersection of San Pablo and Univ. were out, so maybe they were having power problems.

                  1. re: 10foot5

                    They were open today at 2 p.m. I got a to go order of mantu, which were quick (ready in the time it took me to walk over 1 block from Van Ness).

                    Edited to add: Oops, thought I was replying about the SF location on Polk @ Bush.

                    1. re: 10foot5

                      I did a drive by on University on Tuesday and hopped out, and didn't see any movement - will try lunch time today - anxious for a new place, new foods, all your comments are making me darn hungry! will report back.

                      1. re: bunky

                        I was thinking about trying for lunch today too. Race ya!

                        1. re: 10foot5

                          10foot, I didn't make it in. Time: 11:30am. Squinted across the street from Foster's Freeze and saw no open curtains, and one person in an unstained kitchen apron wandering up Uni., relieving a guy of what looked like some big plastic container of food... Not a good sign, thinks I... he's still setting up! needed grub faster so went to Turkish Kitchen - yum! but that's another post. I did talk to a guy cooking in the kitchen around 2:30pm (I'm like, stalking the joint), but I had kindergarteners in the car who don't cotton to Mom's foodie research stops. He said they open around 11:30am for lunch. You get lucky?

                    2. re: hippopotamus

                      Did the chow-chow already happen? Or are people still interested?

                      1. re: hippopotamus

                        You might post your email address so that folks can contact you off-line.

                    3. Adding Places records turned up a location in Walnut Creek ... same owner?

                      De Afghanan Kabob House
                      37405 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94536

                      De Afghanan
                      1160 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                      San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        I was told the Fremont, SF and Berkeley locations are under the same owner. I didn't know there was another location in Walnut Creek....hmmm

                        1. re: rworange

                          Unfortunately the Walnut Creek location closed some time ago. We had a great Afghan meal at Amoo in downtown Concord though.

                          1. re: DiveFan

                            Not hip to Amoo, could you please tell us more about your meal?

                            1909 Salvio St, Concord, CA 94520

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              ROFL what a quick response!

                              For appetizers we had a pumpkin dish and (forgot the name) leek filled pancakes. Main courses tried were the ashak, mantoo and chicken and beef kabobs. I thought everything was tasty, excitingly different (for me) and agreed with the below reviewer that the kabobs were a little dry.
                              Afghan dumplings remind me of the eternal controversy about where certain items like pasta and ravioli come from; I think that the Turks and Afghans have originated or propogated more dishes than they get credit for.

                              FYI here's the CCT review: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_70...
                              IMO Mr. Boer is overly critical of middle eastern and south asian restaurants so I usually try out his suggestions of these cuisines.

                              1. re: DiveFan

                                Haha, quick on the draw yourself! Looks like it's taken over Swagat's spot.

                                Thanks, for the link to Boer's review. We had a chowdown at Chopan in Concord some years ago,
                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/26545 , right after the ownership change. Not sure if this was during Amoo's owner's watch.

                        2. I finally went to the new DeAfghanan on Univ. for lunch yesterday. Thanks to all who recommended the Freemont and SF locations.

                          The Shornakhed salad was a real eye opener for me. Potatoes, chickpeas, mint and Cilantro and a vinegar sauce with a subtle cayenne (I’m guessing) heat in the background. I was having a hard time divining the flavors at first as the combination of vinegar and mint was new to me. But I knew there had to be something besides the mint adding the herbal flavor. The nice man who took my order, cooked my food and served me was happy to tell me that the elusive ingredient was finely chopped cilantro. I’m going to have to try this salad at home.

                          I was planning on trying the Chapli Kabobs as that seems to be the consensus recommendation around here, but I made a game time decision to go with chunks of meat instead of ground meat. I told the man I was torn between getting beef and lamb and he offered to throw in some lamb with my order so that I could sample it.

                          The beef kabob had excellent flavor but was teetering on the edge of being overcooked. Can one order kebobs medium rare?

