At Kabul Restaurant, the eggplant is as mouth-watering as the koftas and kababs

The phone rang late one evening. The caller was my friend Sohail, and he sounded pretty excited. “Have you been to this Afghan restaurant called Kabul,” he asked me. I hadn't, and he had. So he told me in great detail about the food he had eaten and urged me to try the place out.

Since Sohail bhai knows a bit about food (only a bit, though), I thought it was sound advice – and promptly hotfooted it to the restaurant the next day. Sohail had managed to get the phone number for me. I called them up, got the directions and landed at Kabul Restaurant.

The restaurant is easy to find. It's at the end of the central Bhogal Road, opposite Modi Pastry. (Ph: 9953413318.) It's quite a neat-looking place – done up simply and well – and can seat 60-70 people. The place shatters quite a few myths about Afghanistan. If you go there looking for war-ravaged men in long beards you'd be quite disappointed. The place is filled with smart young Afghanis – men and women – and the air is festive.

The restaurant is run by a middle-aged gentleman Asad Saheb. I went through the menu card and found a list of interesting Afghani dishes. Sohail bhai had urged me to try an eggplant dish (Rs.90), which I ordered at once. I also asked for a plate of korma pulao (Rs.130), kofta korma (Rs.120), chicken kabab (Rs. 280) and an Afghani naan (Rs.15), which was a huge puffy bread. And the owner added a plate of okra to the order.

I carried the food home – much to the delight of all the meat lovers at home. I first tried out the eggplant with the naan, and found both delicious. The brinjal had been cooked with curd, and the naan was light and fluffy and not the least bit rubbery as some khameeri rotis can get when cold. I think the bread came from a big Afghani roti shop next door. I could see many Afghani men and women picking up their rotis from there.

Then I tried out the korma pulao – which was again excellent. The meat was tender and not very spicy. The pulao was a little sweet, mainly because it had been tempered with raisins and cooked with thin juliennes of carrot. I like my pulao a little sweet, so I enjoyed this thoroughly. The kababs were again very mild, lightly spiced and simply delicious.

I liked the kofta korma too. The kofta were not spherical but flattened, like shammi kababs, and the onion-based gravy was aromatic and light. I think that was the great bit about the Afghani food – the fact that it didn't overwhelm you with spices. Every now and then, once you have overdosed on spices and the onion-garlic-ginger paste that you find in all gravies, you yearn for something light. Kabul Restaurant gives you just what you are looking for.

I don't know if it's because of the presence of the Americans in Afghanistan, but the menu card includes a chicken burger (Rs.80) and chicken cheese burger (Rs.100). I, of course, had no intention of eating those. But the food, I can tell you again, is very, very nice. I don't know how Sohail bhai discovered the place, but he has just done his good deed for the year.

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