January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A hidden Bethesda gem.

No. 75: Faryab

At its best, Afghan cooking is a homey cuisine. Those encountering it for the first time are often surprised to find that behind such transporting titles as mantu, badenjan, and aushak lurk such humble, comforting fare—meat sauces, dumplings, and hearty soups and stews.

Balancing the exotic and the familiar has long distinguished this Bethesda restaurant, where even the dining room has the allure of a distant hideaway. The menu isn’t the most extensive for Afghan in the area, and it can feel duplicative, with multiple variations on a single theme, but the cooking manages the trick of being both stick-to-your-ribs and assured. The aushak —delicate, scallion-filled sheets of pasta covered in a zesty tomato-and-meat sauce and dollops of minted yogurt—is marvelous. Chalow kadu, a pot of lightly sweetened pumpkin swirled with yogurt, is as rich and complex as a meat stew. Ausk is a robust vegetable-noodle soup—pure comfort on a cold, raw night. The lamb, chicken, and shrimp kebabs are all fine, if seldom rising to the level of the stews.

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