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Restaurants & Bars 4

Salang Pass Chowdown, Little Kabul, Fremont

David Boyk | May 5, 200209:54 AM

Due to the magic of youth and Instant Messenger, I find myself still awake past dawn, so I figure I should post my report of our Chowdown so that people who go to bed at reasonable times can reply if they want.

Cyrus and I arrived late with our friends Sina and Nicole, and when we got to the place, Arlene, Ben, Wade and Richard had polished off a couple of appetizers. Someone handed me a dish of what looked kind of like chicken, with some type of yellow sauce. I took a bite, and it had a soft, pleasant consistency, and a muted but enjoyable taste. Turned out it was maghs (sauteed lamb's brain), so that put me off it a little bit, but it was pretty good as long as I was ignorant. I think there's a lesson there. Other appetizers included mantou, which were very good beef dumplings, with a wrapper like a pierogi's, but naturally with a different filling, and bolani, which was a stuffed bread, like a stuffed naan would be like without being cooked in a tandoor.

We then ordered the entrees. The first dish was chopan kabobs, which were beautifully spiced, tender chunks of lamb on the bone with very good, soft brown rice. Wade and I particularly liked them, I think. The next was sabzi (spinach) with lamb, which was agreed to be good. Sina commented that it was unusual sabzi, and I thought it was quite nice. Wade liked the unusual, lemony chicken curry; nobody remembered ordering the last dish , but it appeared to be lamb, in a dark sauce that seemed to be made from its own fat, and with lovely onions mixed in. That one was my favorite after the chopan kabob. We finished every dish happily, with the exception of the lamb brains, which I think just weirded people out too much.

The table came with a vinegary, slightly sweet red chili paste and a runny, mint chutney of the type commonly seen in Indian restaurants. Cyrus and I both liked the mint chutney, which went very well with the bolani and with the flatbread that we were given in baskets. Ben thought the dogh (salty yogurt drink) was too salty, although he commended its cooing cucumber and cilantro flavors. I liked mine, but I'd never had dogh before. Its saltiness was a little odd to start with, but I got into it after a little bit. Sina thought it wasn't chilled enough, which I agreed with.

After we'd cleared our plates, we ordered a few desserts to share. The faloodeh (rosewater ice cream with vermicelli) was very good, and quite different from the faloodeh I'd had before, from Mashti Malone's in LA (but, I think, available in Persian markets here). This one came in a wide glass, and consisted of a couple of scoops of rosewater ice cream, in ice and vermicelli, with crushed pistachio on top. The firni (rosewater custard with crushed pistachio on top) was delicious but plain, and basically just contained those two flavors, with the smooth consistency you would expect from custard. Everyone agreed it was good, except for Nicole, but her tastes are not as broad as some people's. The baklava was "negligible," according to Wade, and "didn't even register." I think everyone else agreed. I thought it was too dependent on honey, and had a harsh flavor as a result.

Aside from the baklava, though, I think the consensus was that every dish was very good, except maybe the lamb brains, on account of their being brains, rather than how they tasted. The chopan kabobs and the unknown other lamb dish with onions were the standouts, and the bolani was also very popular. The service was adequate, although the waiter refused to give us another pair of chutneys, even though the setup didn't allow us to easily pass the one we had around, because we were sitting on cushions around low tables in a U shape. The decor was pleasant, surprising considering the nondescript exterior. Across the street, too, there was a crowded kabob takeout place that looked and smelled very appealing, and would be worth checking out for someone who hadn't just gorged at Salang Pass.

Salang Pass Restaurant
37462 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94536
(between Peralta Blvd & Central Ave)
(510) 795-9200

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