Where are the good Afghan food in the Bay Area?

A while ago, @hyperbowler and I ate at Ghazni Afghan kabobs & Restaurant in Hayward. While the place has 4.5 Yelp stars the food didn’t quite measure up. I’ve been out of the Afghan loop for a few years now. The last decent Afghan place I’ve been to was Tayyibaat in Milpitas a few years ago, though Tayyibaat’s menu was very small.

Question, where are some of the better Afghan food these days?

I’d in particular be interested in a quality CHAPLI KEBAB or FIRNI.

Is SALANG PASS still good? What about WAKHAN CORRIDOR?

There used to be a good Afghan place in the Emeryville Public Market. After 9/11, they started calling themselves Mediterranean, rather than Afghan. I made a point to eat there to show support (and the food was great).

ETA: I wonder why the original Public Market collapsed so suddenly. It was always crowded at lunch time, with about a dozen food stalls. I do miss the Afghan place.

The Public Market was only semi closed for remodeling all is up and running again. Though the new traffic and parking set has to one of the stupidest redesigns I have ever seen.

The Food at Kandesh in Oakland is quite good. Unfortunately the cavernous Space is not.
332 14th St

I also like (actually prefer) De Afghanan Kabob House in Fremont but it is a bit of a Trek from home
37405 Fremont Blvd

What do you mean collapse? Was there a previous Public Market before the current one?

I meant a business, not physical, collapse. I’ve worked in the area since around 1988, and the market came along in the mid '90s, I think. As I said, it was always busy at lunchtime, but a few years ago they suddenly closed for “remodeling”–but I think there were some financial problems. I’ll do some research.

I liked the chapli kebab at De Afghanan Kabob House in SF (on Geary near Van Ness) a lot. I thought their other grilled meats and mantu were also quite good.

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I have to disagree on Kamdesh. We liked it a lot, much better than when it was in smaller quarters. Biermonk is correct, space is maybe too large but it’s well set up for families to bring their kids and grandparents along. We were there on a quiet Tuesday and even so there were two big round tables taken by separate families who were having a fine time.

The firni (Custard with cardamon and rosewater) at Kamdesh is quite good, not overly sweet and with a smooth texture, no gumminess.

Note the Afghani Salad comes as a side with many entrees. Surprisingly I did not like the mast o khiar, spiced yogurt, which I found too runny with an OD of lemon juice. Spouse was fine with it, however.

The Chapli Kabob lacked nice crispy edges, but on the good side was spicy-hot with chiles. The Mantoo were also quite good with a spicy tomato gravy, but Kamdesh is too fond of putting mediocre canned mixed veggies into the gravy. The winner entree was the Lamb Tikka Kabob, ordered medium rare and perfectly executed.

We’d rate Kamdesh second to Khyber Pass/Dublin. Khyber doesn’t make a good firni, although their mango ice cream is excellent. But their chapli kabob is outstanding - really thin patties with super-crisp edges. Their mast o khiar is also top-notch. The meat kabob they do well is the beef kabob - big cubes, nicely seasoned and super tender.

If you like Aush, one of the favorite soups of Afghanistan, we liked Pamir/Dublin’s version best. Their food is very good, service is excellent (probably the best of any Afghani restaurant we’ve been to) but they are a little more expensive than everyone else.

We ate lunch at Ghazni and thought it was so-so compared to the three mentioned above. Finding a shred of metallized plastic bag in the food that my spouse almost swallowed was NOT acceptable.

+1 on Kamdesh. Didn’t expect it to be better than middling and was pleasantly surprised.

I went to Salang Pass a year or so ago. Thought it was decent but uneven.

Even though it was about 6 years ago, I had the mantu at Aria Afghan at 308 14th Street in downtown Oakland, just a few doors east of Kamdesh. The mantu is a steamed dumpling, filled with beef, slit open at the top, dusted with herbs and drizzled with a yogurt sauce. It was quite good.

At that time, the server said that their chef had previously worked at Salang Pass in Fremont. Aria is much smaller than Kamdesh and a notch or two below in atmosphere. The more recent reviews at ‘Y’ are generally favorable.

Luke Tsai in his review in 2014 wrote that he liked the crunchy charred edges of the chapli kebab and the lamb chops.


Aria Afghan
308 14th St
Oakland, CA
Phone (510) 893-2742

Better than even the Fremont Afghan places, like De Afghanan?

Speaking of De Afghanan I need to make a trip there. Is the one in SF related to the Fremont one?

Sorry, we hardly ever get down as far as Fremont. We live up near Mills College, and the traffic on 880 is a nightmare we seldom feel like navigating, LOL. Easier for us to go out Albany/El Cerrito/Berkeley way (where most of my family lives, so we are out there 2x/week anyway), or east on 580 to the Dublin/Pleasanton/Livermore area.

During the Afghan crawl I did in Fremont last year, I liked De Afghanan (both the sit-down location and the original kebab stall next door) best overall, for atmosphere and food—especially as far as the kebab (and chapli kebab) goes. That said, Salang Pass, across the street, is better for certain dishes, and their firni is the best I’ve had. If you’ve made the trek all the way down there anyway, make sure pick up a few sheaves of bread from Maiwand while you’re there.

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Thanks! We will definitely keep De Afghanan in mind. On our 2x/yr trips down to Monterey, we usually try to eat lunch on the way down, so this would be perfect for our next trip. DH adores lamb kebabs but I prefer the chapli, so this rings the bell for both of us!

