Firnee pudding. photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Review: Afghan Grill

Afghan Grill offers all the thrills of trying an exotic new cuisine while not straying too far from a genre, Middle Eastern food, that you likely know and love. The menu has the hummus, dolmas, and baklava you see at Greek and Lebanese restaurants, but Afghani novelties, too. Mantu (here spelled “mantoo”) sounded exotic, but these steamed dumplings filled with ground beef and minced onion would ring bells for Southerners and Asian-food fans alike. Most luscious: kadu buranee, chunks of sautéed pumpkin (it can also be butternut squash), topped with yogurt and meat sauce. This dish delighted not only because the pumpkin chunks were soft as baby food, but also because it took a savory approach to pumpkin, which we almost always eat sweet. Grilled kebabs are a house specialty, and rightfully so. Owner Asmat Pikar, who moved here from Washington, D.C., where he opened his first Afghan Grill (since sold), has secret marinades and techniques to keep the skewered meats moist and tender with loads of flavor, whether lamb, chicken, beef, or shrimp. A combination platter lets you choose three; make one be lamb, which seemed to be moistest and flavorful-est of all. There’s a buffet at lunch, and alcohol is BYOB. It still strives to be a nice place, and service is as sweet as the firnee pudding, a wonderful Afghani pistachio-scented dessert.

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