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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.

Cheers,

Aaron

Kabul House
3320 West Dempster Avenue (this location closed)
Skokie, IL 60076
847-763-9930

Al-Khaymeih
4742 N. Kedzie
773-583-0999
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Kabul House also has a second location closer to downtown:

1629 N Halsted
(312) 751-1029
http://www.kabulhouse.com/

I haven't been to this second location, but I hope it's just as good as their Skokie location. I love their pumpkin dish in particular.
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I just went to the Kabul House on Halsted and it was delicious. I too had the mantu and the table had kebabs all around. Moist, flavorful, and delicious. We had the lamb, chicken, and the equivalent of koubideh (ground meat kebab). The koubideh said it was made with beef, but it tasted like lamb. Regardless, it was a fine meal. I've also had their carryout which works well too.
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How would you rate this against Noon O'Kabob?
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Nearly a year since Aaron's initial post and over two years since my last visit, petit pois and I found ourselves hungry in Skokie on a non-descript weeknight. I suggested Kabul House and my suggestion was quickly ratified.

We were one of only three occupied tables and we were quickly served salad and bread, which I found forgettable. The flavor and texture of their bread is disagreeable to me, almost reminiscent of a bad frozen breadstick. Fortunately, our meal rocketed uphill from there.

Appetizers of kadu, a spiced pumpkin mash, and aushak, scallion filled dumplings, were excellent. The pumpkin is sweet and spiced with hints of cardamom, mashed almost to a puree, and topped with a drizzle of tangy yogurt. It made an excellent appetizer, certainly awakening my taste-buds, but I thought it would make a better dessert paired with some tea and cookies.

I ordered the "Super Combo Special", a garish name that sticks out like a sore thumb amidst a list of dishes like murgh koubediah, shami, and qabili palau, which petit pois ordered.

The super combo is something that is seen at many Middle Eastern restaurants, an impressive plate of kebabs: chicken, lamb, and ground beef. The most pleasing thing about this dish was that each type of meat was juicy and perfectly spiced and, most importantly, all tasted different from each other. Each bite was a pleasure, and it reminded me why the notion of "combos" exist. I was also especially pleased that the ground beef was not overcooked to the point of being dry and crumbly. It was moist and perfectly medium rare.

The qabili palau is an excellent braised lamb shank, served under a mound of rice. As everything else was, it was perfectly seasoned: Slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and full of lamb flavor.

What more can I say other than the fact that I'm ashamed that I haven't spent more time at Kabul House. Truly an excellent meal.

Best,
Michael
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Having been a regular at Kabul House since they were Afghan cuisine cum LaRosa Pizzeria (Main Street, Evanston), I can second the previous posts praising the consistently delicious food. But for me, what is truly extraordinary about the place is the generous welcome provided by the Qazi family. In the Main Street location, they regularly fed those seeking charity. Their compassion extended to this exhausted diner one evening, when I arrived past closing time and Mr. Qazi kept the kitchen open for me alone. On another occasion, they catered a party on a Monday night though their kitchen is usually closed on Monday. I can't say enough about the warmth of their welcome. Eating at Kabul House is like going home. . .
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#7
Posted November 23rd 2005, 10:42pm
I want to add another word of praise for Kabul House. I stopped by today for lunch and had the shami kabab plate. I ordered one beef and one chicken. They are described as ground meat with mild afghani seasonings that are cooked on a skewer over an open fire. These were served with Challow -- seasoned rice with raisins and some carrot shavings. There also was charbroiled tomatoes and green peppers. This was preceded by a small salad with a flavorful yoghurt dressing and afghan bread. The shami was accompanied by a mild green sauce that, I believe was mint flavored. Aaron describes the green sauce as "chili-ish", but I didn't get any flavor of chilis

They have lunch specials for $6-8. Mine, because I had 2 skewers instead of one, was $9. With one skewer it would have been $6.45.

The service was prompt and attentive, the decor was very good, and the soft background music was soothing, but not conversation impairing. The decor was especially impressive with Middle Eastern rugs on the floor; paintings, photos and small rugs on the walls, including one with a woven map of Afghanistan showing the provinces with English and arabic. Very unique. Each table had a ceramic vase with a small bouquet of fresh carnations in it -- an elegant touch. The only negative for me was the glass table tops which were over white tablecloths with beautiful gold embroidery. I can't recall another restaurant I've been to that has glass over tablecloths, most restaurants that cover their tablecloths use paper. I don't like either but at least you could see the gold embroidery.

