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The Helmand
430 Broadway St./Montgomery, SF
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From 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.



"Oh my God...this is one of the best pieces of beef I've ever had in my life." — Judge Turner

The 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.

Our 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.

My 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.

So, 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 delights.



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.

I don't 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.

Thanks to reader-eater Danielle for suggesting The Helmand.






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