With appointments in Fremont last week, I had a chance to stop in Little Kabul and have lunch at one of the Afghan eateries. I hope to try them all in the near future, however, for this first look, I picked the one that Windy couldn't find, De Afghanan Kabob House. I almost missed it too, as it truly is a hole-in-the-wall, partially hidden by the theatre facade. Its larger sibling, De Afghanan Restaurant (www.deafghanan.com), is on the other side of the former movie theatre.
Three glass-topped round tables squeezed in front of the grill and counter can accommodate about 10 diners. The constantly ringing phone and the row of styrofoam containers packed with food lined up on the counter point to a healthy take-out business. I was glad that I got there on the early side, 11:45am, to be the first sit-down customer ahead of the lunch rush. The downside of this is that there was no rice available or green chutney. These were shuttled in later from the restaurant's kitchen, but too late for me. I asked for a menu and got a shake of the head that there were none. I'd heard the bolani were good here and I could see the chapli kabobs cooking on the flat top, so I ordered one of each.
I took a seat where I could see part of the cooking process. A beefy mixture was swatted quickly into a patty shape, slapped onto the flat top, and pressed down hard. The female cook rolled some sticky dough very thin stretching it into a giant oval. This bolani was going to be much bigger than I had anticipated! She spread a creamy potato mixture flecked with green over the dough for a filling. It was held down on the flat top by several irons. Golden and blistered on both sides, the woman then cut it into 12 squares of roughly 4"x4" and slid them onto a Chinese-style serving platter.
The aroma of the chives and the fresh-griddled scent were fantastic. I couldn't help but take a first bite when it was too hot to handle, and got the Afghani equivalent of pizza mouth. But it was worth it for the elastic chewiness and delicate crispness of the dough and near molten creamy texture of the herbed potato filling. The cold housemade yogurt served alongside acted as a salve.
The chapli turned out to be TWO crusty patties served on Afghan bread with a salsa fresca-like condiment and some deliciously tart and salty marinated potato and garbanzo bean salad. The surface of the chapli had a satisfying crunch surrounding the moist ground beef interior. It had a kick to it from red chili flakes and robust spices. The spicing was more revved up than the versions at Chopan in Concord or Darbar in SF with a primary hotness versus the complexity of the other versions. I liked it, but it did suffer in comparison without some accompanying chutney.
My last surprise here was the bill, $17.52. This was enough food for two or more, yet I had assumed that prices in such a modest space would be lower than this. When I stopped at the restaurant to pick up a menu, the same order in much more comfortable surroundings would have only cost me a dollar more.
De Afghanan Kabob House
37405 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94536