Unique flavors, dishes still focus of Kabul at new location

Kabul on State Street
Kabul on State Street

kabul doorKabul has been a staple on State Street for years, serving up mediterranean and Aghani food with unique flavors and one- of-a-kind dishes. They had to move out of their old location last year because of a massive construction project, and their loyal following was a little nervous about whether or not they would reopen. Several months after their original location (which I thought was always a little loud, crowded and had too much stuff on the walls) was torn down, they opened up less than a block away in a second-floor space that used to be part of Gino’s.

Front dining room facing State Street
Front dining room facing State Street
Bar area
Bar area

The menu stayed mostly the same with some updates, but the dining room is much different. Kabul’s new second-floor location features a bar and great overlooking State Street. I know it’s harder to run a business on the second floor, but I have always loved them (think Sunroom Cafe and Wasabi!). They feel calmer and are great for people watching. Kabul’s new location is just that…calmer, less cluttered and has great people-watching windows.

Mashawa soup
Mashawa soup
Mashawa soup
Mashawa soup

Michelle Li and I got to try a bunch of different dishes featured on both their lunch and dinner menus. We started with the mashawa soup that has lamb, chicken, beans and dill in it. The tomato-based soup was hearty, flavorful and had just a tiny kick of spice. The flavors were rich and balanced — it tasted like a professional version of the lentil and bean soup I try to make at home!

House salad with sauteed carrots and raisins
House salad with sauteed carrots and raisins

The house salad was pretty typical, but the housemade cucumber, mint, apple yogurt dressing made it phenomenal. I’m not usually a yogurt dressing fan, but this one was light, refreshing and had a little sweetness. It was also really great with their Afghan bread. I don’t think I would have ever gotten that dressing if I had a choice, but I’m glad we got to try it because it was so tasty and unique. Ours came with some sauteed raisins and carrots on top. The dinning room manager told us the carrots and raisins are usually served on top of rice, but they wanted us to try them. They were perfectly cooked, but I don’t love raisins so I didn’t love them on top of my salad.

Chutneys (from left: cilantro and jalapeno, cucumber/mint/apple yogurt dressing, tomato and pimento)
Chutneys (from left: cilantro and jalapeno, cucumber/mint/apple yogurt dressing, tomato and pimento)

Along with the bread we got to try two chutneys. The cilantro, jalapeno one was not my favorite (the soap thing again), but if you like cilantro it would probably be a good choice. The tomato, pimento one tasted less tomatoey than I was expecting. It had a unique, tangy flavor that I enjoyed, but I preferred dipping the bread in the cucumber, yogurt dressing!

Ashak
Ashak

Our first dish, which is actually listed as an appetizer on the dinner menu, was ashak. It is a steamed dumpling filled with scallions and topped with a meat or veggie sauce and yogurt. We got a meat and veggie combo. I’m not sure what made this dish so special, but it was by far my favorite. The dumplings were flatter than what I was expecting and had an egg-noodle quality to them. They were the perfect base for the flavorful veggie and meat sauces. The dish isn’t initially spicy, but a great flavorful spice hits once you’ve had a couple bites. The yogurt on top adds a fresh, cool taste and texture to the dish. Ashak has the consistency of chili with noodles, but the flavors are so much more developed and savory…it felt like an Afghani comfort food!

Lamb special
Lamb special

We also got to try the owner’s lamb special. I don’t have much info on what was in the lamb special (you know…it’s secret!), but it was very tasty. I don’t love lamb, but this lamb was perfectly cooked and was smothered in this really flavorful sauce that I’m guessing was tomato based. There were a ton of spices in the sauce that blended well, but it wasn’t hot spicey.

Stuffed chicken with cream sauce
Stuffed chicken with cream sauce

We also got to try the two types of stuffed chicken they serve at Kabul. The first one was the stuffed chicken with cream sauce. The basil cream sauce with pepper and mushrooms had an unexpected, but extremely appreciated tang to it. Michelle and I could have licked the plate of this one clean. The sauce was just so unexpectedly light and flavorful for a mushroom cream sauce. The chicken was stuffed with spinach, feta cheese and mushrooms and was a perfect vessel for the amazing sauce.

Stuffed chicken with raspberry sauce
Stuffed chicken with raspberry sauce

The second one was stuffed with the same ingredients, but came with a raspberry burgundy reduction sauce on top. I don’t love sweet fruit sauces with my savory entrees, so this one was definitely not my favorite. But if you like sweeter sauces, you would probably love this lighter version of the stuffed chicken.

kabul signFOOD NOTES: Don’t forget about Kabul in it’s new second-floor location. The new location boasts a full bar, a simple, welcoming atmosphere, and great windows for people watching! The traditional soup, bread and chutneys are great ways to start the meal, but make sure your Kabul experience includes the extremely unique and hearty ashak dish. Ashak could be an appetizer split by the table or an entire entree for one person. The stuffed chicken topped with the best and most uniquely flavored cream sauce I’ve ever had is also a must.

Paoli is home to upscale gallery, tasty cafe

Creamery Cafe
Creamery Cafe
Artisan Gallery
Artisan Gallery

I have been a fan of Paoli for over a year now with its two-block radius, half a dozen restaurants and shops and winding river. The Paoli cafe is one of my favorite places to eat in south central Wisconsin. I had explored most of the other shops in the area, but not the Creamery. The Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe is an upscale art gallery and classic cafe housed in an old cream factory along the Sugar River. The gallery is the main attraction with beautiful art displayed alongside the old-school charm of a dairy factory. In the back of the gallery is a small cafe that seats about 20 and serves up an interesting menu with relaxing views of the Sugar River.

Creamery dining room
Creamery dining room

The cafe was quiet except for one other person the day we went, but the owner said it’s standing room only once the snow melts. After a tour of the gallery we got to try two of the owner’s favorite options on the menu: a spicy carrot and tomato soup and a spinach and kalamata pesto sandwich.

Creamery carrot, tomato soup
Creamery carrot, tomato soup

The spicy carrot and tomato soup had a great flavor. It was spicy and creamy, and had a good texture. Sometimes pureed soup gets too runny, but this soup was thick and had some hearty chunks in it. The one downfall of the soup were the huge chunks of blue cheese on top (mind you, I don’t like blue cheese normally). Once the blue cheese chunks were removed I thoroughly enjoyed the soup.

Creamery kalamata pesto sandwich
Creamery kalamata pesto sandwich

As for the spinach kalamata pesto sandwich, it was perfectly grilled on tangy sourdough bread. The sandwich had spinach, basil, kalamata olives, walnuts, roasted garlic with sundried tomatoes and fontina cheese. The kalamata olives, walnuts and roasted garlic were made into a type of pesto and spread on the sandwich. The sundried tomatoes were plump and flavorful. Fontina cheese doesn’t have much of a flavor so it didn’t add much. I would prefer a nice slice of cheddar or swiss…something with a little flavor. The sandwich was exceptionally good dipped in the spicy carrot and tomato soup. The sandwich usually comes with a mixed green salad or a seasonal side, but we got it with the rosemary fingerling breakfast potatoes. I’m not a huge fan of rosemary so I’m a bit biased, but they definitely could have used a little extra flavor, like salt.

Artisan Gallery
Artisan Gallery

FOOD NOTES: The Creamery Cafe menu offers upscale salads and sandwiches amidst a big-city art gallery and quaint views of the Sugar River. The soup and salad we tried had unique ingredients and were pretty tasty. The sandwich was a little heavy and the breakfast potatoes were not impressive, but the soup had an exceptionally good flavor. The rest of the menu looks promising, but I’m not sure going through the hassle of looking interested in art would be worth trying the other options.