At Nora, in sleek, contemporary decor punctuated by cream-colored capiz-shell chandeliers and gold mosaic tiles, chef Matt Pikar lavishes attention on traditional dishes from Afghanistan that take you far from Lowest Greenville. Plates are handsome, with dustings of paprika or dried mint and swaths of yogurt. Warm flatbread had a tanginess I’ve found only at the most authentic Afghani markets. On a menu where lamb is king, vegetable dishes also shine; pumpkin is a golden child. As an appetizer or entrée, its tender, steamed flesh comes cloaked in garlicky yogurt and a meat sauce redolent with tomato, garlic, and spices. Dried mint is the savory note pulling everything together. Our table was collectively smitten. Stewed lamb korma had similar depth, its rich, mysterious sauce hiding dried plum and lentils.
It’s one of many stews served over Afghani rice, whose long, slender grains are silken. Rice worth rhapsodizing. Kebabs are attractively presented over saffron rice with raisins and curls of shaved raw carrot. A kebab’s shrimp, boldly rubbed with sumac, pepper, coriander, paprika, and garlic, was tough and over-salted by far. Rosewater overpowered firnee, a dense, sweet pudding. But the Kabul Mule cocktail’s rush of cardamom was a welcome trip to the spice bazaar.