Those who know the Northern Virginia eating area are not surprised to hear about the many wonderful restaurants on the Little River Turnpike corridor. FW&D was given a tip about an Afghan Restaurant hidden away on Rt 236 (in the shopping center with Total Wine & More) that would easily rival any Gourmet Afghan restaurant in the area. With the help of one of our clients, who was actually born and raised in Zabul (a province in the south) Afghanistan, we were treated to excellent fare, with charming little anecdotes about the culture and traditions about the food preparation.
To walk into Maizbon is to enter another world. The walls are adorned with stripes, tambourines, mirrors, traditional clothing, a horse statue, lanterns, rocks, etc. One would think that all the different details would not blend well, but the eclectic infusion in the décor flows nicely from area to area, with each different room standing alone while still blending into the overall feel of the atmosphere.
You must try the Chai tea. The richness of the cardamom and mint definitely shine through, but in a way that is distinctly Afghan. The waitress was quite clear, “this is not American Chai.” The service saucer was quaint, and with an asymmetrical saucer, you need not worry about where to put your spoon, when it’s not resting on top of the teacup that is. Also available are their Yogurt Mint drinks called Dogh, a bold coffee called Qahwa, and Black Chai tea.
There are some appetizers that are also served in larger portions as an entrée. There were great choices on the menu; from eggplant to pumpkin, Afghan fries and meat dishes, and of course naan, which is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. Depending on the area in the Middle East, the size and thickness of naan varies, but it always tastes wonderful. Afghan naan is served large and flat, and you will really enjoy it, especially with the various juices and sauces available. FW&D took their time enjoying reading the menu, and listening to the anecdotes about Afghan food and culture, as well as making our choices for what to eat.
Ned ordered the fries. How "American".
You may chuckle at the idea of Afghan fries, but they were seasoned lightly and served with a spicy sauce that is better than ketchup. The medallion cuts are not crispy fried as most American fries are, but they were soft and hot, with the spices well meshed throughout the meat of the potato. You almost don’t need the sauce, but it is too good to leave untouched.
Burtaa is dish made of eggplant, “grilled, peeled, mashed, [and] spiced, with herbs and light tomato sauce added and then mixed with garlic yogurt sauce.” It is light, heady, rich and savory, but with subtle undertones that really bring out the blend of spices. Scooped up on the naan, you will more than likely lean back, close you eyes, and sigh while you take your first bites.
Many people say that Afghan food is full of meat, even the vegetarian dishes. The Salata-e-Watani is an Afghan country salad that remains true to its vegetarian roots. Chopped cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, parsley and some cilantro, are marinated in lemon mint vinaigrette. Resting on lettuce, this salad is a tad piquant. There is no one overpowering flavor, and considering the vegetables and spices used, this is no small feat.
You will really enjoy the Roumi Panir. Most of the entrees offer this or Garden Salad as a side compliment. You must try the Roumi Panir, if only once. The tomato medallion is nicely portioned, and crisp. The toppings; feta cheese, mozzarella, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, and fresh mint, are served on top a bed of balsamic vinegar and lightly covered in olive oil. The presentation alone is premier, but the flavor and texture is a additional benefit.
The Mantu was so good as an appetizer that you can feel free to enjoy it as a main dish, as we did. The minced meat dumpling spiced with onion and topped with meat sauce and yogurt was an instant favorite, and had to be enjoyed a second time as an entree.
Kabobs are a well known item, and you will not be disappointed with Maizbon's. The chicken is marinated overnight to ensure full flavor before it is cooked. The portion for a dinner is quite large, so be sure that you save room.
According to our guest, most Afghan dishes have lamb. This explains why you will absolutely love the Lamb dishes. FW&D started with the Mahicha Palau, which is a bone-in lamb shank dish, where the lamb is slow cooked in a broth of caramelized onion broth. Served with brown rice, this lamb was so tender; you could eat both it and the rice with a spoon.
Du Piaza is an Afghan dish normally cooked in a teapot. The marinated onions and split peas are simply excellent, and served on a bed of naan. This lamb has a subtly different flavor than the Mahicha Palau, but it is still juicy, tender, and succulent. The onions were well-cooked but not wilted, and the split-peas were spicy without losing their flavor. The naan did not disappoint, and was a welcome addition to the presentation of the food and the dish itself.
FW&D's dish of the night was a sautéed pumpkin dish called Kadu. The firmness of the pumpkin, the mixed flavors of olive oil, turmeric, dry mint, yogurt paprika, and an elegant but spicy exotic sauce will surprise you. The pumpkins sweetness remains, but colored with the spice mixture, it is an excellent appetizer or main dish, and tastes even better as leftovers.
This is the first time FW&D stuffed ourselves to the point where we had no desire for dessert. Firni, an Afghan pudding made with rose fragrance, pistachios, and milk, Vanilla Saffron Ice Cream, Baklava, or Maizbon’s own Ice Cream with dates almonds and pecans, are available. If you come to Maizbon and have the dessert, please tell us what you think!
Maizbon has a lunch buffet seven days a week catering to the professional on the go, and private events are available. “Maizbon Afghan Grill is open 7 days a week between 11:30am to 2:30pm. Dinner is served between 4pm to 10pm.” The flavoring of each dish, coupled with the portions and affordability, makes us here at FW&D believe that you will enjoy it at least as much as we did. Chef/Owner, Waheed Afzali, has definitely outdone himself with “the unique tastes of traditional Afghan delicacies”, and FW&D will definitely be back.
Maizbon Afghan Grill
6244-K Little River Turnpike
Alexandria, VA 22312
This blog article is from FW&D.
Call us at 703-933-8900
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