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Issue date: January 19, 2001

Please add the "~" to the "n" of "jalapeno."

@caphd:A cheery dining room and an extensive menu of complex dishes greet customers at Kabul Afghan Cuisine in Sunnyvale.

@vcredit:Josh Keithley

Kabul Afghan Cuisine scores high with rich food, relaxing atmosphere Kabul Afghan Cuisine scores high with rich food, relaxing atmosphere (January 19, 2001)

By Karen Alden

Although located in a small, unprepossessing strip mall, Kabul Afghan Cuisine has become one of my favorite local haunts, both for its sumptuous menu and its pleasing atmosphere.

With its rose-and-burgundy interior, white linens, dark wood, and photos and textiles from Afghanistan, the restaurant transports you away from the daily grind. Scattered plants and soft lighting further sweeten the mood.

We began our dinner with the Bulanee Katchalu appetizer ($3.00), a turnover stuffed with ground beef, mashed potatoes, and spices served with a cilantro jalapeno sauce on the side. This was crispy and delicious, but beware of the sauce unless you really like hot food.

There are six additional appetizer choices ranging from $3.00 to $3.50, such as Mantu dumplings filled with ground lamb, onions, and spices covered with yogurt and mixed vegetables; Sambosa-e-Goushti, fried pastries filled with ground beef and chickpeas; and Aush, a rich noodle soup with vegetables, meat, and yogurt sprinkled with dill.

Kabul features 15 chicken, beef, salmon, veal, and lamb entrees (lunch $8.25-$13.95, dinner $10.95-$16.95) and four vegetarian entrees (lunch $8.25-$8.50, dinner $8.95-$9.25). All the dishes come with Afghan bread (envision foccacia with black sesame seeds sprinkled on top), seasoned rice, and a small green salad with cucumber, tomato and a tasty yogurt dill dressing.

My dining companion and I selected the Qabili Pallaw ($10.95), a dish of delicately seasoned lamb under a mound of seasoned rice and topped with cooked carrot strips and raisins. The marinated lamb was delicious and fork-tender, while the sweetness of the raisins and carrots provided a light offset to the richness of the lamb.

We also ordered Aushak ($9.25), a platter of dumplings much like light ravioli stuffed with leek and green onions, and topped with yogurt, a tomato-based meat sauce, and a sprinkling of mint. This was a winner as the flavors were delicate yet satisfying.

Other entrees include several different types of charbroiled marinated meat kabobs or meat cooked with various types of vegetables and spices in a stew.

For light eaters, or to round out your meal, order one or more of the four side dishes ($3.25-$3.50), which are smaller variations of the vegetarian entrees. We loved the Kadu, a small dish of sauteed pumpkin topped with yogurt and meat sauce, which had wonderful complementary flavors.

Also worth a try are the Sabsi, a sauteed spinach dish cooked with garlic, onion, and spice; Gulpi, a cauliflower stew cooked with garlic, tomato, and onion; and Buranee Badenjan, sauteed eggplant with yogurt and meat sauce.

Kabul's vegetarian meals include Challaw Kadu, sauteed pumpkin with yogurt; Challaw Gulpi, a cauliflower, tomato, onion, garlic, spice stew; Challaw Sabsi, sauteed spinach with onion, garlic, spices; and Challaw Badenjan, a stew of eggplant, onion, tomato, spices, and yogurt. All vegetarian meals come with white rice.

Kabul offers three desserts ($3.25-$3.50): Firnee, a chilled pudding topped with pistachios; Goush-e-Feel, a thin, fried pastry crust dusted with cardamom, sugar and pistachios; and baklava, a traditional Middle East pastry layered with walnuts and pistachios. Kabul's baklava is the best anywhere on the Peninsula. It is generous, nutty, and rich without being too sweet and syrupy, a common failing of baklava.

The beverage menu includes coffee, sodas, juices, and Afghan tea with cardamom ($1.25-$2.50) and beer ($3.50). The wine list offers a nice selection of primarily coastal wines with a few French selections (glass $4.75-$6.00, bottle $20.00-$55.00). The house wine is available for $3.75 per glass. Dubonnet, sherry, and port may be had for $3.75 a glass.

In addition to the tasty food and the mellow refined atmosphere, the service is attentive and helpful. Kudos to Kabul for providing such an enjoyable dining experience.

Kabul Afghan Cuisine, 833 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; Phone: (408) 245-4350. Hours: Lunch, Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner, daily 5:30-10 p.m. Credit cards accepted. 


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