There were only a few tables occupied between 11:30 and 12:30, but then again it was the day before Thanksgiving. We need to support establishments of this type.

Overall, a wonderful experience. They're doing everything right and it's a good value.

Jesper

Kabul House
3320 W. Dempster Ave. (just west of McCormick)
Skokie
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Jesper wrote:The only negative for me was the glass table tops which were over white tablecloths with beautiful gold embroidery. I can't recall another restaurant I've been to that has glass over tablecloths, most restaurants that cover their tablecloths use paper.


Glass (or plexiglass) covers are SOP at quite a few Mexican places that I've been to.
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Steve Z.

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:cry: I was just trying to make plans for a birthday celebration tomorrow night, and called to make reservations at the Halsted location of Kabul House, only to find out that it's closed permanently.

So, any other good Afghani restaurants in the city? Skokie seems a bit far to go... I found Afghan House on Devon--is it any good?
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HI,

Unless you are without a car, the location on Dempster is really not far away from the city. Just a block or so east is Evanston, is that really far?

I don't know about the other place mention, though if you go we'd love a report. If you do go to Kabul House on Dempster, I don't think you will be sorry.

Regards,
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There's a thread on the Devon Afghan place:
http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=1828

VI liked it very much!
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I thought the Afghan restaurant on Devon had closed. I would call before going there.

Jesper
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Somebody must have slipped something in my grandmother's oatmeal this past Sunday because she agreed to have dinner at an Afghani restaurant, completely unknown to her. Normally dinner occurs at safer, more familiar options like The Bagel or Myron & Phil's.

After my persistent claims of "it's meat and rice, you'll like it", she gave in and we were off to Kabul House. She got very quiet and her face soured as we walked in. KH has a fragrant cooking odor akin to an Indian restuarant, unfamiliar to my grandmother.

We started with a plate of mantu, which are among the softest and most flavorful dumplings to be had. My grandmother ate dutifully and finally spoke up: "I don't know what's in it, but it's delicious." I told her it was meat, onion, and spices and she looked at me like I just told her that I can lay golden eggs.

I ordered the murgh koubediah (ground chicken skewers--a chicken kefta), which surprised petit pois. "That doesn't sound like something you'd order", she said. I was glad I did. This dish lived up to, and exceeded my already high expectations of the flavors at Kabul House. These skewers were spicy (not hot) without being overpowering, tangy without being acidic, and moist without being oily. It's four days later and I'm still thinking about them.

I've said it before, but Kabul House is one of those places that I don't get to enough.

My grandmother was very pleased with her shami (ground beef skewers--kefta) and I feel like I have a little more free reign with Sunday night suggestions.

Best,
Michael
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eatchicago wrote: I told her it was meat, onion, and spices and she looked at me like I just told her that I can lay golden eggs.

Michael,

This had both Ellen and I laughing out loud.

:)

Enjoy,
Gary
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I thought the Afghan restaurant on Devon had closed.


It seems to have closed and reopened with new management, according to the Reader.
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eatchicago wrote:I've said it before, but Kabul House is one of those places that I don't get to enough.l

Michael, even though you took the time to say it again, I'd like to chime in, because I followed a long train of thought down that line just last night. The mantu figured prominently in my musings. But there was more to it than that. I almost get choked up whenever I eat there, and this even happens when I order for take out. My daughter always asks for food from Kabul house immediately upon returning home from school.

Your grandmother's reaction clued me in to the possibility that this is one of those rare--and-becoming-rarer places where the food is prepared with love. It is an alchemical ingredient, sometimes instantly recognizable, yet myterious and elusive. Your grandmother must have tasted this. And knowing Abdul Qazi and his wife for over 10 years, I find it surprising that it took me so long to figure it out. Thanks. I just got it.
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Mike G wrote:
I thought the Afghan restaurant on Devon had closed.


It seems to have closed and reopened with new management, according to the Reader.


