Kabul House: Gateway to Cuisine With a History
Family reopens restaurant to bring a vibrant combination of the best dishes from Afghanistan, elsewhere in the world.
Our food critique was off last week so we thought we'd showcase Kabul House again, mainly because it was recently named one of the best restaurants in the Chicagoland area by LTHForum.com. Enjoy!
Sometimes the Internet gets it right.
On a venue that sometimes seems so given over to trash talking, complaints and anonymous insults, it's refreshing to see people happy and in agreement. Out of nowhere in a recent Patch article for this column, the conversation excitedly turned to Kabul House.
Recently reopened in downtown Skokie, this long beloved restaurant was off the scene for close to two and a half years. A 'Check Please' alum, regional foodies were well aware of its absence. The restaurant was missed: this thread at the LTHForum tracked the restaurant when it was open, then about to reopen in another location, even reporting to one another on the state of construction.
We started with the two appetizers we'd read about most. The Mantoo were steamed dumplings bursting with ground beef, peas and onions and beautifully presented under a tomato meat sauce with a creamy, fresh yogurt ($6). Hot, aromatic and flavorful, the four delicious dumplings were nearly a meal in themselves--each one requiring two or three large forkfuls to finish off. The other appetizer, the $6 Kadu--sweet baby pumpkin cooked in a light honey and onion mixture--was amazing. The pumpkin was presented mashed, and topped with yogurt as well. The combination of colors here--the dabs of red, green and black flecks--whether intentionally or not brought to mind the flag of Afghanistan, only fitting for two of the best-known dishes of the country.
For entrees, we tried two other nationally famous dishes, the Qabili Palau ($13), which was seasoned lamb chunks served under a bed of rice sweetened with carrots and raisins. The long grain rice hid what almost seemed like an endless amount of the tender meat, cooked perfectly. We also tried the vegetarian platter ($11), a combination of sauteed spinach, eggplant, okra and pumpkin, also served with a side of seasoned rice. Though the okra snapped and the eggplant was fresh, it was the expert preparation that made this dish. The kitchen knows what it's doing.
And it should. The current owner and face of Kabul House is Akmal Qazi, the son of the original founder. Qazi manages the dining room and takes care of the marketing and customer satisfaction.
"This frees up my dad to be where he really wants to be, with the food," said Qazi. "The food we serve is actually better than it was before because it's all he has to worry about."
Qazi likes to talk about Afghan cuisine in the context of Afghanistan's history: "Afghanistan is right there in the middle of Asia, between the west and the east."
It's difficult not to draw parallels to its presence here in Skokie, bringing the flavors of the Middle East into a new region.
"We picked up a lot of things and incorporated them into our food," Qazi added. "I really think Afghani food is the best in the world."