I’ve driven past Wallingford’s Kabul for over a decade without ever going in, though every time I would look over and think, “Hmm… Afghan cuisine… I wonder what that’s all about!” So I was pleased as punch when, on a recent weeknight evening, I was in the neighborhood and being asked where I would like to go for dinner. Why, Kabul, of course!
I’m a sucker for the multiple course extravaganza — I always like to try a little bit of as many things as possible — so when presented with such an opportunity at Kabul I jumped at the chance. This particular Monday & Tuesday special came with a bottle of wine, and then a first course of the Mushroom Quorma, beautifully sauteed mushrooms served in a light, slightly sweet sauce. Following right after, the Salata was a refreshingly simple salad of cubed tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and mint with a zesty lemon dressing.
I imagined that the food would have lots of flavors that I associate with Indian cooking, so I was surprised to see so many things that felt much more Mediterranean. The salata, for sure, and particularly the Badenjan Borani, eggplant sauteed and simmered until quite soft in a lightly spiced tomato-based sauce, served with a tangy yogurt garlic sauce and sprinkled with dried mint. That yogurt garlic sauce also paired well with some of the best basmati rice I’ve ever had, studded with seasoned carrots and raisins.
The next two dishes felt distinctly Indian to me, and I suppose that speaks to the “crossroads” location of Kabul (the city) as explained on the website of Kabul (the restaurant). The Qorma-i Sabzi, a combination of spinach, cilantro, parsley and scallions, topped with a special lamb sauce reminded me of Saag Paneer, though with pita on the side rather than naan. And the Qorma-i Tarkari with its cauliflower, baby carrots, and potatoes topped with more of that special lamb sauce had much of the spice that says “Indian food” to me. The Firni, described on the menu as custard pudding flavored with cardamom and rosewater and topped with ground pistachios, seemed the less-solid cousin to one of my favorites from the Indian buffet, the bright orange cardamom bar.
Start to finish, it was a fantastic meal and for sure, I won’t wait another ten years before I make it back to Kabul.