Ariana Afghan Cuisine is the first Afghan restaurant in Atlanta (or perhaps even the entire state of Georgia). Located just off the highway off 285/ Roswell Road, the first glance doesn’t give much of a curb appeal. But once you step inside, it’s an entirely different experience. The inviting space is decorated with large Oriental rugs and photographs hung on the walls, while the ceiling is laced with original Afghan hand looms that is used to decorate tents. Fresh flowers are placed at every table, covered with white table cloth.
The menu at Ariana was created by Chef Najib Nawabi, who has successfully opened many Afghan restaurants in New York, Virginia and Florida, right from his wheelchair. Nawabi grew up in Kabul and was severely injured during one of the Afghanistan-Russia wars 30 years ago. While desperately needing medical attention, Nawabi had to hide for almost 6 months to save himself. Finally, he got asylum to the US and was admitted at Columbia Hospital, where he found out he was partially paralyzed and couldn’t walk anymore. He still recollects the incident and the fact that many of his friends and family members did not make it.
Nawabi loved to take photos and completed his education in Kabul. His family had a number of “kebab stands” in Afghanistan where he would help out as a little boy. He did learn to cook early on and brought family recipes across generations with him. Even now, Nawabi’s 10 brothers and sisters get together every weekend and have a family style dinner, grilling in the park, keeping their traditions alive.
The food at Ariana is simply heavenly. You can actually feel the passion of the chef, the authenticity of the spices and the freshness of the ingredients in every dish. While Afghan cuisine has some similarities to Persian and Indian, it is somewhat in a league of its own. The food is not as spicy as Indian, and not as dry as Persian. You will find similar names of dishes and ingredients, but used in different variations. Sambosay maybe confused with India’s samosa, but the dough and filling is very different.
There are lots of stewed vegetables, grilled meats and seasoned rice dishes on an Afghan menu. The Buranee Bedenjon is chunky stewed eggplant with a light yogurt and mint sauce, delicious with the homemade warm flat bread. My favorite is the Buranee Kadu, sweet fresh pumpkin simmered with olive oil, tomatoes and spices. It is a treat for your sight and taste buds.
Another specialty dish that you will not find anywhere else is the Qabeli Palaw, a famous rice entree from Northern Afghanistan with chunks of curried lamb, covered with Basmati rice, shredded carrots, raisins and almonds. Kababs (or grilled meats) are a popular street food and entree in Afghan cuisine. At Ariana, you can choose from chicken, lamb, beef or fish kebabs, all of which are generously seasoned and grilled to tender.
For dessert, the Shir Birang, a traditional Afghan rice pudding topped with chopped pistachios, is to die for! Pair that will a hot spiced dark green tea and you have the complete experience of dining in Afghanistan.
Join us for Go Eat Give Destination – Afghanistan at Ariana Afghan Restaurant on Thursday, October 18, 2012. This event is open to the public but reservation is required. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.