Afghan Cuisine, the first Afghan restaurant in C-U, opens tomorrow, Wednesday, March 1st inside of Strawberry Fields in Urbana. Owned by two brothers Amanullah and Azizullah Mayar, the brand new restaurant will be open daily for four hours: two hours of lunch and two hours for dinner.
I was invited to try some of the Afghani food today, and it was very good.
Afghan Cuisine does not usually offer a buffet for lunch, but for the soft open, the restaurant prepared a variety of dishes in the large catering size.
Starting on the left, the chefs prepared kabuli pulaw, basmati rice with caramelized onions, lamb, and Afghan spices topped with carrots, raisins, almonds, and pistachios. The middle dish was borani banjan, seared eggplant with tomatoes and garlic yogurt sauce with a mint garnish. On the right, the chicken karahi had bone-in roasted chicken in a spicy, flavorful curry.
The spread also included mantu, lamb rosh, and a chopped salad. The mantu, or Afghan steamed dumplings, were filled with ground beef, onions, and spices, topped with lentils and tomato, then drizzled with the garlic yogurt sauce. The lamb rosh had tender mutton with halved potatoes, and the salad had chopped romaine, tomato, cucumber, white onion, and green bell peppers.
The Afghan naan was fresh from the oven.
The meal ended with a dessert of shir berenj, a cardamom rice pudding garnished with ground pistachios, almonds, and walnuts.
I tried a little of everything — and liked it all. The mantu was amazing; I loved the texture of the super soft, made-from-scratch dumpling wrapper, and the drizzle of garlic sauce with the beef filling and lentils was delicious. The chicken karahi was so tender, and the curry had a great spicy flavor with ginger and tomato notes. The sweet cranberries, shaved almonds, and softened carrots in the kabuli pulaw added tasty textures to the basmati rice. The borani banjan had salty, softened eggplant with that awesome garlic yogurt sauce, and the chopped salad balanced all the hearty flavors and warm dishes. Lastly, the shir berenj dessert was sweet and so very good, especially the bites with crushed nuts.
I even got to peek in the kitchen see this Afghan naan fresh from the hot tandoor.
Entrees range from $9.99 to $14.99 with lots of small sides under $5. All ordering is in person at the register inside Strawberry Fields. The Afghani food can be eaten in the restaurant or packaged to go.
306 W Springfield Ave
M-Sa 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. + 5 to 7 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. + 4 to 6 p.m.