Kabul 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
FOOD 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.