A few weeks back on a lovely Saturday afternoon, the family ended up at Kabul House. What a pleasant surprise! Not that it should have been a huge surprise, as the place is no hidden gem and gets uniformly solid reviews. Still, our Albany Park 'hood affords so many solid middle Eastern options that I figured the place would be about on par. Kabul House greatly exceeded my expectations.
Our meal was quite simple. Appetizer of mantu, described on the menu as "ground beef & scallion filled dumplings topped with homemade yogurt, meat sauce & mint". These were amazing. Such a delightful blend of meat, starch, dairy, and spice. Picking up a takeout menu as we left, I noticed a quote from the Tribune's Monica Eng: "One could eat their tasty dumplings all day long..." She wasn't kidding.
I believe my entree was called oabili palau, "lamb mixed with rice, meat sauce, carrots & raisins". One thing I love about little storefront restaurants with modest pretensions is the simple menu descriptions. No Elysian Fields lamb here. Or maybe it was. But at so many of this sort of place, you don't quite know what you're going to get. Maybe you don't quite know what you're going to get at a Chicago Mag top-20 joint, but the descriptions at many of those places try a lot harder to impress you. The simplicity of the descriptions here belie the deliciousness and perfect execution. The lamb was cooked perfectly--tender, flavorful, and complemented by each other perfectly-cooked part of the meal. The rice was perfect, the carrots, the raisins--honestly, the simplicity of the description does the dish great justice. It was quite wonderful.
Kate's chicken kabobs were excellent too. Oftentimes, middle Eastern restaurant chicken is served too dry. Not here.
Oh, and I can't fail to mention the sauces. The mantu was served with a lemony, slightly peppery yogurt sauce--wow, this was good!--and it was a nice complement to the nicely grilled Afghan bread, a slightly thick and doughy flatbread, that I've gotten before at Tony's on Elston, where it was good but not this good. And with the entrees came a green chili-ish sauce, not unlike what you get at City Noor Kebab. Also very good.
Suffice it to say, I really liked this place. And the physical space is really nice too. Part of its charm, perhaps, is that it's a step up, atmosphere-wise, from our more typical City Noor Kabab, Shawerma King, Salaam, Al-Khaymeih neighborhood joints (strangely, we've not done Noon 'O Kebab). But even the food offered more complete greatness than these places.
Another note, we returned recently to Al-Khaymeih for the first time since the remodel. It was markedly improved from our last visit a year ago. Good juicy beef kebabs, nice stuffed lamb/beef fritter something or other, a generous pickle and olive plate that would surely please VI. Quite a nice meal, and the space was greatly improved. But still not as good as Kabul House.
3320 West Dempster Avenue (this location closed)
Skokie, IL 60076
4742 N. Kedzie