Food

Faryab Afghan Restaurant

This Afghan dining room is a hidden gem.

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Hidden among flashier neighbors on a stretch littered with noisy cafes and bars, this Afghan place has quietly become one of Bethesda's best restaurants by turning out cooking that makes no compromises yet still manages to feel familiar.

The stars of the small menu are aushak and mantu–large, thin squares of pasta stuffed with scallions or meat and blanketed with tomato and yogurt. Seldom do you find such big, intense flavors for so little cash. Almost as good are a garlicky lamb-and-spinach stew and a rice dish, quabili pallow, studded with raisins, shredded carrots, and hunks of lamb.

Except for the cumin-scented kofta, kebabs are probably best bypassed. Look instead to a couple of extraordinary vegetable dishes. Kadu is a melange of sweet pumpkin, tart yogurt, and acidic tomato, while badenjan tempers the pungency of eggplant into a smoky forkful. Order one of the huge coiled ovals of just-baked bread–they're good enough to tempt even a die-hard low-carber.

The waitstaff can be friendly or taciturn–details beyond the menu description of a dish are hard to come by. Still, Faryab is a gem in a downtown where inexpensive ethnic restaurants are fast disappearing.

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