Jacksonville, FL 32225
I have been hearing the most positive things from my friends about Ariana Kabob and Grill, so when my friends from Jaxfoodieadventures.com were hosting a dinner at this spot I was all in. Normally I would not post a pop up dinner, due to the fact the menu offered for the pop up is not always what is available on the menu on a daily basis. Not so this time, each dish we were presented with are staple menu items. So when you go you will be able to sample these amazing dishes for yourself. This dinner was seven courses, served family style, so I knew I was going to sample some amazing food that I have never been exposed to in the past.
The restaurant owned by Younus and his wife and chef in residence Nahida specializing in Afghan middle Eastern and Pakistani Halal food. For the uninitiated Halal is a very particular preparation process for all meats used at the restaurant which meets Islamic dietary standards. Much like Kosher in Jewish dietary laws.
We began our meal with Aash, a traditional Afghani soup. Unless you are familiar with this I promise this is unlike anything you’ve tasted. I have had other variations of this, in my travels, but hands down this was by far the best. It is a meal in it self. Layers of vegetables, noodles, fresh green and topped with yogurt.
Our next treat, Mantu, these are small tender dumplings filled with meat and onions then dressed with a flavorful yogurt sauce sprinkled with Afghani seasonings. This is a dish I would order again and again.
Our next dish had to be one of my favorite. I like strong bold flavors and this dish delivered. Lamb, Qabili Palau with Seasoned Rice and Sweet Carrots. Meat is melt in the mouth perfect, again seasoned with flavors,perhaps foreign to many American palates but oh so welcoming. The basmati rice on this dishes is shipped in from New York, according to Younus they are unable to purchase this quality of rice locally. Raisins and carrots lend the correct texture and sweetness to make this a winning dish.
By now those of us at our table are on food overload, but begging for the next dish. For our fourth course, a much love and very familiar dish; Chicken Korma Curry Masala with white rice. I love all thing curry, the flavors are so exotic and inviting and this dish delivered and kept on giving. We totally decimated this dish.
For the fourth course the Shelghim Borani a roasted turnip dish. Root vegetables have always been a treat for me, even as a child, but never have I been exposed to a vegetable dish that even came close to the beauty and flavor this dish offered. A gastronomical delight, for a humble root.
Shelghim Borani, roasted turnips
We are getting close to the end now, and it matters not how full we are, we are moments away from banging our forks on the table. Each course was building on the previous one, so we knew this was going to be the mother lode and it was.
Kofte Chaalau, Afghani style meatballs with potatoes and corn. What can I say about this dish. I made me swoon, weak in the knees. These are not the meatballs of my mother, it they were I never would have left home. Layered in flavors and texture, moist, with the most wonderful broth. So very flavorsome, it was sinful in the best way possible.
Kofta Chalau, Afghani style meatballs, with potatoes and corn
Sadly it was time for the last dish, dessert. Now I normally am excited about dessert, but did not want to give up on the main dishes. As it turned out dessert was what was needed. Cool, refreshing and light.
Ferni – A traditional rosewater dessert. This dish is quite unusual in taste, there are many variations on ingredients, but rosewater is the key to the unique taste. The more rose-water, the stronger the taste. I was familiar with this from my time spent in the UAE, so it was a treat for me, delectable. Several of the people at my table were not so like-minded. Mixed reviews all around.
Ferni, traditional rosewater dessert
As always I encourage the reader to step out of your comfort zone and try food unfamiliar to you. Food brings us together, gather your friends, and make a night of it. Support the small business, family owned, local merchant. It will open up new worlds.