Tag Archives: tandoor

Khyber

khyber restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Pakistani

425 Industrial Mile Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43228
614.275.2022
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This is the kind of story we like to write.

A cook from a restaurant we adore – Adil from Tandoori Grill – strikes out on his own to open a new restaurant, Khyber, in a new part of town. The owner of Tandoori Grill, Said, wishes him well; we’ve spoken to both and there are clearly no hard feelings. The food at Tandoori Grill remains great, the food at Khyber makes for an impressive debut, and just like that the city has doubled in quality Pakistani dining options. As far as we’re concerned, everybody wins.

Khyber occupies the west side space that previously held Azteca de Oro. As with Azteca, environs are humble but comfortable. As with Tandoori Grill, a small Pakistani grocery with a meat counter adjoins.

Pakistani food columbus

Khyber’s speciality is tandoori dishes – grilled meats and nan bread cooked in the tandoor oven. The nan bread is cooked to order and, like at Apna Bazaar/Tandoori Grill, it is thinner, less doughy, and in our estimation far preferable to most other options in town.

pakistani restaurant columbus

Of the tandoori meat dishes we’ve tried, we particularly like the seekh (ground meat) kebabs – available in lamb, beef or chicken. They are nice and juicy, feature a good amount of spicing and heat, and are great paired with nan and a little of Khyber’s yogurt based chutney.

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Also tasty  are the chapli kebabs – burger-like ground beef patties with onions, tomatoes, chiles and spices.

pakistani food columbus

The menu offers some interesting meat stews and satisfying vegetarian options. Stews include nehari – a rich beef curry stew with extremely tender slow cooked beef; goat quorma – a mild curry with lots of gravy and a meat based curry with wheat called haleem, barley, and lentils. Not listed on the menu but also available (and one of our favorites) is aloo keema, a ground meat and potato curry.

potato and ground meat curry

A little drier (in terms of the saucing) but still entirely enjoyable are the karahi dishes – curried meat, either goat or chicken, with tomato, green chili and onion.

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For vegetarians, or as a great side dish for the tandoor grilled meats, there are lahori chana (whole chickpeas in sauce), mash dal (white lentil dal) or bhendi (curried okra). We particularly liked the okra and the mash dal. Adil said that there would be at least one dal available daily.

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The menu is expanding and there are often specials. In addition to the listed items we’ve also tried samosas, goat biryani, cow’s foot curry and house made desserts including kheer (fragrant rice pudding) and semiya halwa (sweet, spiced vermicelli noodles).

One interesting, and somewhat incongruous, item is the New York style gyro. Served as more of a deconstructed dish, it’s comprised of rice topped with lettuce, gyro meat, pita slices, and a generous saucing. Unconventional though it may be, we’d take it over the vast majority of the gyros we’ve tried locally.

new york style gyro

With the most expensive dish priced at $8, and many served for far less, Khyber is very good value for the quality of food and a great addition to the West Side.

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Cafe Kabul

Cuisine: Afghan

2831 Olentangy River Road
Mon-Thurs, 11am – 10pm, Fri-Sat, 11am – 10:30pm, Sun, 12pm – 10pm

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Located in a light, bright space at the southern end of the strip known as ‘University City Center’, Cafe Kabul is, to the best of our knowledge, the first and only Afghan restaurant in Columbus. Open only for a few weeks as of this writing, at lunchtime it was already drawing a decent number of students and office workers from the surrounding area. It is a casual, order-at-the-counter setup, and customers are given a number to be called when their food is ready.

We started with one of the side dishes – buranee bonjon – a bed of sauteed slices of eggplant topped with homemade yogurt, tomato sauce and served with Afghan bread. The yogurt (which can also be ordered separately) was very tangy and the tomato added a little, but not too much sweetness. Pile a bit of each on some bread, and you’ll have a taste of what made this one of our group’s favorite dishes.  The bread, which I think was obi non, is thicker than pita bread and useful for scooping up yogurt and hummus.

We also tried two of the other vegetable side dishes – sabsi (pureed spinach cooked with onions and garlic) and the sauteed okra with tomatoes and onions. Both were simple dishes that were (surprisingly) mildly seasoned, seemingly with the intent of letting the fresh flavors of the vegetables shine through.  It works, in an ‘if you like spinach, you’ll like sabsi‘ manner of thinking.

The majority of the mains are dishes are familiar from Middle Eastern or Indian cuisines: seekh kebab, tandoor chicken, chicken kabob and tikka kabob. We ordered one chicken seekh kebab – spiced ground chicken formed around a skewer and grilled – with the idea of comparing it to other seekh kebabs found around town.  While it seemed a reasonable effort, others in town do it better.

