start to finish, a treat to be had in beautiful North Beach. It was
a Saturday night and although we got there as the doors opened, a table
for three -- without a reservation -- took some searching by the host.
I recommend a reservation -- by the time we left the dining room was
locked up. I wasn't sure what we were in for, never having taken part
in an Afghani meal. I'm still not quite sure what some of the goings-on
-- foodwise that is -- were all about, except that it was all tasty.
The appetizers all
looked tempting and a nice thing is that many of them are also served
as main courses, for those that need more of a good thing. We enjoyed
the Mantwo, pastry shells filled with onions and beef. Somewhat reminiscent
of the old potsticker, but potsticker it's not. It's served with yogurt
and topped with carrots, yellow split peas and beef sauce -- excellent.
We also partook of the Kaddo, pan-fried-then-baked pumpkin. Sound good?
Well, hold on. Sprinkle some sugar on that and serve it up with a yogurt
garlic sauce and top it with that ground beef sauce. Sounds crazy but
if you like sweet (and it is) with the savory, it's quite a gem.
My entree, one of
the cheaper on the menu, was delicious. I had the Koufla Challow, your
basic yummy balls of meat seasoned and served with sundried tomato,
hot peppers, green peas, and fresh tomato sauce over rice. Sounds simple
and it was -- simply great. I could have used a few more meatballs though
-- two is never enough. The Afghani meatball is a nice addition to the
others I've already had the pleasure of eating -- you know, the ones
from Italy and Sweden. My fellow judges seemed quite happy about their
meals. The beef and lamb were superb. Enjoy your night out in North
Beach and make that reservation at Helmand.
my God...this is one of the best pieces of beef I've ever had in my
life." Judge Turner
Helmand ain't just a river in Afghanistan, it's also an excellent restaurant
in North Beach. Go there immediately, you won't be sorry. The Court
sure as hell wasn't. Although we were a little ashamed of our casual
attire. Not super-duper fancy there, but no taco-stand, either. I never
had Afghani food before, and I must say it is unique. I guess a blend
of Arab, Mediterranean, Indian, and Pakistani styles might describe
it. Which makes sense geographically.
appetizers were surprising and delicious. Big dumplings filled with
onions and beef, with a yogurty beef sauce. Slab of pumpkin with another
yogurt-garlic-beef sauce. Wild and tasty. Also present on the table
were three bowls of condiment sauces: red, white and green. Red was
hot and peppery, white was cool and yogurty, and green was some kind
of oily herb concoction. I don't think it was cilantro, even though
that is a prevalent herb in Afghani food. Maybe parsley? Those apps
run around four to five bucks and are available in vegetarian versions.
In fact, the menu was chock-full of vegetarian fare.
main dish, Theeka Kabab, blew my fragile mind to pieces. Undoubtedly
one of the most perfectly prepared pieces of beef I've ever tasted.
The cut of meat may vary, but mine was prime rib, marinated in some
heavenly stuff that probably included sun-dried tomato, onions, peppers,
and God knows what else. Likely some of their favorite spices like cardamom,
turmeric and cumin. Charred and coated outside with savory spicy goodness,
tender and pink inside, all soaked through with the marinade of the
gods. Perfect. AND, there was this pile of beige stuff on the plate
(a thick sauce, I guess, maybe made with onions or chick peas) that
complimented the kabab's already amazing flavor, giving it this earthy
aftertaste that further blew my mind. Also on the plate was some very
cinnamony rice (which was fine) and some grilled onions, tomatoes, and
peppers. So very, very good. That dish ran me 15 bucks, and was well
worth it. Entrees range from around 10 to 20 dollars or so. Not cheap,
but I tell you, this place is serving up some serious gourmet treats.
get on down to strip club row in North Beach and partake of those exotic
vittles. If anyone knows of other Afghani restaurants around, please
let us know. I, for one, cannot wait for another taste of those Afghani
You don't usually
think "classy dining" when you go to dinner on Broadway off Columbus
-- you don't think "classy" anything. But walking into Helmand had us
mumbling ashamedly, wondering if we had underdressed. But after that
initial discomfort, we settled in for a uniquely delicious meal.
discuss service much in my reviews -- but man, this was fast! Our appetizers
came almost immediately after we'd ordered, and our entrees came right
on their heels, everything wheeled out on carts. I barely had time to
recover from the shocking Kaddo -- sugary pumpkin covered in ground
beef sauce! The Court shook its collective head over and over about
that one. But it was great! My entree was Sabzi Challow, which was "lamb
with Afgani seasonings" under some sauteed spinach and next to some
rice. Also great, but the winner of the night was Judge Turner's Theeka
Kabab. Meal in and meal out, Turner orders with a marksman's eye --
he's got the gift. He began to gloat, and I felt very small in the presence
of this ordering savant, but he was then very generous with samples,
which we ate up like dogs under the table, and all was right on Broadway.