I had lunch at Bamiyan (26th St. and 3rd) yesterday with a friend. Sadly, it was totally empty when we got there at 1:15. The decor is pretty cool in that somewhat overly-decorated, Epcot way (though for all I know it could be completely authentic). And for those with knees and backs of iron, there are a few super-low tables (with no wells underneath) with cushions for lounging. This place hasn't been mentioned all that much on these boards, so I was pleasantly surprised when two things I ordered turned out to be very, very good. What we got:
Doogh-- Sort of like a salty lassi with a difference. Dried mint mixed in a salty, thin yogurt. It was a bit difficult to make the waitress bring this. Conversation: "And two dooghs." "They're salty." "That's okay." "You won't like them." "We like salty lassis." "These are different." "Can we try them?" Then she brings us a shotglass with two cocktail straws, fully expecting us to be repulsed. Only after we drink and nod enthusiastically does she reluctantly bring two dooghs. I have a special fondness for yogurt drinks, but while I didn't love these, they were fine. (I wonder if they are traditionally served with dried mint rather than fresh-- anyone know?)
Bread-- focaccia-like squares covered with sesame seeds. Crunchy and not overly greasy, but nothing special.
Quorma Baunjuan-- eggplant with onions and tomatoes, roasted before being cooked down into a puree and served with rice on the side. Rice was good, very separate grains and quite flavorful. Eggplant was kind of odd. I liked my first bite quite a bit but I liked each subsequent bite less. It was assertively smoky, but I'm not entirely convinced the smoke was real. I suspect they used liquid smoke, which was why the smokiness got cloying. I probably wouldn't order it again.
Ashak-- steamed scallion "dumplings" topped with yogurt mint sauce with or without meat (we got without). I loved this, although I was somewhat surprised when it arrived. I think of dumplings as plump and steamed or fried, but these were boiled and thin, like ravioli super models. The pasta was obviously freshly-made and perfectly cooked, and the sauce and scallion filling were lick-the-plate good. My friend (who generally doesn't particularly notice food) was raving. We fought over the last bite. I could happily eat this a couple of times a week.
And, for dessert, Shir Birinj-- It's translated as rice pudding, but if that makes you think dense and custardy, you're on the wrong track entirely. It had a soft and subtle flavor, but what really delighted me was how light and airy it was. Somehow, the rice had been liquified with a touch of some liquid (milk? water?) and whipped until it was the same density as egg whites at soft peak (different texture, though). I really liked it, but it might not be everyone's thing.
Total cost: $24 or so for two. We ordered our mains off the lunch portion of the menu, although it looked as though the more expensive dinner dishes ($8.95 to $16.95 for filet mignon kababs) were available as well. One confusing thing is that there seem to be dishes on the takeout menu that aren't on the main menu, so if you go, peruse both to make sure you don't miss anything.
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