Afghanistan — we hear about this land-lock country often in the past 10 years due to the war.
Afghan food is mostly seen as a fusion of foods of its neighboring countries, with heavy influence from India distilling into curry dishes such as korma and breads like naans.
Most popular dishes are rice dish called pulao with meat or stew.
My first experience with Afghan food was from Seattle’s Kabul; I remembered it being a delicious meal albeit salty.
Since then, I had come across Bolani from Costco and absolutely fell in love with this simple, healthy and filling food.
When I heard about Ariana in Kirkland, I know I must make my way there.
Occupying an old steak house, Ariana is on the main business street near the lovely water front Marina Park.
Our party sat at the booth, remanent from the steak house and started studying the menu.
When my silky smooth pink Chai arrived it was very strong in cardamom and very sweet — not my preference but not unexpected from Middle Eastern places.
DH and I ordered the roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt sauce, and a “chalau” stew, spinach with beef; while our friend ordered the 2-people share of “The owner’s menu”, a plate of multiple meat kabobs.
We started off with a bread appetizer called Quruti, yogurt-marinated Afghan bread topped with caramelized onions, chopped roasted walnuts with more yogurt and mint.
I love the flavor of Quruti: nutty, sour dairy, sweet, and savoriness from the caramelized onion; yet I did not love that it was cold, and had texture similar to stale bread.
My eggplant was very tasty soft and cooked through with flavors; we moped up all the tomato sauce with the buttery fluffy rice.
The spinach of chalau was cooked with plenty aromatic spices, and the beef was tender; however, the spinach and beef did not seem to have been cooked together, with the beef a little bland with a chalau sauce on it.
I tried the really spicy sauce with large amount of cilantro for my friend’s kabob and it was mouth-watering, and it really went well with the grilled meats.
I trusted that the kabobs were good as my friends’ finished their large amount of food!
I will return to try the mantu, dumplings with ground beef and chopped onions with tomato sauce (and its sister vegetarian version call ashak with scallion and leek filling), perhaps with doogh (a salty yogurt drink with mint) next time.
One note of caution was our service was good but really slow and the food also took a long time, and the food was not as hot as I like them to be.
I will budget more time to eat there when I return.
Ariana serves a lunch buffet which may also be a great venue to try different dishes!