Cheap Eats 2007: Faryab

White walls, framed photos, and textiles from the Afghan desert give this sliver of a restaurant a vibe that’s more gallery than eatery. There’s a hushed quality to the dining room, as if in protest against the noise that plagues so many Bethesda eateries.

Against this almost austere backdrop is cuisine vibrant enough to seduce, even if the small menu rarely changes. The temptation at many Middle Eastern restaurants is to stick to kebabs. But while Faryab’s skewered lamb is rosy and tender, there are other pleasures. Dumplings filled with seasoned ground beef (mantu) or scallions (aushak) and blanketed with meat sauce and yogurt are delicious, the noodles delicate, the fillings robust and savory.

Badenjan goushti is a casserole of braised lamb baked with eggplant, onions, and tomato to create a delicious whole. Round out the meal with quabili palow —basmati rice strewn with morsels of lamb, raisins, and shreds of carrot—and stewed pumpkin, the sweetness tempered by a tart dollop of yogurt and a swath of tomato sauce.

For dessert, the enormous sugar-dusted fried cracker called “elephant ear” really looks like one—and tastes divine.

Open nightly except Monday for dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.