Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Panjshir

DSC_0179Nearly hidden beneath a broad green awning on a tree-lined stretch of West Broad Street is a restaurant specializing in Afghan food praised for its authentic adaptation of the regional cuisine.

Customers are invited to try the Afghan fare at Panjshir in an elegant dining room that belies the affordable meal. Inside, an intimate space is created in the narrow room, lined with booths and split with tables in rich tones of reds and browns. Overhead lanterns, whose light is reflected on mirror-lined walls, cast a pleasant glow across the restaurant and bolster an ambiance accented by an ornate bar at the back of the dining space.

Despite the chic surroundings, diners can expect to spend less than $7 for appetizers and between $12 and $20 for entrees – with vegetarian offerings on the lower end of that spectrum, and hearty kabob platters on the higher end.

While hefty skewered meat chunks may await interested diners, the appetizers menu uses a more modest treatment. Each of the appetizers is a pastry or dumpling dish served with ground beef or drizzled in a meat sauce, accenting the taste of the meat with herbs and, in some, a yogurt sauce. The Muntoo ($6.95) serves the beef-stuffed dumplings in a row, all slathered in a meat sauce and a yogurt sauce that lets the tanginess of the yogurt and savory flavor of the beef combine.

While the appetizers and soups the restaurant offers all contain meat, vegetarians need not fret – an ample offering of meat-free entree platters is available. All vegetarian dinners entrees are $11.95, though for $16.95 diners can sample three of the meatless platters. The Seib Chalow is a curious outlier, using apples as its focus instead of vegetables as in its companion dishes. The apples are mirrored in sweet and tart notes by a tomato sauce, spiced and served with nuts in a way that gives great complexity to the flavor and texture of the dish. The Kadu Chalow, using pumpkin as its base, is also served in a tomato sauce, but coats the sauce-severed vegetable in a second seasoned yogurt sauce, bringing variety to the dish. The Banjan Chalow, eggplant in a similar treatment, brings less sweet and more heat to the combination.

Served with seasoned rice and buttery, fluffy bread, no bit of the delicious sauces these vegetables are served up in goes to waste.

For those with more carnivorous appetites, many of the vegetarian dishes are duplicated as separate combinations with pieces of meat, but the quality meat offered at Panjshir stands well as a dish all to itself, supported by some vegetable and rice accompaniment. Chicken, beef and lamb kabobs ($13.95, $14.95 and $15.95) can be ordered, but the indecisive diner can sample all three in a combination platter ($19.95). Served on long skewers with bits of blackened onion and tomato, the meat pieces are tender, well seasoned and nicely charred.

Desserts offered include Baklava ($4.95). An order of the dessert at Panjshir sends to the table a palm-sized triangle of the flaky, honey-heavy pastry, filled with crushed walnut and topped with a sprinkling of cardamom and pistachio. As honey pools on the plate at the fork’s first pierce of the pastry, the divine sweetness of the bites to close this authentic Afghan meal is guaranteed.

Panjshir is located at 924 W. Broad St., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-536-4566 or visit panjshirrestaurant.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.; 5 – 10 p.m.