Maybe its my imagination but I think Rob/VI mentioned this quite a while back (in response to my knocking the place), maybe the reader writers should consult with him? Has it changed hands twice, or just the once he mentioned some time last year.

I hadn't managed to get there after he mentioned the change of hands so can't say myself, Anyone been there recently. I do remember that they had a number of dishes that weren't available at kabul house
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zim wrote:Maybe its my imagination but I think Rob/VI mentioned this quite a while back (in response to my knocking the place), maybe the reader writers should consult with him? Has it changed hands twice, or just the once he mentioned some time last year.

Zim,

As Rob points out in his July 2005 post Afghan Restaurant changed hands. It's my understanding it has changed hands once again, making this the third owner in the same space/name. Far as the Reader review, they don't say when that particular review was written. It's not just the Reader though, none of the newspapers or magazines provide dates for their reviews, at least none I'm aware of.

Rob also posted about Afghan Restaurant under the first owner, as did I.

Enjoy,
Gary
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G Wiv
Afghan Restaurant (Review)
November 07, 2003

Afghan Restaurant is a new, only a couple of weeks old, addition to Devon Street. Set in a single storefront, next to Turkish Grocery, Afghan Restaurant is clean and well lit with nicely spaced tablecloth covered tables, albeit tablecloths covered with clear plastic. (think your Great Aunt's couch)

When I walked in for an early lunch on Wednesday they, man and woman who I am assuming are both married and the owners, seemed surprised to see me, in fact the woman came up to me at the entryway and gave me a very curious look. When I inquired as to lunch her husband came around the counter, where the grill for kababs etc are cooked, and they had a brief consultation.

Just as it seemed as if they were about to have a full scale argument with each other, I asked as to the lunch special, which served to remind them I was still standing in front of them. This was actually humorous, in a very odd way. The special of the day was lamb shank, sounds good to me, let's eat.

Food to prepare served as Round over and they returned to their respective corners, task at hand. From that point on everything, and I mean every little detail, from water being constantly refilled by the silent and stealthy busboy, to the wonderful spicy pureed jalapeno condiment, was above reproach.

First up was okra/tomato soup, full flavored with halved baby okra and the occasional small piece of garlic, a nice starter. I was also give a basket of grilled flat bread and a small salad. The salad was not dressed, there are cruets of oil and vinegar on the table, and, while a simple mix of iceberg, tomato and cucumber and jalapeno, was quite fresh.

On to the star of the meal, lamb shank, incredibly delicious lamb shank. The lamb shank was served on a bed of basmati rice, each grain individual with a faint buttery flavor and was tender and flavorful. The lamb shank, in addition to being so tender that it fell apart with just a touch of the fork, was huge, I'm talking bigger than the leg from a 30-lb Thanksgiving turkey huge.

I am not familiar, to say the least, with Afghan food so I am unable to say what, if anything, made the lamb shank uniquely Afghan, though there was a dusting of sumac on the lamb shank and a shaker of sumac on the table. The lamb shank special, including soup, salad, rice and bread was $7.95.

I'm quite looking forward to exploring Afghan Restaurant's menu.

Enjoy,
Gary

Afghan Restaurant
2818 W Devon
Chicago, IL
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G Wiv wrote:
zim wrote:Maybe its my imagination but I think Rob/VI mentioned this quite a while back (in response to my knocking the place), maybe the reader writers should consult with him? Has it changed hands twice, or just the once he mentioned some time last year.

Zim,

As Rob points out in his July 2005 post Afghan Restaurant changed hands. It's my understanding it has changed hands once again, making this the third owner in the same space/name. Far as the Reader review, they don't say when that particular review was written. It's not just the Reader though, none of the newspapers or magazines provide dates for their reviews, at least none I'm aware of.

Rob also posted about Afghan Restaurant under the first owner, as did I.

Enjoy,
Gary


Thanks Gary for the further info, my impression and maybe I'm wrong is that for the major nespapers there's less of a gap in restaurant review appearing and when they actually are done than can be for the reader - of course though who do this writing professionally and semiprofessionally would be better able to answer that question than I.
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zim wrote:Thanks Gary for the further info, my impression and maybe I'm wrong is that for the major nespapers there's less of a gap in restaurant review appearing and when they actually are done than can be for the reader - of course though who do this writing professionally and semiprofessionally would be better able to answer that question than I.

