Stepping into Bamian Afghan Cuisine, a diner’s first impression might be one of confusion. Could this elegant expanse of well-appointed dining room – replete with broad chandeliers and cloth-covered tables – be the home of some of the area’s favorite cheap eats? It is, indeed.
Customers at Bamian can expect to spend about $16 a person for a generous portion of food without sacrificing in ambiance as the drive-through prices suggest.
This traditional Afghan meal begins with a selection of six appetizers that showcase the spices and sauces that season the entrees, giving just a teasing suggestion of what’s to come when halal-meat-made kabobs are added to the mix.
Within the Boolawnee, at $5, is a mashed blend of leek-and-spice-seasoned potato filling out a giant triangle of pastry, all baked in a clay oven and served with a cup of homemade yogurt. The crispiness of the pastry and the softness of its filling play against each other, as do the tanginess of the yogurt and the savory, slightly spicy seasoning, giving the appetizer great depth with a few simple ingredients.
The menu offers about two dozen entree options, most of which are focused on kabobs. A great example of what this restaurant can do with skewered meat can be found in the Bamian Platter which, at $19, pairs two types of rice – Quabili Palau (seasoned and mixed with dried fruit) and white rice – with three kabobs – seasoned ground beef, chicken and lamb – and, if the kabobs weren’t enough meat for one platter, a small bowl of tomato-based meat sauce. The meat kabob pieces are impressive for their texture, tender with an outer coating of slight charring, and are not only well seasoned, but also uniquely seasoned, allowing each kabob to leave a distinct impression. The tandoor-oven-baked bread that comes with the meal, as well as the rice and accompanying vegetables served with this particular dish, brings further variety for each bite. The meat sauce, though admirable, goes ignored when plated alongside these quality kabobs.
Similar dishes which fall outside of the kabob realm pale in comparison to their char-grilled companions. The Chef Carrrayee, at $16, which combines the diner’s choice of charcoal-broiled lamb or chicken with cooked vegetables, features a sauce that infuses the meat with nice flavor, but it still falls short when comparing the texture of those tiny meat pieces to the heftier kabob chunks.
Though one might not think a restaurant specializing in kabobs would have much for non meat-eaters, Bamian does have four dinner plates made especially for vegetarians. The Vegetarian Platter, at $13, plates three curry-like portions in adjacent dollops – the Banunjan (stir-fried eggplant), Subzi (stir-fried spinach) and Kadu (sauteed pumpkin). The savory eggplant and the earthy spinach, and especially the spiced-yet-sweet pumpkin, are an exercise in how versatile vegetables can be as the basis of a main course, and how very delicious they can be with an inventive treatment. Diners who might wish to sample any of these non-meat concoctions may be pleased to know that each are available as a side dish for $4.50.
With the affordable prices and extensive sampling of Afghan fare it provides, this Bailey’s Crossroads spot is sure to delight all types of diners with international tastes.
Bamian Afghan Cuisine is located at 5634 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-820-7880 or visit bamianrestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.