Ariana - new Afghani place in Allston
We were on our way to JoJo tonight and happened to notice that Ariana (the new Afghani place on Brighton) had opened, so made a quick chance of plans to check it out! The space is nice- maybe a bit stiff/formal, but clearly it's aiming to be the have a glass of wine, intimate diner/date kind of place. In fact, the drink options were mainly centered around wine and beer, I was more in the mood for dogh, but they didn't have any.
We weren't hungry enough (or equipped with extra eaters) to try a wide variety of things, but what we got was very promising!
- The bread that came while we were waiting was nice and fresh- also, at about the same time, a selection of three sauces arrived (red pepper, jalapeno/cilantro, and a raita-style yogurt sauce) We couldn't wait to try out the sauces, so we put some on our bread, which was quite tasty :)
- Bowlawni - fried "pockets", fairly plain, but pleasant
- They were offering a special of kaddo (pumpkin) and banjan (eggplant). I'm a sucker for kaddo (even if I'm not usually a big fan of sweet things). It was quite artistic, since it came as a single "disc"/round of pumpkin with the sauce neatly contained on top. It was the style where the pumpkin is sweetened rather than the sauce, which I think makes the net effect seem sweeter than if it's the sauce that's sweetened. Due to the sweetness, I think this little round was about all I could have taken of it, but it was definitely the stand-out dish of what we got. The eggplant was also good, but was really second fiddle to the kaddo.
- Kofta (aka Afghani meatballs & rice :) ) Fairly "standard" rendition, the sauce was also sweetened.
The portions were generous, but we managed to make the effort to try their homemade ice cream. I'm not a big fan of rose water, so I tend to be kind of wary of Persian and Afghani ice cream- and indeed, there seemed to be a hint of it, but it was in the syrup on top of the ice cream, not in the ice cream itself. (Quite manageable) The ice cream was good- sweet and dense- though we could definitely have gone for more pistachio in/on it.
Overall, it seems like a good addition to the neighborhood. They were quite empty, but maybe it's due to being new, and on a dreary Sunday evening... We'll definitely be back to try out the aushak and mantu (and maybe get some more of that kaddo! :) )
Yesterday I was headed to Dawat for their buffet lunch and discovered they were no longer there, so went to Punjab Palace instead. Tonight I walked to Ariana to check it out.
As noted elsewhere, the interior is elegant but spartan. The service is quite good, although I was surprised that I had to request a menu in an almost empty room with only one other table occupied, although three other parties came in while I was there. I was seated by the window, but left around sunset and realized how dark it was already in the back of the room. The music was reminiscent of Ravi Shankar in his Beatle days, a vast improvement over the Bollywood noise at Punjab Palace. Someone just told me last night that restaurants have found they do better business if it's a loud environment
Going with the most popular dishes (on Yelp) so far, I had the Kaddo and Qabili. They were both quite good. The Qabili arrives as a large mound of Pallow rice with raisins and what they describe as a glazed julienne of carrots. Hiding underneath this were the most tender chunks of lamb shank I've ever had. Someone else described them as "fall off the bone" and I took it literally, but that wasn't the case. However, although they are very high quality I discovered that they did need a bit of trimming, which isn't clear in their initial hidden state.
I had a hard time adjusting to the raisins and carrots, wishing it came with say onions and green beans instead. Next time I might have Korma Challow, a sauteed leg of lamb which does come with these and a bunch of other stuff. I've never been fond of dishes with just meat, or meat and starch as it was in this case. I couldn't really count the julienned carrots as a vegetable, and am willing to eat raisins in trail mix but little else.
There is a short wine "list", with everything available by the glass and bottle, and I think the most expensive one is $21, but I can't speak for the quality, although perhaps the fact that they all come by the glass is a clue. There is no printed beer list, but it seems to be very limited and I am unwilling to pay $4.50 for an uninteresting bottle. My water glass was regularly attended to, one of my major criteria in judging service. I have some fruit I need to use up, so didn't get dessert. Overall, most pleasant and I will be back.
109 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134
They're clearly aiming for a similar atmosphere as Helmand (somewhat on the fancy side, serving wine; and also in prominently offering vegetarian options, which is definitely not a feature of any other afghani place I've been to).
I thought that the kaddo compared favorably to Helmand, though to be honest, I've only been to Helmand a couple times, and not in the last few years (I liked it fine, but I actually never really found it so special, so it never entered the regular rotation). So it's a little hard for me to make an informed comparison!
Great report --- thank you! Would love to try this place soon. Have you found dogh at any restaurant around the Boston area? Also as an aside, Annapurna, the Nepali restaurant north of Porter Square, still has some Afghani dishes on their menu from their previous incarnation as an Afghani restaurant, and their kaddo is surprisingly excellent.
The Brookline Family Restaurant has ayran (and probably other Turkish places, do, too), which I consider to be sort of the moral equivalent of dogh... Shawarma King in Coolidge Corner also has a house-made yogurt drink that's more or less in the same family. (I don't know why these two come to mind in particular- lots of places have salt lassi or yogurt drinks, I guess) But no, I don't think I've come across any that have the mintiness or spiciness or carbonation of a good version of dogh, in particular....
Actually, my only experiences with it at afghani places have been uniformly too salty (and in some cases, too carbonated) for my taste, but I'm pretty much always game to try a house made yogurt drink.
And thanks for the kaddo pointer! Always good to have more around town :)
Brookline Family Restaurant
305 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445
Brookline, MA, Brookline, MA