St. Mark's Place, East Village, NY
Review by Diana, IrishLad
Khyber Pass would be an appropriate name for a restaurant situated in a place like St. Mark's Place used to be ... the only way to get through the Hindu mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and beware of of "snow" and ambushes. As it is now, it's considered a romantic restaurant with Afghani food. The two large display windows that face out onto the street are heavily upholstered booths, draped with rugs and cushions. You sort of recline on the raised dais, the table is about coffeetable height. There are semi-transparent curtains which can be drawn to conceal the seated ... in the main dining area, there are glass-topped tables with Middle Eastern rugs beneath the transparent glass. The ceiling is festooned with strips of fabric festooned outward from the chandeliers. It's nicely dark, and there is a row of fabric-covered columns down the center of what looked to be two shops at one time.
I know nothing about Afghan food, but I had supposed it's similar to Turkish, and it is ... but it's more austere, at least at this restaurant. There are many similarities to Indian food, in both name and ingredients, but alas, it's not as rich or complex. But I've heard that the food here is authentic, and maybe that's just the way it is, and I have to learn to understand it better.
We had scallion turnovers and pumpkin turnovers served with a yogurt mint sauce. Afghan food is Halal/Kosher and "pumpkin-centric" according to one friend. They were triangles of what looked like fried wonton skins with a dollop of unseasoned filling within. They were crispy and light, and came four to a serving. I also ordered a "herb salad" containing feta, parsley, coriander, basil, vinegar. It was very fragrant and sharp, a nice contrast to the fried dumplings.
As a main course, we had one dish of lamb with vegetables, and another with eggplant as its main ingredient. Both were served with brown basmati rice and had a savory, sourish taste to them. They were good.
We finished the meal with baklava and coffee; perhaps I had expected Turkish or Greek coffee since we were having this traditional Turkish or Greek sweet. Parts of the baklava tasted like a refrigeration unit, meaning it hadn't been covered properly in storage. The waitress apologized, but one of the kitchen workers had to be sent across the street to fetch milk for our coffee. It was okay, but a little surprising. And the coffee was made in an espresso machine as a "long" or "Americano." Efficient, but again, surprising.
All in all, it was a romantic place, but maybe I'm just fussy ... things did seem out of whack. Maybe I have to learn more about the food, so I know what I'm ordering, and maybe it was just had been an odd day, or maybe I'm not a romantic type when in the formerly tense East Village? Maybe I just have to go back to see if I'm right in my assessment? Stay tuned ...
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