Had a chance to try Helmand tonight for the first time - been on my list for a while. All I can ask is, what's the big deal with this place?
I guess the draw is that Afghani food is different, and maybe the fact that the chef is Karzai's brother (is that true?)
But I cannot imagine it has to do with ...
The food? Nothing was terrible, but nothing was fantastic either. Mind you, I've had fantastic Afghani food before. This was fairly mediocre. The rice was dry and not nearly as moist or flavorful as it should be. The cuts of meat (we tried four different ones, beef and lamb) were a bit dry, and mostly the same. I will say the green cilantro sauce was excellent and I heaped it onto everything ... the bread, the meat, the dessert...
For my money, Ali Baba (Mass Ave near Porter Sq.) has FAR better food. Many of the same dishes, too.
The service? Waiter was nice enough but they were a bit brusque, and forgot one of our dishes. They kept snatching plates away from us before we could finish them. Not professionals.
The decor? One word: dull. I was expecting a bit more from a place with such a high reputation. It doesn't even earn the grungy hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant points; it's just boring. Chairs were strewn randomly about the place, a couple of couches in the front, ugly little fake flowers and fake candles on the tables. Why not spruce it up a bit? Bathrooms were pretty skank, and I felt really sorry for the folks crammed into the back dining room.
To be honest, I was surprised to see how many folks were packing it into this place; lots of folks waiting for tables when we left around 8:30 on a Thursday. For all of the hype, I just don't get it. I was expecting this to be some kind of epiphany (from what I had heard) but was somewhat let down.
Hit up Ali Baba if you want to try great Afghani food without the crowds. I am not sure why they changed the name (used to be Buzkhazhi) but I think the menu is the same as before.