South Jersey Afghan
There is a new Afghan restaurant in Eagle Plaza. We tried it on Saturday night.
The place is very small and it was packed. That's good; a sign the food might be good and that there is enough interest to keep it going.
For the first time there we ordered Afghan dishes we've tried at other Afghan restaurants
The appetizer we had was Aushak - a well known dumpling. There were 3 in the serving and topped with the yogurt and tomato meat sauce. (meatless is also available). They were as good as any I've had. You can get it also as a main course.
Rice is a big deal in Afghan cuisine so we tried 2 of the pulaos. The cooking method is to parboil the long grain rice then add the dish specific flavorings and bake to finish. Unlike Chinese rice the grains should be completely separate. They were. The two pulaos we ordered offered the option of lamb or chicken for the meat. We both went for lamb. They were will trimmed (no gristle or oogle) and very tender.
The Kabuli pulao is a savory dish. I guessed that they used a meat stock - perhaps lamb - but there was no gaminess. The spices didn't hit you over the head with a hammer like much Indian food. The coriander and cumin seeds were noticeable but balanced.
The Narenj pulao is more sweet; the server warned us. (we knew since we've had it before).
The strips of carrot in the Kabuli pulao are replaced by orange peel strings that are blanched then soaked in syrup.
They were both served with the meat underneath and the rice mounded on top in a football like shape. Almonds, pistachios and raisins were sprinkled on top.
Verdict: we won't hesitate to order either of these again. Both were well cooked and presented and the portion size was just right.
Between the appy and the main we were served a small salad. The contents were 1950's steak house - or the Pensauken Pub. The dressing was yogurt based and tasty. I can't rememer the last time I had iceberg outside of a hoagie but it was actually good if you turn off any foodier-than-thou addytood. We were also served two warm squares of afghan bread which was crispy outside and soft inside.
Desert: They have a homemade ice cream made from saffron, rose water and cardamom. Get it. We also had the homemade baklava which is similar to the Mediterranean version. They did that well too.
There are a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu.
It appears that the place is run by family members. They were friendly and helpful. It's places like this that I see out and frequent. Obviously the staff has an investment in the quality of the food and it shows. Go to a chain and you'll never see that.
The courier post had a feature:
Eagle Plaza, 700 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Voorhees. (856) 784-1100
Not the same strip as Wu.
In the strip maul right next door to the Ritz you'll see a huge Acme. It's called Eagle Plaza. Turn right (coming from 295) into it after the light when you see the McDonald's barfatorium.
It's in that one.
There is also a decent Thai place there too a few doors down.
The name is Ariana. http://restaurantariana.com/
It is an excellent restaurant. My family eats there often. They welcome my children there and treat everyone very nicely. The food is fabulous; even my oldest daughter, who is a super picky eater, loves the food and has asked to have her birthday dinner there.
I would heartily reccomend it.
We went this weekend and really enjoyed it. He had lamb, I had a vegetarian dish. We both ordered it "spicy" and it was flavorful-spicy, not nose-run spicy.
Service was great, food was outstanding, will definitely be back. Was dismayed to see only one other table when we were in there, around 7:30 on Friday night.
Another pair of "thumbs up" for Ariana. We went Saturday evening. The room is clean and comfortable, service fine and attentive, and the food was just plain great! I can't say anything about authenticity, never having tried afghan food before (and I don't really care if it's authentic--I just want great food). We tried Sambosa, which was similar to Indian somosa but lighter and softer. Then Gulpea Chalow (lamb) and Kabuli Palow (chicken), both ordered "spicy". Rockhopper used the right word for the spiciness--- "balanced" is what it was. There were only eight others there at 7:00 PM. I hope we all spread the word quickly enough to make them a success. We'll do our part by going back often.