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Helmand - how good is it?

I have heard the Boston Helmand is one of the best Afghans in the country but I was underwhelmed by blandnes at its Baltimore brother. esp in the rice dishes like kabuli pulal. Ive seen mixed reports on the site too. Any recent comment on the tastiness/spicing of Helmand's food and recommendation of best dishes beyond pumpkin and eggplant?

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  1. It's pretty tame overall, and the atmosphere really screams "I am trying hard to be classy." I don't find it to be a particularly enjoyable eating experience.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Luther

      Wow, I couldn't disagree more. I have always had flavorful and pleasant meals there. Is the decor cutting edge? No. But I find it a warm, satisfying place to get some food I can't find anywhere else in town to my satisfaction.

      I like the rack of lamb, the leek ravioli, and the dwopiaza quite a bit. Actually, all of the lamb dishes are pretty awesome.

      1. re: Luther

        I agree. the food is wonderfull but the atmosphere is just weird.

      2. Love the ashak (leek ravioli) and banjan (eggplant), find the pumpkin too sweet. Adore the rack of lamb. Like Oleana, I think the flavors here are somewhat subtle, which could translate to bland for some. Things may have changed but for quite awhile a reservation was a must for Helmand and I don't recall a bar area.

        2 Replies
        1. re: GretchenS

          Agree that the rack of lamb is really good and at a good price point to boot. And thank goodness, i thought i'm the only one out there that found their much beloved pumpkin dish 'kaddo?' to be too sweet to be a savory appetizer.

          1. re: GretchenS

            I totally agree with GretchenS' posting. Helmand is still a very nice place to go every few months for dinner.

          2. I don't have a sweet tooth, but enjoyed their kaddo. The key to the sweetness is using the yogurt sauce it comes with to mellow the flavors out.

            Nothing we had was particularly overwhelmingly spicy (as with Indian food), but I found everything to be well-flavored. My friend had a one of the fish dishes (which we all were skeptical of) but it was really tasty. Another ordered a chicken dish (no kebab, but it had that subtle flavoring of kebabs) and the chicken was so flavorful and moist - really good. Unfortunately, I don't recall the names of the dishes. I personally like the food a lot, and find it to be very reasonably priced for a solid dining experience.

            2 Replies
            1. re: kobuta

              I eat their wonderful flatbread and then just wanna walk out because I'm full. All their dishes are pretty good but I haven't found any place with better lamb.

              1. re: joebloe

                I'll have to agree that their lamb dishes are really outstanding and always perfectly cooked. But yes, the flatbread is addictive!

            2. Echoing what others have said -- I've had lamb dishes there several times and I've always been very happy, especially with the rack of lamb.

              1. Afghan food, like Iranian, is not a very spicy cuisine in terms of heat, and the spicing on the whole tends to be pretty understated (or minimal, if you prefer to put it that way). In my view, Helmand excels in breads and meats cooked directly with fire, accented with a ery basic spices. Along those lines, you cannot go wrong with the rack of lamb at Helmand. Other dishes, such as mantwo, awshak or even the qabelee, are a bit more complex in terms of ingredients and also excellent. Not too much variety in terms of veg, but I do find the eggplant and kaddoo (though sweet) to be delicious.

                Frankly, I think that the runaway success of Helmand - well beyond that of any Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or even Thai place in town - is precisely because Afghan food is adventurous and 'exotic', but in terms of spices and ingredients well within the range of even the most cautious palates. Well, that and the mammoth liberal guilt of the Cambridge intelligentsia-bourgeoisie over the continuing role of the imperial US in Afghanistan (arguably misplaced, given that the ownership of Helmand are relations of Karzai).

                1. I've always loved it. The decor is fine and I love the food. The bread and the dips are wonderful. I always get the Qabelee, love the lamb, raisins and carrots. The pumpkin with the meat sauce is amazing. I don't find it too sweet but I love sweet and savory together so this is the perfect food. I use the bread to soak up every last bit of sauce.

                  1. i've always had a pleasant dining experience at the helmand

                    they have a lot of good lamb dishes and vegetarian dishes. some are better than others but all of them are pretty good. i would avoid the beef, chicken, and fish dishes as it's not their specialty

                    some of my favorites are the aush (soup with homemade noodles), aushak (leek and scallion ravioli in yogurt sauce), bowlani (homemade pastry shells filled with leeks, scallions, and spiced potatoes), qabelee (chunks of braised lamb shank baked with rice, raisins, and glazed carrots), chowpan (grilled rack of lamb), lamb lawand (sauteed leg of lamb), kaddo (pan fried then baked baby pumpkin), and bendi (okra sauteed in tomato sauce)

                    i love the complimentary fresh baked flatbread and trio of dipping sauces. they also have a few nice desserts such as feereney (cream pudding topped with fresh fruit) and sheerberaing (rice pudding with pistachio and cardamom)