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Afghan restaurant highlighted by owner Nasir Raufi and his wife's care with the cuisine's subtle dishes.

Our Review

As far as I know, Afghan Kabob is the only Afghan restaurant in the region, ever since the demise of Devon Avenue's Afghan Restaurant, and the (supposedly) in-the-process relocation of Skokie's Kabul House. Its novelty may be part of the reason owner Nasir Raufi pulls in a multiethnic range of customers from all over the city and suburbs, but it's more likely the solid execution of his country's cuisine that keeps them coming back.

The recipes come from Raufi's wife, who shares kitchen duty with a Mexican cook. These aren't blistering hot, heavy dishes such as you might find in Pakistani or northern Indian restaurants. In some ways they're reminiscent of more subtly spiced Persian food, such as the pilafs and kebabs at Rogers Park's late, great Iranian restaurant, Massouleh, or in the case of dumplings aushak and mantu, central Asian and Turkish varieties. The former are leek, cilantro, and spinach stuffed, and the latter are filled with beef and onion or chicken and onion. These and many other dishes are carefully presented, usually with some drizzled concentric circles of yogurt contrasting with the dark reds and oranges of the main feature and a liberal sprinkling of finely ground dried mint, showing a great deal of care and commitment that extends to the way it tastes as well.

Same goes for vegetable dishes such as the roasted eggplant and tomato bourani badenjan, thicker, stickier, sweeter than your typical baba ghanoush and unmuddied by tahini; or bourani kadu, mashed sweet butternut squash that could easily pass as pie filling. Rausi's signature dish is kabuli palaw, a heaping pile of brown basmati rice flecked with raisins and dark-red shredded sauteed carrot, burying a slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank. This particularly fatty piece of meat is cooked with the rice, lending it its dark brown color and a powerfully hard-to-resist unctuousness. That, or plain white basmati, show up in abundance on various kebab dishes. If for some reason you find any of these underseasoned, the tables are outfitted with shakers of tangy ground sumac and a tongue-blistering thin, vinegary chile sauce. Ferni, the sole dessert, is a creamy, slightly sweet rice pudding with ground cardamom and tiny threads of vermicelli-like pasta.

Digestion of all this wonderful stuff is substantially aided by a glass of sheer chai, a cardamom-flavored green tea that takes on its bubblegummy cast from long boiling and the addition of milk. Alcohol prohibited.

Mike Sula

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Price: $$
Payment Type: MasterCard, Visa

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