The De Afghanan Kabob House is one of those little hole-in-the-wall places which boosts my willingness to give other random restaurants a chance. This is a solid kabob place located in a little unassuming space next to a key-cutting place on the south side of University Avenue just east of San Pablo. I drove around in circles the first time I was looking for it. The place is well-kept and clean, but simply furnished, with pictures of Afghanistan and handmade fabrics on the wall. The dining room does get a bit chilly in the evenings, but I usually order take out so it’s not a problem for me. I’ve never seen more than a table or two occupied, so I imagine most people do the same. My orders have typically been ready within about 15 minutes. I imagine the distance from the university prevents students from coming to check it out, which is a shame. My encounters with the staff have always been pleasant in person, but their cordless phone definitely leaves something to be desired as calls are always muted and fuzzy. Somehow they always seem to have the correct order, though.
The entrees run from $9-$15 and the backbone of the menu are the kabobs. Beef, chicken, and lamb (chupon) are pretty much what you expect, chunks of seasoned grilled meat, tender and tasty. They also have their “famous Chaplee kabob” which are seasoned ground sirloin patties which carry more of a seasoning kick than the other kabobs. All are pretty good and are a safe choice for most diners. All are served atop fluffy Basmati rice with a fresh chopped tomato and onion salad, a tangy chickpea and potato salad, and some Afghan bread which is a flatbread with a good chew. Serving sizes are pretty generous and will fill the heartiest appetite.
On the appetizer list, I recommend the bolani (alo parata), which is a flatbread stuffed with potatoes and spices. Very tasty. I have yet to try the bolani kadoo, which involves pumpkin rather than potatoes.
Of their specialty dishes, the quabili pallow is pretty good. This is a lamb shank with basmati rice baked with raisins and grated carrot. However, the lamb is separate from the rice and some have complained that the best quabili pallow should have the lamb cooked with the rice so that the juices from the lamb flavor the rice.
The mantoo is a dumpling dish which tastes pretty good, but something about the texture and presentation is not entirely appealing to me.
For dessert, they offer firni, which is an Afghan pudding which includes milk, rosewater, cardamom, and pistachios. I don’t really care for it. Cardamom in a cold dessert doesn’t seem right to me. On the other hand, the hot cardamom tea they have is quite nice, especially on a cold, foggy day. The proprietor will often offer some tea if your take out order isn’t ready when you arrive.
A good place for a filling meal of kabob. And when you’re feeling adventurous, you can try something a bit different.
Here’s a scan of the current menu, picked up in August 2010. I don’t think it’s changed much in the time I’ve been going, but their website seems to be down so it might be a good resource.