A while ago we ate at Kabul Afghan in San Carlos. (I think they have a branch in Fremont.) The food was adequate. The meat were tough and dry in both dishes, however. The space was comfortable though. Big crowd. Don’t think they compare as well with the other Fremont Afghan choices.

also posted in the “Oakland News and Notes 2018” board:

Yummy Grill Afghan Kabob House
4300 International Blvd., Oakland
510-533-1515
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.
Cash, all major credit cards

Sample Menu
Quabili pallow … $14.99
Chapli kabob … $12.99
Mantu … $7.99
Bolani … $6.99
Eggplant … $8.99
Ferni …$2.00

Decade-old Marwa Market and Grill is moving about 5 blocks south to larger quarters at 2517 Telegraph Ave. at 25th Street in the Uptown Oakland Arts District. According to a man at the site, it should open in about 2 weeks and will have some new items. A sign on the awning advertises that Afghani bread will be baked daily. I have had a very solid lunch buffet with lamb, rice, bolani (stuffed flatbreads) at the previous location.

Afghan Market and Grill (may open in April 2019)
2517 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland
510-465-3106

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Marwa opened yesterday, April 1, and today I saw them continually turn out 20" wide ovals of flatbread ($2) from the oven. There are a few 2-tops in the store but all the trade this afternoon was takeout. Plates with rice and salad range from $10.99 for the steam table) to $14.99. The lamb shank is $13.99 but it will be another day or so for the kitchen to be fully operational so the buffet from the steam table was the only meal available at the time.

Mantu (steamed open dumplings filled with meat and drizzled with yogurt and herbs on top) are expected to make it onto the menu the near future. Very friendly service, and I’ll wait a few weeks for them to settle in to come back and try the lamb shank or one of the other plates.

Here are some photos in a slideshow, about 3 minutes long.

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Yesterday (03Apr2019) tried lunch at Kabul Kabob & Grill in Dublin. Modest place, nice folks. Family run (EB Times did a 2015 review: Interview with Kabul Kabob owner/chef

Sadly, the lamb kebabs have been dropped off the menu. The menus on the web (there are several sites) are not really accurate, based on what we were handed. It’s possible the catering menu is more inclusive, as Kabul is apparently a popular choice for catering events with the Afghani community.

We had the mantu, the ashak (usually spelled aushak), beef tri-tip kabobs and the chapli kabob.

Mantu and Ashak look exactly alike: closed dough raviolis, nice thin dough. Not drained quite well enough which made both dishes a little watery. Mantu were okay, Ashak had spicy meat sauce. Yogurt drizzle on both tasted a little strong to DH (personal issue: he doesn’t like strong fermented dairy of any type, whether creme fraiche, cream cheese, yogurt, or crema - it has to be very mild).

Tomato-based sauces on both dishes were tasty but somehow neither impressed us beyond “good” rating. The two fillings seemed a bit lacking in amount and the flavors not as well-rounded. I think Annar/Hayward and Khyber Pass/Dublin make these a little better (altho we do need to return to Khyber; it’s been a while since our last visit).

Beef kabob average; tri-tip is chewy. One skewer; you can order addt’l for extra.

Chapli crispy but strong green onion taste (this was also true of the mantu filling). Texture seemed soft to me; reminded me of meatloaf - the way you add filler like oatmeal or breadcrumbs to the meat? Not saying there was anything added, we didn’t ask; but just didn’t ring my bell as a rabid burger lover.

Accompaniments were brown rice pillau (average) and yogurt dressed green salad with thin-sliced white onion. I also got some ripe tomato slices and a wedge of lemon for my Chapli.

We didn’t order our usual mast e khiar (spiced yogurt); I regretted it as I felt my dish needed it.

Chose hot black tea; Kabul also offers green tea unlike many places.

Did not order the firni as we were just too full. Kabul is good, but we’d prefer Kamdesh/Oakland, Pamir/Dublin, Khyber Pass/Dublin, or Annar/Hayward over them.

Kabul Kabob and Grill
8939 San Ramon Road, Dublin CA
Info: 925-997-5626

Note they are in a very small mixed-use strip mall, where most of the property is townhouses/apts. Parking for retail shops is 1-hr only, clearly marked. Do NOT park in the residents’ parking spaces which are towards the back half of the parking lot.

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I had an early lunch at Marwa Afghan Market to see how they were doing in their new digs after 10 days in the Oakland Uptown Art Gallery District.

I ordered 2 ground lamb koobideh skewers, some greens and a samosa at the counter and sat at one of the 2 four-tops next to 3 two-tops. Cost was about $10 plus tax and was served after a few minutes by a man who I think is an owner and very friendly.

The 2 skewers tasted freshly ground and cooked, were made of moist tender lean meat without gristle and not heavily salted or charred. Small flecks of red may have been ground chile or red bell pepper blended into the meat. The top of the skewers were laced with strings of grilled sweet pickled onions, slightly charred.

Quite good.

The side of greens were described as spinach and had kidney beans and sliced green beans in the mix. The ample serving tasted more like collard greens to me and was mildly spiced but subtly flavorful.

The samosa was filled with green peas, potato and tasted of turmeric. It had more of a baked rather than fried taste and the inside had more of a cake-like interior instead of an oily crunch, a positive for me.

The red and green condiments on the table are homemade and the green chutney was lemony/vinegary with cilantro, garlic and with hints of mint that encouraged me to ladle about 5 tiny spoonfuls on the lamb and my slice of Afghan flatbread.

I thought it was an impressive casual lunch with care taken in the small details considering they are less than two weeks into their tenure in their new spot.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold