This is a report on Azeen's, the newish Afghani restaurant in Pasadena on Union, just east of Raymond. I found the service to be a little unpolished but the food is quite excellent, I liked it even better than Helmand, the Karzai family-owned place in SF.
My boyfriend and I went for a late weekend dinner (9:30ish) and found the restaurant to be about half full. The decor was quite nice, rather upscale, but the service was rather clumsy. The waiter pulled out a chair for my boyfriend but not for me, and he forgot to bring us a wine and drink menu. When he brought our beer, he just gave us the bottles and glasses without pouring it for us.
We started with Azeen's very delicious version of Aushak, Afghani raviolis filled with scallions and leeks with yogurt sauce paired with a spicy, sour chutney. Usually, the dish has a meat sauce, but they left that off at our request and it tasted great.
For our main course, my boyfriend ordered a chicken kabob and I ordered an eggplant stew. The main courses come with a very ordinary, Western-style green salad with a creamy, tart dressing and very delicious fresh Afghani bread with Kalonji (Nigella) seeds. (The waiter brought everything all at once (bread, salad, main dishes,) which made it a little awkward to manage. I'd vote for ditching the salads altogether.)
The main dishes were absolutely fantastic. The eggplant stew was meltingly soft and had a sweet-sour flavor from tomatoes and vinegar. The chicken kabob was tender and flavorful and came with spiced rice.
Portions were hefty so we were too full to sample the desserts, but they looked interesting: Jaleebis, pudding, and Bakhlava. We will try them next time.
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