Oh the Helmand! What an amazing restuarant and what a delightful meal! The atmosphere was so inviting - busy and yet intimate - while the staff was professional and QUICK (quite imperssively so).
To start, I immediately knew I had to order the "pumpkin appetizer" because that is what I have always heard about. It is called Kaddo Borwani ($4.75), and yes, it was just as incredible as I had hoped. It is pan-fried and baked baby pumpkin seasoned (liberally) with sugar and served with a yogurt-garlic sauce. Garlic AND sugar pumpkin? Oh yes. It works. Trust me and every other person who loved this appetizer. The pumpkin was so sweet, like a lovely sweet potato in fact, and I thought the garlic yogurt was a fantastic, though unlikely, partner.
We also ordered the appetizer portion of Mantwo ($4.75) - Homemade pastry shells filled with onions and beef, served on yogurt and topped with carrots, yellow split peas and beef sauce. It doesn't look like how it sounds - I could hardly see the pastry shells, but they were there covered in a sea of delightful meat sauce. This was sort of like a deconstructed Afghan lasagna - and I was all for it. Loved it. You can also get this as an Entree for $12.95, oh my it would be a fabulous choice.
We also ordered a small order of Naan ($2.50) which I used to sop up every little bit of those appetizers.
Very soon after we had finished our appetizers, our entrees swooped onto the table (which are small...so get used to stacking dishes and condensing). I ordered the authentic Afghan dish - Kabuli ($14.95) - Afghan style rice baked with chunks of lamb tenderloin, raisins and glazed carrots. I LOVED this dish. If you love biryani at an Indian restaurant - you will love Kabuli here. Actually, it was very similar to how my mum makes birayani so I was extremely pleased. The lamb was great and I just LOVE when raisins find their way into my rice!
Dan ordered the Koufta Challow ($13.95) - combination of lamb and beef meatballs seasoned with dried grapes, spices, peas and tomato sauce and served with challow (rice with cumin as opposed to Pallow which is rice with cinnamon). This was also delicious - I loved the tomato sauce, which had a wonderful kick to it. And the meatballs were yummmyyyyy. Great flavors, great dish. Not surprisingly, my mum also makes her own version of this dish, so needless to say, this was a great meal for me.
Turkish Coffee, Pumpkin cake (background) and pastries (foreground)
I opted for some Turkish coffee, remembering that I loved it here, and Dan and I shared a plate of Middle Eastern Pastries ($5.25) as well as a Pumpkin cake ($5.25?) that was supposed to be similar to a carrot cake. The pastries were essentially 2 pieces of baklava. They were good, but perhaps a little expensive for $5.25, but a nice choice if you want something sweet but don't have too much room in your tummy. The pumpkin cake was not a favorite of mine at all, I thought it was entirely too dry and wished there were some raisins in there...or basically I wished it was carrot cake. Dan liked it, of course :)
Overall, this was just a fantastic dinner, I honestly can't wait to come again. It really does remind me a LOT of my mum's cooking, so I personally love it because I can go whenever I have a hankering for her and the Helmand's yummy food :)