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Tastes of a Faraway Land

Faryab offers authentic cuisine from Afghanistan.

Perhaps you’ve never tried the cuisine of Afghanistan? If not, it’s time. Sample the some of Afghanistan’s most delicious national dishes at on Cordell Avenue.

Faryab is one of my family’s favorite restaurants. It’s my go-to place when visitors come to town, and I want to expose them to something new and special.  When family visits from New York, Baltimore or California, they always ask to eat at "that Afghan restaurant."

Faryab is only open for dinner. It’s almost always filled with people, because many smart locals have made this a favorite hangout, including newsman Gordon Peterson and poet Linda Pastan.

Afghan recipes are inventive and many of the dishes, lucious. Mantu is a signature dish at Faryab. These meat dumplings are a perfect trinity of ground beef, flat egg noodles and tart yogurt. The same ingredients are used in another dish--Aush--a soup that almost everyone loves. I say this because even my extremely particular 13 year-old says this soup is "the best." We've tried to make it at home, but sadly never replicated this melodious concoction of soft noodles, crumbles of ground beef and a generous dollop of yoghurt in a savory broth. The yogurt melts into the mixture, that is punctuated with bits of mint, carrots and tomatoes.

I seriously doubt servers at Faryab ever cleared a table without finding an empty bowl of Aush and a big smile on the patron’s face. I keep trying to figure out what makes it so delicious. From what I've read, Afghan recipes list several variations of this soup, but all I know is that the chef at Faryab makes a divine bowl of Aush.

I love the vegetarian dishes as well. I am especially enamored by the kabu—a sweet stew of chunky orange pumpkin served with yoghurt and white or brown rice—your choice. I like to order the pumpkin and the baigan, which is a spicier stew made of eggplant, onions and tomatoes. You might also consider ordering sabsi chalow, the hearty spinach dish—dark, pungent and rich with garlic. Be sure to request some flatbread for dipping. All the entrees come with a garden salad of lettuce, slices of carrots, and a tangy yogurt dressing.

For those who prefer to eat familiar dishes, order the lamb kabobs, which are tender and well-spiced, or the less stellar chicken kabobs. Also popular, the aushak, a ravioli-like appetizer made with the typical Afghan ingredients, and the bulanee, a fried triangular pastry filled with potatoes and scallions or ground beef.

Faryab has a shady outdoor garden, but the inside is fairly Spartan. The walls are bright with photos of the Afghan countryside. It can get loud, because the tables are close together. It’s a family-owned restaurant; the owner knows many of his customers. Maybe because of that, there’s no restaurant web site. His servers are polite and helpful. We’ve seen people doing take out there too. Unfortunately, this is not a bargain restaurant, but I wish it was, because I would eat there more often. The wine and beer list is unimpressive, and I would avoid the house wines. It’s helpful to make a reservation on the weekends.

This not Middle Eastern, Persian, Mediterranean or Indian—although there are hints of all of these--it’s unique; with memorable dishes which, I think, you will want to try more than once. Faryab is named after a northern province of Afghanistan, but you can go to downtown Bethesda to treat yourself to an exotic meal. 

Renee Sklarew July 14, 2011 at 10:02 PM
One reader smartly suggested that I include the phone number. Faryab's is 301-951-3484.

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