The more interesting mains were kabuli pallow and peshawari chaplee kabob. The peshawari chaplee kabob (more commonly chapli) consisted of three meat patties made of ground beef mixed with freshly ground spices and grilled to well-done.  The intriguingly complex flavors of this dish were roundly appreciated, though the meat was a bit on the dry side for our tastes. As with most of the main dishes, it can be served either with rice and salad or with bread and salad. The included mint chutney was a worthy accompaniment.

The kabuli pallow (palao) is a variation on one of Afghanistan’s national dishes – Afghan style rice topped with chunks of lamb, spiced sauteed carrot strips and raisins. This dish was popular – their lamb was a thing of beauty – but at $9.49, it struck us as though there wasn’t very much of it.

Although there are no vegetarian main dishes on the menu, vegetarians could find enough to eat from a selection of the sides and appetizers. Service was leisurely but acceptable.

Having done some research on Afghan cuisine, it seems that Cafe Kabul is merely scratching the surface of the range of dishes. It’s a great addition to the University City Center but may not worth a drive across town. I hope that Cafe Kabul will offer more variety as they get established and that we will see more Afghan restaurants opening in Columbus.

Apna Bazaar

Cuisine: Pakistani/Indian

810 Bethel Road
614.326.2762
www.apnabazaar.biz

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After our experiences at Luc’sMecca, and Arirang, we’ve come to believe that some of the best international cuisine in town is put out by pint-sized kitchens shoehorned into the corners of out-of-the-way ethnic groceries.  As such, when we were told about another grocer/kitchen combo out on Bethel Rd. (thanks, Amar), we were primed to expect the best… and we are happy to say that we weren’t let down.

Apna is located in a fun (from an alt.eats perspective) little strip mall across the street from Microcenter that is also home to Banana Leaf, a Korean restaurant, a Thai/ Vietnamese restaurant, a Mexican grocery store, and a bubble tea shop.  While Apna’s primary focus seems to be on take-out and catering, they’re also happy to serve you at a table in the back of the store that seats up to 8 people.

Apna Bazaar’s kitchen specializes in tandoori and karhai preparations.  The photo above is the tandoor oven, which we were allowed into the kitchen to admire. Another shot in the kitchen (below): making chicken samosas.

We started with tandoori boneless chicken (you can also get a leg and thigh or a whole chicken), served straight from the tandoor. Garnished with onion, lime, and with a relatively mild sauce on the side, this dish was a little spicy, far more tender than most tandooris we’ve had, and very very popular. It was altogether too quickly devoured.

Luckily for our hungry group of 8, the food kept coming. We sampled (below, clockwise from top left) chicken karhai, beef nihari, goat qorma and chicken kabab karhai.

The word karhai (or karahi) refers to both a traditional wok-like Indian/Pakistani cooking dish, and a cooking method that uses this dish. Apna offers chicken (whole or half), goat, and kabab karhai preparations. We tried the (bone on) chicken karhai – fragrant with ginger, this was one of the more mildly spiced dishes we tried – and the kabab karhai, a generous quantity of heavily spiced ground chicken shish kababs, chopped up and sauteed with onions and tomatoes.  Both were enjoyed by all, with the nod going to the kabab version.

The nihari was another crowd pleaser, a delicious rich stew of tender beef shanks cooked overnight.  Apparently a popular breakfast dish in Pakistan, Apna’s nihari was deeply flavored with cloves, cumin, ginger and cardamon, and had a heat that came on slowly and peaked impressively.

The qorma (korma) consisted of tender goat served in a sauce whose richness was similar to the nihari, but was distinctly different in flavor with plenty of cardamon and a lot of chili. Among a table full of spicy-hot foods, it was the hottest of the dishes that we tried.

The meal was accompanied by seemingly endless piles of naan bread. Apna’s naan is different than most, and is considered by our Indian friends to be more authentic – made with whole meal flour, it was lighter, crisper, less doughy and served without any butter or ghee.

Apna Bazaar also has a selection of Indian sweets including gulab jaman, laddo and halwa, but as we were too full, we managed only a cup of steaming hot milky chai.

Apna Bazaar does not provide many options for vegetarians, and with the exception of potato samosas and naan bread all of the dishes are meat based. Drink selections are also limited but include water, chai, Coke and some Pakistani sodas including the sweet and floral Pakola.

Our bill, including drinks, came to about $10 per person. The owner seemed willing and able to adjust the spice level in most of the dishes. We recommend calling ahead an hour before you want to collect your food.