from an anecdotal standpoint, I look at a diversity of ethnic
restaurants as the key to a city’s health. In the Capital
Region, Schenectady has long been the laggard. But a five-month-old
Afghan restaurant is a mighty shot in the arm, tempting this
culinarily-cautious clientele into new territories. Shrewdly,
the place is located about an equal distance from downtown
and Union College, not doubt hopeful that the latter will
provide a doughty customer base.
Kabul Night is on Union Street, a couple of blocks east of
Erie Boulevard, in the former Night Sky Café building. It’s
a former storefront with its front door inset between a pair
of presentation windows, now sporting tables.
The restaurant is owned by Karima and Shafi Rasoully, city
residents for a dozen years and onetime owners of Arizona
Pizza. They’ve bravely forsaken that simpler cuisine for the
kabobs and curries of their native land, and they offer a
menu rich in traditional manifestations of chicken, beef,
lamb and a veggie variety.
The neighborhood is nothing special, giving the pleasant interior
of the place the added charm of feeling like a retreat from
the surrounding decay. Tables and chairs are dressed or draped
in colorful linens, and the walls display an abundance of
art and artifacts, including the famous portrait of Sharbat
And you’ll see the chafing dishes that are filled for the
weekday lunch buffet ($8), served from 11:30 till 2.
There’s no liquor license as yet, so content yourself with
coffee or a choice of tea. Or, if you’re a Philistine like
me, a dreadful diet soda.
When I visited, on a recent weeknight, the place was nearly
empty but steadily filled. The servers are attentive but decidedly
unpolished. Still, smiles and sincerity go a long way and
at no time were we unhappy with the pacing of the meal.
If you’re already familiar with Indian/Pakistani cuisine,
you’re partway here. Chicken tandoori ($11.50) is a marinated
meat cooked at a very high temperature and colored a disturbing
crimson, which also characterizes the scarlet (but delicious)
kabob murgh ($12), which gives you chicken chunks in
a creamy, garlicky sauce over rice. Chicken shammi
kabob ($12) is a ground-meat variant mixed with onion and
spices before it hits the grill, then served over rice with
a homemade chutney.
Kabobs have the most American face of the entrées, at least
if you grew up as I did with the backyard grilling of skewered
meat cubes and vegetables. But instead of the salad-dressing-as-marinade
approach taken by my neighborhood’s kings of the Kingsford,
Kabul Night flavors its kabob ingredients with more pungent
spices, imparting a much more mouth-filling sensation. In
terms of heat, nothing imperiously spicy is going on, but
the palette of flavors is admirable. Kofta kabob ($13) is
made with ground beef, like a kibbe; mix it with chunks of
lamb (available alone as a lamb tikka kabob, $13) and it’s
the $15 sultani kabob. Also available is a chicken
shish kabob ($16) and a chopan kabob ($15), made up
of four lamb chops. Varying combinations are offered for more
adventurous sampling: Two manager’s specials ($18-$19) each
boast a selected trio of the abovementioned.
Any meat seems healthier when thrown over a bed of greens.
Here you can get lamb kabob over a garden salad ($10.50) or
good old chicken breast ($10).
Savor the intricacies of Afghan cookery in the rice dishes.
I enjoyed the qurma palow ($12), a subtle, flavorful
bowl of rice with a mild, onion-rich lamb curry spooned over
the top of it. There’s also a brown rice version (kabeli
palow, $13) offered with chicken or lamb curry and finished
with almonds and raisins.
More such rice dishes make up the vegetarian fare. Of the
three $10 items, two feature tomatoes in the sauce (bindi
palow with okra, and bonjan borani, an eggplant
dish with a garlic sauce) and the other is a spinach-and-onions
item called sabzi palow.
Afghan pasta is more of a dumpling than anything spaghetti-like,
even in Schenectady; an order of ashak ($11) is filled
with spinach and scallions, served with a yogurt sauce; mantoo
($11) has beef within.
There’s even a seafood dish: kabob-e-mahie ($16), featuring
Before we get to the finish, here are the starters ($4.50
apiece): Pakawra (or pakora), which are batter-fried
potatoes, and samosa, pastries filled with peas and potatoes,
are familiar from Indian versions; unique to Afghan cooking
is kadu borani, which reflavors butternut squash into
an amazingly pungent, delicious delicacy.
For dessert—what else?—there’s baklava ($4.50). It’s richer
and more potent than the corn syrup-sweetened domestic version,
but still light enough not to obscure pleasant memories of
the rest of the meal.
Interestingly, in the days following my visit to Kabul Night,
two different friends raved about the place to me, each insistent
that I should write about the place. It’s nice to make your
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
(Thursday) you should get yourself online and
go to fsacollegestore .com, find the Ticket Sales
option, and buy your way into the dinner-concert
taking place at 6 PM on Monday (April 20). Your
$60 secures a seat at a three-course meal crafted
by Schenectady County Community College Chef Gerhard
Moser, featuring butternut bisque, his signature
roasted hen diab and a dessert of profiteroles.
Carefully selected wine will accompany each course.
This takes place at the college’s Van Curler Room,
after which you’ll trot across the hall to the
Lally-Mohawk Room for a concert by the Musicians
of Ma’alwyck featuring music by J.C. Bach,
Boieldieu and Spohr for violin, cello and harp.
You need to reserve your seats now, and if the
online option is too oppressive, call 377-3623.
. . . Schenectady Day Nursery presents
its 10th annual benefit, “A Little Bit of Jazz
& More,” from 5:30 to 8 PM, April 30 at Proctors
Fennimore Gallery (432 State St., Schenectady).
Classé Catering’s menu includes jumbo shrimp,
sesame chicken with crispy noodles, steak canapés
with goat cheese, short rib sliders, potato rosti,
truffle risotto cakes and more. And there will
be a cheese display, tapas plates, two pasta station
items and cookies and chocolates for dessert.
The event also features complimentary beverages
including beer and wine, and jazz by Colleen Pratt
& Friends. Ticket are $50; reserve them by
calling 573-0773. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland.