There aren't many Afghan restaurants in the Boston area. In fact, other than two restaurants on opposite sides of Cambridge, Afghan restaurants are basically nonexistent around Boston. The two Afghan restaurants in Cambridge are quite different from each other. One Afghan restaurant is Helmand, a dining spot in East Cambridge that gets rave reviews and a lot of press. Helmand is a seductive, romantic dining spot that is on many top 10 lists and is often crowded thanks in part to its reputation. The other Afghan restaurant (which we are reviewing here) is called Ali Baba Tandoor, a humble little dining spot located on the other side of Cambridge near Porter Square. Unlike Helmand, Ali Baba Tandoor gets very little press and typically has plenty of tables free on a given night. But don't let this deter you from going to Ali Baba Tandoor, as it is a wonderful restaurant that this writer hopes will start getting noticed by lovers of exotic foods.
Ali Baba Tandoor actually serves Indian and Pakistani dishes in addition to Afghan cuisine. As a result, the menu has a wide variety of entrees, from lamb chops to scallion ravioli to beef kababs to chicken with rice. The latter dish (called mourgh challow) is an absolute winner; tender chunks of chicken and marinated spices, mixed with yellow split peas, sauteed with cilantro, yogurt, and curry, and served over a bed of challow rice. One other entree that stands out is a similar dish called koufta challow, which has meatballs in tomato sauce over a bed of challow rice. The entrees aren't the only items to order at Ali Baba Tandoor, however; the beef samosas make a great appetizer, the Afghan bread is delicious, the vegetarian soup is fresh and tasty, and the salads are terrific.
Ali Baba Tandoor is easy to miss, as the sign out front is not very prominent and most drivers are too busy trying to avoid accidents at the corner of Walden Street and Mass. Avenue to notice that a restaurant is even here. But it appears that Ali Baba Tandoor is slowly being discovered, which is good to see, as the people who run it are very nice, the prices are reasonable, and the food is excellent. If you like restaurants that serve exotic ethnic cuisine, Ali Baba is a great choice in the Porter Square section of Cambridge.
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