Photos by Arden Scott and Samantha Mellman, Words by Samantha Mellman
Boston truly is an international city with worldly foods. When I asked my friend Saba, a BU student from Pakistan if she wanted to grab some dinner, she mentioned Ariana Restaurant. She said it would be the real deal: no American-fusion bologna. Besides shawarma in Israel, which barely counts, I’ve never had Afghan food before. After further thought I knew I had to give it a try, and up the B line to Harvard Avenue I went.
Right across the street from the White Horse Tavern and Sunset Grill and Tap is Ariana. It’s a small and cozy restaurant. Setting the mood for our dining experience, a beautiful, traditional Afghan dress was pinned up against one wall. To start the meal, a server brought us a bowl of bread, called naan. It was a soft and thin flour bread that was paired with three sauces: yogurt, a spicy red sauce, and a mild, cilantro-based sauce. Even with just butter the naan was very tasty.
We ordered an appetizer to split called Kaddo. Kaddo is a slice of pumpkin seasoned with sugar that is pan-friend then baked, served over a garlic sauce and finished off with a ground beef sauce. I would never have assumed that pumpkin and beef sauce could make such a great combination! The pairing of the sweet, velvety pumpkin and the savory meat sauce was addictive.
For our main dishes, Saba went with the signature Afghani dish called Qabili. It is a blanket of Pallow rice served on top of Halal lamb shank with raisins and julienned carrots on top. Pallow rice is a long grain rice that is boiled and baked, creating a fluffy rice that is much different than the familiar sticky, clumpy kind we get at Asian restaurants. I ordered the Mantu, basically a Middle Eastern version of ravioli, made with homemade pastry shells filled with onions and beef, served on yogurt and topped with carrots, yellow split peas and a beef sauce. The meat had a defining spice to it, possibly one of the many traditional Afghan spices, such as cardamom or coriander, that leaves a tingle on your tongue.
Afghan food has a distinct style all of its own. The colors and the food pop off the plate and then straight into your mouth. I found a whole new passion for yogurt sauce while eating every last piece of my dumplings. I also tried a bite of scrumptious lamb in the Qabili, which left me craving lamb for days after. If you’re getting tired of the typical Italian or Asian dining experience, come to Ariana and behold another world of culinary cuisine.
129 Brighton Ave., Allston
Dinner Sun -Thu 5 -10; Fri, Sat 5 – 11