                          The lamb was really good. He made me 2 little T-bone chops that don’t seem to be on the menu anywhere (the 2 lamb dishes on the menu are the lamb kebob and a lamb and rice dish which he said was a lamb shank). I’m not sure how to get these again, or why he had this cut around if they don’t serve it but the meat was done perfectly with a really nice spice rub adding intense flavor.

                          The rice was good – a long grain white pilaf with a hint of coriander. The chopped tomato and herbs salad\salsa was fresh but not terribly flavorful.

                          I also ordered a potato bhulani, which somehow, perhaps due to the confusion of ordering my main course off the menu, never came. This was for the best as I had more than enough food with out it. I’ll go back sometime soon and try a bhulani and a chapli kabob.

                          There were only a few other customers in the hour or so I was there. 3 people walked in expecting it to still be the curry place that previously occupied this location. 1 left when they found no curry, the 2 who stayed were happy they did. I think they got my bhulani.

                          All in all a good to great meal at a moderate price - He charged me for the beef kebob only, throwing the lamb in gratis.

                          They had run out of take out menus but I was handed a “grand opening” flyer. On the flyer they list a web site www.deafghanan.com but that URL leads to a site about Ghana.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: 10foot5

                            I went back to DeAfghanan to try the Chapli Kabob today.

                            The Shornakhed salad that so impressed me on my first visit was much worse this time. Very bland with no tart vinegar hit, no fresh herbal flavor and no heat - just potatoes and Chickpeas in a green-hued sauce. Very strange that this salad could vary so widely from one visit to the next.

                            On the bright side the tea, which had been so straightforward that I didn't mention it in my first review, this time was delightful with a strong cardamom scent and flavor.

                            I tried the potato bolani which is a HUGE portion but unfortunately fairly bland. The proprietor even asked me if I wanted it "hot" or "mild" and although I responded hot there wasn't any noticeable spice.

                            The Chapli Kabob was OK but kind of dry. I'd probably try the lamb kabob next time.

                            I Chapli Kabob and a Bolani is WAY WAY WAY to much food for one person all three people in the restaurant, me included, were laughing as the food arrived at my table. I've got more than half the bolani and half the kebab left over for lunch tomorrow. With my 10% grand opening flyer the total cost was $15.

                            1. re: 10foot5

                              Four of us ate at the Berkeley branch on a rainy Sunday: Most outstanding to me was the lamb ("Chupon") kabob--actually, chops and chunks of well-done, tender, beautifully marinated and cooked meat, which I loved, even though I otherwise like my lamb rare, but this is their way of doing it. It keeps coming back to my taste memory.

                              The boranis--somewhat reminiscent of dosas--with pumpkin or potato fillings were also excellent.

                              When we mentioned that the chicken kabob was a bit overdone, the server brought us not one but about three replacements--a different bolani, and skewers of both less-cooked chicken with beef thrown in! Embarrassing!

                              I didn't taste the beef but it was voted the least fave.

                              It was remarkably reasonable; there is no alcohol (and we had to provide our own corkscrew, though they provided nice tall plastic glasses!)

                              My only criticism--and it's, alas, a possibly serious one--is that as we sat and chatted, the tiny space filled with clouds of strong-smelling, eye-burning smoke from whatever they were doing to the cooking surface and we had to really scat out of there. (Though there was only one other party the whole time we were there, it was nonetheless still before their stated closing time when we left and if this was their way of getting rid of us (which seems unlikely. since they were so gracious), it's a bad idea.

                              1. re: 10foot5


                                Finally made it with husband last week, and man - we had what you had and we were TWO so I feel your pain. But only in portions because we left with smiles on our faces, a very slow gait, and had only broth for supper. Planning our next visit as soon as possible. may pass on Berkeley Rep so we can get friends to babysit during the day and hit Afghanan for lunch. We had:

                                The soup - name escapes me sorry, but there's only one, that had my husband moaning. Noodles, peas, a red broth with a meaty flavor, long lasting tongue succulence.

