Restaurants & Bars

Parwana in Santa Cruz (review)

Carb Lover | Oct 11, 200412:48 PM

Went to this Afghan restaurant on Fri. night in SC/Seabright area. It was hopping--not only with diners but with a couple of very spirited belly dancers who gave a brief show. The hostess was apologetic about the 15 min. wait, but we were happy to walk around the neighborhood, peruse the Rio theatre schedule. Usually a good sign when one has to wait as opposed to a bunch of empty tables to choose from.

Never had Afghan food before as I recalled, but dishes sounded familiar to things I have eaten in other cuisines. The complimentary bread (like a dense and yeasty foccacia) with green pesto (I think made out of parsley) was yummy. The pesto was tart with the pungency of fresh garlic and parsley. We ordered the "Afghan pizza" (~$7.50) as an appetizer--so gigantic that it was spilling over both sides of the plate (definitely serves 4). Flattened dough filled with a thin layer of mashed potato and scallions fried to crisp perfection accompanied by a tangy yogurt sauce. I was already starting to fill up...

My husband ordered the lamb kabob plate with seasoned rice ($12.50). I had the chicken stewed in tomato sauce with plain basmati rice ($10.50). Both dishes also came with 2 small side "salads" that were more like condiments to cool the palate. The lamb was skillfully charred and infused with bold flavor; however, the meat was a little tough and more well-done then we are used to. It was still tasty though. The chicken had that slow-cooked tenderness and the tomato sauce was rich and earthy--the kind of dish that tastes even better 2 days later (and it did!). The mound of rice on each plate was huge and flavorful--earthy, nutty, and glistening with a hint of oil. Would have preferred to have less rice and more meat though. We were so full by the end, absolutely no room for dessert. So we had a couple of drinks--morrocan mint tea and Turkish style coffee. Tea was too heavy on the sugar and too scant on the mint. Coffee was a bit weak and not fresh tasting.

Other aspects: decor is warm and inviting; atmosphere is very intimate; belly dancers were fun and livened up the place; service was good. Even though we are die-hard carnivores, some dishes were vegetarian and vegan friendly. Overall, a unique place to dine in SC when you want a change from your mainstays. Given that it's in our neighborhood, we will definitely be back.

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