104 – 12888 80th Avenue
For the X time, it was time again for a food bloggers dinner! This time, the task to organize this event felt into the hands of Jenny and her suggested place was a bit… Different. Sort of following the trend of visiting non-Chinese places (let’s face it, there are enough, let’s check other restaurants!), Jenny chose an Afghan restaurant… Nope, not Afghan Horsemen near Granville Island. Instead, it was Afghan Chopan in Surrey out of all places!
In addition to Jenny (and R), coming along for this visit were TS and JS and Sherman (who invited Miss Y as well). I guess the fact it was in Surrey was a bit of detraction for people to go. C’mon, people, it isn’t THAT scary, not to mention not all good eats are concentrated in Vancouver or Richmond… *shakes fist!!!*
On the day we went, there was *something* going on on the space next to the restaurant. A wedding? I am not sure if the restaurant was really prepare for this because, at one time, the circuit breaker tripped and left us in the dark! Furthermore, I am not sure if they left enough staff on the restaurant side, as things were quite sparse…
Oh, one really important note: We notice at least a table where the customers were wearing burka (sp?) and… Let’s just say Miss Y felt she was showing a bit too much skin… So, caveat emptor… Anyway, to the food!
JS and TS chose to order tea. I won’t say much about this because they were seated at the other side from where I was seated and I didn’t ask for a sample… Yeah, shame on me…
We started with several appetizers to share. In this case, their bolani (?). Now, here is a small detail: when it arrived at the table, there weren’t enough pieces for all of us. So, another order was made… Except it never came… Did I mention sparse service? Fortunately, somebody chose not to eat their piece and, when I had mine, well, it was just a crispy piece of “bread”. Given I ate it not it is optimal conditions, I won’t say much about it…
Raita and “chatnee”
Mantu and anshak; basically dumplings, the difference being the filling. The mantu has a meat filling; the anshak has a chive filling (though, oddly, a meat sauce on top so it is not necessarily a vegetarian dish). It was OK but, given it was quite similar to a Chinese dumpling, it would be an unfair comparison. However, if I were to compare it to the one I tasted at East is East… Well, I thought that one was better. Not sure if it was because it had a gamier taste but even when it was vegetarian. Oh, well…
Qabeli Pallow – Tender pieces of beef shank beneath Afghan steamed basmati rice with raisins and carrots served with your side order of the day. If you asked me, I would have said “biryani”! Some of the components here, namely the raisins and carrots were token at most. For the most part, it was the beef shank… OK, for some reason, I didn’t think it was beef shank, as it was quite bone-y to be shank and I wasn’t sure it was even beef because of the gamey taste! But, putting those details aside, this rice dish was quite good! Again, as mentioned, if you like biryani, you will like this. Just it is not as heavily season compared to the Indian counterpart.
Served with the qabeli pallow was Afghan naan. Now, this is not a single order. We also got these from our main dish. It was quite… Interesting. It is a bit difficult to compare it to Western type bread because it wasn’t that fluffy; however, it had borderline savoury. If you like crispy breads, this will work well for you; if you prefer fluffy ones, you will not care too much about this.
Another side was eggplants; in this case, it resembled almost an Italian version… Regardless, it was a quite well cooked eggplant dish. Miss Y even asked for “permission” to clean it up! (Darn, I am starting to sound like Sherman and giving Miss Y a hard time!)
Ordering individually was a no-go right away so we focused in ordering a “large” platter. I was suggest the House Special Combo but that got “overruled” (too much food). So, behold, their chef’s table. Truth is that’s a lot of meat! To be more exact, 3 skewers of tekka kebabs (chunks of top beef tenderloin), 3 skewers of chicken kebab, 3 skewers of shami kebab (ground beef), 2 skewers of Chopan kebabs (chunks of lamb) and 2 pieces of chaplee kebab (marinated ground beef). Now, I know the the shami kebab and the chaplee kebab sounds similar but, well, they are not. Now, based on visuals only one is shaped like the regular skewer, while the other was shaped originally in the form of a patty; otherwise, the difference in terms of taste would be that the shami was more heavily spiced.
So, if I had to “guess”, from 9:00 o’clock clockwise, they would pieces of the chopan skewer, followed by chaplee, shami, chicken and tekka. Out of all these, the one I liked the least was the chaplee (lamb): It was a bit too overcooked for my liking. As for the one I liked the most, that would be the shami, as mentioned above, it was more spiced compared to the other.
Now, here is a big curveball: Miss Y asked for catsup! OK, it wasn’t actually her who ended up asking the waitress, it was me. What happens is that the waitresses ended up MIA for a while and, in the meantime, it became sort of a running joke. I mean, catsup? Really? However, we ended up eating our words (literally), as the catsup they served was more of the vinegar-y variety and it gave a sharp contrast to the meat.
Overall, the food was quite interesting and, based on what was served, the big caveat would be that it looks that if you do come, it might be a good idea for you to come in a small group (like we did). Had I gone by myself… Well, it is just that, solely on description, trying to find out which skewer is “better” is sort of a challenge and ordering a plate like this end up working “better”. So, by myself, my answer would not necessarily, else, it looks like a good option!