                                Chapli Kabob - not too dry but a huuge portion. i am the big meat eater, not spouse, so i chowed, and found it excellent. He nibbled and agreed. It was not a traditional kabob as y'all have said, but 2 flat, very flat patties of chopped beef. Deep meaty flavors. I'd order it again if I wasn't so anxious to try the lamb kabobs - the big $$ on the menu at $13.50.

                                Pumpkin bohlani - excellent. And huge portion as well. We asked for it spicy and it was - and the flavors were amazing, but quiet. I added green table hot sauce and then went back to eating it plain. Would have it again.

                                The tea - we got it too, it's a green tea, the chef and server told us, but there was strong cardamon that made it stand out. a big flavor.

                                Yogurt drink - durgh? - Salty and piquant, not sweet. Small cubes of cucumber, teeny black spheres that could be black mustard seed but I wasn't certain - that size though.

                                A big bill for us for lunch, $25 at the end, but totally worth it. Will report back more as we eat more. We got a flyer on the way out with the 10% off.

                                1. re: bunky

                                  Did you get the potato/chickpea salad on the side? I think it comes with any main course.

                                  It knocked me out on my first visit and left me completely unimpressed on my second.

                                  I'll definitely try the soup next time I'm over there.

                                  1. re: 10foot5

                                    I got the potato chickpea (mostly chickpea) sidedish on our second visit, this past weekend. I liked it a lot and thought it was a special treat! Think he musta forgotten it last time. Wonder what I'll think next time? Will keep you in mind.

                                    Sorry the below poster didn't like the soup or pumpkin bolani, bummer. My husband got the soup again, and yup there was oil on it, but the flavor was so rich he can't wait to order it again. And he's NOT a grease monkey like I am. Flavor and quality need to win out over oil in his book. He flatly informed me that I must get my own soup next time, and not be encouraged by our waiter/chef/cashier who brought me an extra bowl and spoon.

                                    Also to below poster - I asked for a spicy pumpkin bolani when we went last time - did you? I think this really set off the flavor of the sweet, and freshly cooked pumpkin. If I'm going to have a burgeoning plate of carbs, they better be loaded with flavor.

                                    We also had the last kebab dish on the menu, the lamb kabobs, which weren't so much kabobs as lamb chops. Sot and tender and so melting in the mouth I was moaning. HIghest ticket item at $13.50, but totally worth it. Almost looked charred, but oh so soft and medium rare inside. Much as I love my husband I deeply resented sharing.

                                    We also had the lamb and rice dish on back side of menu. It's a whole lamb shank surrounded by the rice that comes with most of the items, but currants and cardamon (?), were added.

                                    We're going to hit the whole menu one visit at a time and then get our favorites.

                                  2. re: bunky

                                    I've tried two things at the Berkeley branch and I was VERY UNDERWHELMED. The aush soup is covered with a slick of orange oil, and curdled yogurt. There are a few very soft noodles, and a sprinkling of what undoubtedly was mixed frozen vegetables - tiny cubes of carrots, single corn kernels, a few short cuts of green beans. Also, nubbins of fatty ground meat.

                                    I also had the pumpkin bolani, and I think it was very one-dimensional. The only real flavor is sweet - the squash flavor is not concentrated, and the yogurt sauce on top had no garlic flavor. There is a sprinkle of dried spice on top - I think dill and mint, but not enough to balance the sweetness. (Helmand in SF is my gold standard for this dish, and this version fell far, far short).

                                    I don't think I will be going back - I'm not a big meat eater, and after the pumpkin disappointment, I'm not sure they would do a good job with eggplant or spinach, which IIRC are the other two vegetable items on the menu.

                                    1. re: lmarie

                                      We've found that the eggplant is much better at the SF location, compared to the one in Berkeley.

                                      OTOH, my wife thought that the potato bolani was much better at the Berkeley location.

                                      Melanie and I had a similar discussion about their chapli kabab a few months ago ....

                                      Maybe it's a consistency thing?