Khyber Pass Dishes Up Rockin’ Afghan Cuisine
Girls That Roam Is Once Again Taught Not To Judge A Restaurant By Its Location With Khyber Pass Kabob Restaurant
By Super G
There’s something about restaurants located in strip malls that raise my suspicion on the quality of the food. I need to stop it.
During Girls That Roam’s culinary adventures I’ve actually discovered some pretty amazing restaurants with unfortunate locations in strip malls. However, I still can’t seem to shake the stigma, my preconceived perceptions, and/or my snootiness when I hear “good restaurant” and “strip mall” in the same sentence.
Recently, my hesitancy and suspicion of a restaurant in a strip mall was once again proven completely, irrationally wrong! On a whim, one of my good friends wanted to step outside of her comfort zone of American wholesomeness of steak, more steak, oh and potatoes. Like a gastronomic bell going off, she declares that she likes cumin and curry, and wants to try Middle Eastern food. My head takes double spins as I say to her, “But you don’t like cumin, which is the main ingredient in curry!” as I tried talking her out of it. Babes enjoys following me into all sorts of restaurants and trying many different types of foods from all over the world. She broke out of her Irish upbringing at an early age – my friend, not so much.
So, when my friend suggested Khyber Pass Kabob Restaurant (7467 Village Parkway, #9; 925-828-6000; KhyberPassKabob.com) and told me that it was a five-star restaurant on a popular review website located in a strip mall in Dublin, California I was definitely on high alert. So was Babes, who shares my feelings about restaurants and strip malls.
Babes however stayed silent and went with it in a highly unusual fashion for her. She even smiled with optimism when we stepped through the doors of Khyber Pass and were clearly in a whole other world.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated with traditional Afghani cloth covering the walls to the group dining room where scarves billow out from the center of the ceiling from a circular mirror. The colors saturated red, burnt orange, cerulean, and forest green are brilliant and beautiful creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. At the back of the main dining room a traditional Afghani women’s outfit, a Paizar, – beautifully embroidered with colorful patterns, unlike the burqas women were forced to wear during the Taliban rule, hung on the wall. The walls of the main dining room were decorated with images from Afghanistan, surrounding a large framed photo, perhaps one of the most famous from Afghanistan, of an Afghani girl that captured and continues to haunt the world.
Of course my friend noticed the photo immediately and commented on its disturbing quality. So, Babes started excitingly rattling off about the photo that was famous and the girl with the stark haunting sea green eyes graced the 1985 cover of National Geographic Magazine.
Babes went on telling us that the girl was Sharbat Gula. The world discovered her name 17 years after the infamous photo was taken by photographer Steve McCurry at a tent school in Nasir Bagh, a refugee camp that remains today in Pakistan near Peshawar in 1984. Sharbat, now a woman, is a source of pride for Afghanistan.
The hostess, whom we suspected might be one of the owners, warmly greeted us near the door and immediately seated us. It was early in the evening so the dinner crowd hadn’t started pouring in yet.
The menu was impressive offering up a combination of Afghani and Middle Eastern dishes. It took us a while to decide what to order. Finally, we started with the Borani Kadoo, a sautéed pumpkin in tomatoes and seasoned with garlic and paprika in a yogurt sauce. The sauce gave life to the bland pumpkin with the right amount of spice.
Then we ordered kabobs – chicken, lamb (Chopan Kabob), and beef (Challow Kabob Beef) – while I ordered the Aushakk, which are basically onion dumplings or ravioli.
The meat of the kabobs was so tender and juicy and perfectly seasoned and marinated with a mixture of spices and onions. The meat was accompanied by paprika and cumin flavored Basmati rice and the traditional grilled tomato.
The shell of the Aushakk was a light rice pastry similar to dim sum dumplings stuffed with leaks and spices. The dumplings were dressed with a spicy, but cool yogurt sauce topped with ground cumin, garlic, mint and paprika and then topped off with ground beef.
It was all so tasty I savored each bite as we swapped samples from each others’ plates.
I was truly surprised by how good the food was to the point that I mumbled that I would be returning to this restaurant while our plates were being cleared from the table. When we complemented the food our hostess and server humbly told us that they only use the best meat and produce and ingredients at Khyber Pass.
Our group left Khyber Pass happily satiated and pleased that we found yet another good restaurant in a strip mall.
THE DIRTY DISH
Khyber Pass Kabob Restaurant, 7467 Village Parkway, #9, Dublin, California 94568. 925-828-6000. KhyberPassKabob.com.
TYPE OF RESTAURANT: Family-owned, Afghan Cuisine
RATING: 3 = Aqua
(0 inedible – 5 simply scrumptious)
AMBIANCE: Like stepping into a corner of Afghanistan with its warm and welcoming brilliant colors and friendly service.
SCENE: Casual and friendly, welcoming to families.
SERVICE: The service was excellent. Attentive without being overly attentive.
NOISE LEVEL: The only moment it got a little loud was when a baby suddenly threw a tantrum. Other than that we were able to hold a normal conversation as diners began to fill up the restaurant during our meal.
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Right now, because we haven’t gone back yet, all of the kabobs and the Aushakk. I’m sure I will add to this list.
SIP: We didn’t have a cocktail surprisingly enough.
CHECK, PLEASE: $$ = $10 – $20
(price of average dinner/lunch/breakfast/brunch bill for an individual dinner)
THE EAT: This is a fantastic restaurant with really good food. If you like Middle Eastern food and are in the Tri-Valley area in the San Francisco Bay Area you should stop in for a meal.
WORTH THE NIGHT OUT?: This was delicious!
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