Zim,

I can't comment on past practices, but I do know that in the past 6-months or so the Reader has concentrated heavily on both updating and adding new restaurants to it's database.

Enjoy,
Gary
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Josephine wrote:Your grandmother's reaction clued me in to the possibility that this is one of those rare--and-becoming-rarer places where the food is prepared with love. It is an alchemical ingredient, sometimes instantly recognizable, yet myterious and elusive. Your grandmother must have tasted this. And knowing Abdul Qazi and his wife for over 10 years, I find it surprising that it took me so long to figure it out. Thanks. I just got it.


Josephine,

I could not agree more.

Since you know the Qazis, have you ever asked them about any traditional Afghani dishes that they have left off their menu? Perhaps any traditional holiday or celebratory dishes? After we left, I put this question on my list of things to discuss with them during my next visit.

Best,
Michael
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Michael,
I have not asked them this question. Most recently, I have been following the story of the closing of the place near Steppenwolf, and the ensuing business decisions. Usually, we just talk family and community stuff (or girl talk if it is Mrs. Qazi, who is as charming as her husband.)
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Josephine wrote:Michael,
Most recently, I have been following the story of the closing of the place near Steppenwolf, and the ensuing business decisions.


Can you relate the story? I assume it was lack of business? Which is sad, because it was a great to go there before a show and have dinner.
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leek wrote:Can you relate the story? I assume it was lack of business? Which is sad, because it was a great to go there before a show and have dinner.


I'll just say that it seems parking limitations were a prominent issue. They do a big weeknight carryout business in Skokie. Still, my impression was that they are open to a second location if they find the right one.
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Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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I'm wondering if this place gets much traffic? I went with a group for lunch today and I'm already craving my next visit. The place was nearly empty at 12:30. I had the veggie combo, which came with a generous serving of kadu, the wonderfully spiced pumpkin mash with yogurt sauce, as well as spinach and stewed eggplant. It came with a huge plate of rice with raisins and carrots, and a side of cilantro-mint sauce. We all finished our plates and are planning our next trip back.
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When I've been there, dinner business has usually been pretty good - so much so that I haven't been willing to wait in line on an occasional weekend. Not so sure about lunch. Helps that it's BYOB.
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Glad to hear they get crowds in the evenings. At lunchtime it's usually depressingly empty.
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#28
Posted November 29th 2007, 10:02pm
Another LTHer wished to meet up north so I suggested a place that had been on my try list, but too far away to ever make it to the top: Kabul House. We started, per Eatchicago's post above, with kadu, sweet pumpkin in a yogurt sauce flecked with-- oregano? Italian seasoning? It was oddly suggestive of takeout pizza due to that, but still, the sweetness of the pumpkin shone through:

Image

Next were two kinds of dumplings, the meat-filled mantu:

Image

And the scallion-filled aushak:

Image

I liked both of these a great deal, the simplicity of meat or vegetable dumplings lifted to a higher level by the discordant sour yogurt note. Alas, another appetizer choice, bowlani, was not available that day.

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Lamb skewers followed. I would say this is a little better example of this nearly inescapable dish than at, say, Reza's, but I still rarely get excited by kebabs in and of themselves.

Image

The meal ended with a very sweet and simplistic pudding-like dish topped with cardamom and a cherry; I enjoyed a few bites of it but frankly I would agree with Eatchicago above that the pumpkin appetizer was a more interesting dessert than this was. Kabul House has a nice, classic ethnic restaurant feel, the owner was gracious and friendly (partly because we'd invaded the part of the restaurant he uses as his office-- hey, the light was better there) and the server was friendly albeit a bit off in her own world (she managed to unroll my silverware for me from my napkin without noticing that I, unlike my companion, was missing a fork). An interesting place with some striking items, well worth a visit.
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As noted here, Kabul House is currently closed, but in the process of relocating.
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LAZ wrote:As noted here, Kabul House is currently closed, but in the process of relocating.

Thanks for the heads up in this link because we had been talking about going back soon. The ceiling did look pretty bad the last time I was there, which I thought was a shame given how good the food is and how they had obviously tried to create a good atmosphere. I can't wait to see the new location and decor (and eat some pumpkin)!
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