http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2008/05/23/new-digs-same-great-afghan-food


Mountain View Voice

Real Estate - May 23, 2008

New digs, same great Afghan food

Paradise Kebob has weathered the recent move out of Mountain View

by Andrew MacLeod Doerschuk

Afghani expatriate Nick Waziri spent 20 years running his Middle Eastern restaurant in the Grant Park Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Grant Road and El Camino Real. He built a loyal following, but in 2007, not long after making substantial improvements to Nob Hill Food's expanded grocery outlet, the property's landlord announced a rent increase that Waziri couldn't muster. So he began to hunt for a new location.

Last January, Paradise Afghan and Persian Kebob reopened on the corner of Mary Avenue and El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. It's an inauspicious setting, where the establishment shares a parking lot with El Pollo Loco, among other tenants.

Nonetheless, Waziri tried his best to create a dignified environment for customers. Paradise is neat as can be. Each table is outfitted with a fresh red rose in a vase and white tablecloths. The walls are covered with tapestries and posters of Afghanistan. But despite its cleanliness, the restaurant's two dining rooms are miniscule. And it's hard to escape the fact that you're sitting in a storefront in a strip mall.

Tables are set with an assortment of exotic condiments, such as sumac, a dark brown spice rendered from the berries of a wild bush. Water and a basket of crumbly flatbread were brought to the table, along with two chutneys for dipping: a hot and sour red pepper and vinegar sauce and a puckering cilantro and vinegar variation. Be careful not to scoop either like guacamole onto a chip; a little bit will suffice.

All dinners come with a choice of soup or salad. Our first visit opened with shiraz ($2.75), a bowl of cucumber, white onion and tomato drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fine dry herbs. The ingredients were finely chopped, filling the small bowl with a deceptively robust portion that proved both refreshing and spicy a nice starter.

Legumes loaded the menu's solitary soup option, osh reshteh ($2.75). Thick with kidney beans, lentils and crumbles of fettuccini noodles, the slow cooked vegetable broth implied a dash of mint. A dollop of thinned yogurt swam on top of this dark purple infusion, which helped smooth the edges of its unfussy, musty flavor.

We also sampled dolme ($4.50). The appetizer featured four loosely rolled grape leaf wraps stuffed with tomato-flavored rice and topped with peas cooked in a chunky tomato sauce. It was interesting to try this warmer, sloppier rendition of the traditional grape leaf rolls served throughout the Arab and Mediterranean world.

A longtime fan of babaganouche, I couldn't resist trying the kashk bademjan ($3.95) to see if there was a resemblance. Served warm, the dish featured a yogurt sauce floating on top of a paste made from eggplant, garlic and cinnamon. It came with its own basket of flatbread to dip into this sweet and smoky concoction. Babaganouche? Not precisely, but it was still very tasty.

Nice as these appetizers are, it eventually comes time to move to the entrees. The korfta challow ($12.95), listed on the menu as a house specialty, featured four large ground beef meatballs stewed with peas in a tomato sauce. Served with a large order of rice, the dish was lightly seasoned. It tasted authentic and was substantial plenty for two diners.

Our combo kebab ($17.95) included six boneless chicken pieces and nine chunks of sliced steak, unseasoned, grilled well done and served with a generous portion of rice. While the beef's charred flavor was satisfying, the chicken was bland. Fortunately, we ordered a grilled tomato (add another buck to the bill), which enhanced the flavor of the meat but it was still only OK.

So I turned to those intriguing table condiments for a little zippiness. The sumac lent a vaguely sour quality to the meat. At first it seemed quite subtle until I noticed a simmering heat lingering on my lips. In contrast, the blazing red pepper exploded like a firecracker on the taste buds.

Paradise offers several vegetarian entrees, including the keddo bademjon ($10.90), a large dish of sliced eggplant, carrots, potato and peas stewed in a tomato sauce. Served with a side order of rice, the dish was delicious and quite filling, thanks to those starchy potatoes and carrots.

Dessert options were few, but we enjoyed Paradise's baklava ($2.25), an ultra-sweet version of the favorite honey pastry found throughout the Old World. You can't go wrong with layers of crisp filo dough stuffed with ground walnut paste, saturated in honey and sprinkled with chopped pistachios. But avoid the bastani ($3.95), a vanilla ice cream heavily flavored with roses. It's an acquired taste, I'm sure.

No worries, though. Ignore the hurdles and jump in head-first. Paradise's soulful recipes have traversed generations and continents to arrive at your back door, and it's well worth the effort for a fine lunch or dinner from the Old World.

Paradise Afghan and Persian Kabob

604 S. Mary Ave., Sunnyvale

(408) 733-5262

Hours:

Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.

Comments

Posted by Kathy, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2008 at 10:41 am

Sumac is a spice rendered from dried grape leaves? Is this really true? I have never heard of this. Also, I've seen many variations of the spelling of baba ghanoush, but never babaganouche. This is sloppy journalism.


Posted by registered user, Don Frances, a resident of Mountain View Voice Editor
on May 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Oops, sorry. Sumac is from some kind of wild berry, near as I can tell. I had changed it in the print version but forgot to change it online; it should be fixed now.


Posted by Bob Briggs, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 27, 2008 at 11:23 am

We enjoyed the Paradise at the Grant Park location for years and were sorry to see it move. The new Sunnyvale location is a little space challenged and the few times we have tried it the wait for the food can be much longer than we remembered.

Our favorite is the lamb shank, and I like the cauliflower dish. My wife does not like cauliflower but they prepare it with sufficient spices that she says it tastes OK.

Bob Briggs
Former Mtn View resident (now in Los Altos up Grant Road near Fremont Ave)