helmand palace report in SF
four of us went to helmand palace tonight for dinner. i've never had afghan food before, and i really enjoyed this meal.
we started with two appetizers. the aushak, or leek filled dumplings smothered in a yogurt sauce with a highly seasoned ground beef sauce as well. next was the kaddo, a tender sweet pumpkin dish with a similar yogurt and beef sauce. thought the kaddo was oustanding, and the aushak dumplings reminded me of more east asian leek dumplings, but swayed way west from there with the yogurt and beef dressing. rich, but neither of these was heavy or greasy.
we split four mains. the chowpan, or three cuts from a rack of lamb served with a moderately spicy eggplant condiment and rice, atop a very thin flat bread. the rack of lamb was a good choice, since two of my fellow diners aren't huge fans of lamb, and i find rack of lamb to be less...lamby in flavor. cooked to a nice medium, and tasted great with the three condiments that come with the complimentary flat bread: yogurt, mint, and a red chile sauce that was sweet and fruity with a mild (to me) spice level.
next was the mourgh challow, or chicken breast nicely spiced and served in a creamy curry-like sauce with rice. the rest of the table loved it but i''m not a breast fan. the kofta kabab, a spiced mix of ground beef wrapped around a skewer and grilled, served with rice and the same spiced eggplant condiment as the lamb, was tender and delicious, not dried out. last was the mantwo, or dumplings filled with beef and onion, topped with the now ubiquitous but bracing and tasty yogurt sauce and ground beef. i couldn't help think that the word mantwo must be related to the manti, and various other versions of near east, central asian dumplings that seem to be linguistically related to korean mandu, even though they are completely different. but that's another topic. the dumplings were also covered in yellow split peas and carrots.
i'm torn between the mantwo and the chowpan for my favorites. i would like to go back and try out more of the veggie options. i split a baklava with a friend and had a turkish coffee. i sometimes feel embarassed when i order something that is prepared table-side, as our waiter came out with a cart and a butane portable burn to prepare my coffee at the table. but it was sweet and redolent of cardamom. the baklava was good, too, with just hints of cardamom and clove in the flaky, honeyed pistachio pastry.
we brought a bottle of wine with us and had a cote du rhone afterwards. with tip it came to about $42 per person.
i intend to return.
2424 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109