Mar 28, 2005
On Friday night at about 7 PM, Amy and I made a last minute decision to go out for dinner. We called around to a couple places to make reservations and we didn't have any luck. Finally, I was like, "I want Afghan!" Looking on The Post Dining Guide, I saw Tom S's review of Faryab in Bethesda. Overall, he said that the food was really good, but the service was lacking and inattentive. I figured we would try it anyway.
When going to a restaurant on Cordell Ave in Bethesda, you can save yourself a lot or time by skipping the overly crowded Cordell Ave parking garage and going one block further to Del Ray, where the lot us usually empty. After we parked, I was tempted to stop in and say hello to Chef Sudhir at Passage to India, but he was nowhere in sight when we walked by. Faryab only a few steps from my favorite Indian restaurant.
When we walked in Faryab, I noticed that the hosted was extremely friendly. She greeted us with a huge, "Welcome! Two for dinner?!" We were seated and immediately someone stopped by to see if we wanted something to drink. They have plenty of servers, expeditors, and bussers there to wait on you. Our waitress, a sweet, Asian woman with glasses that reminded me of the ones my grandmother used to wear, came over quickly after we sat down and asked us if we wanted something to drink. The manager was constantly walking around checking that everyone was happy as well. All around, the owners have hung Afghan artifacts and pictures. The atmosphere was a bit brighter than most restaurants I've been to lately and there was a lot of space so I didn't feel like I was right on top of the table next to us.
The menu at Faryab is very similar that of Afghan Grill in Adams Morgan except the list of appetizers was quite a bit larger and more interesting. One appetizer that we found particularly interesting was the deep fried, breaded sweet potatoes with small amounts of yogurt and meat sauces. The meat sauce reminded me of a stewed meat - it was slightly spicy and tasted like it had chili seasoning in it. I did note that there was more breading than sweet potato, but I didn't that mind too much. It was probably only five minutes after we ordered our appetizer that it appeared at our table.
The wine list was disappointingly small. There were only a few bottles each of red and white. The only wines available by glass were the house wines. Instead, I ordered a beer since I can't drink a whole bottle of wine on my own now that Amy is pregnant.
Shortly after we were done with out appetizer, the waitress came and took the plate away. Soon after that, our entrees came out. I'd ordered the Quabili Pallow which is a delicately seasoned lamb with spiced brown rice, raisins and shaved carrots. When they first brought it to the table, it looked like they'd forgotten the lamb and simply brought be a giant plate of rice. Once I put my fork in the rice though, I realized that there really was more lamb than rice on the plate. The moist, tender lamb was buried in the rice. The rice, seasoned with many spices, was a little dryer than I like. This was quickly forgotten when I mixed it with the shaved carrots and raisins.
Amy had the chicken kabob (Kabob-e-Murgh) which I have to say tasted extremely good. I think I prefer the Afghan version of kabobs over any other ethnic food. Similar kabobs that you get at an Indian restaurant tend to be drier where the tandoor oven has a tendency to dry the meat out. The kabobs at Faryab, on the other hand, are cooked in a way that leaves the meat very tender and full of flavor. I asked the manager how they seasoned their kabobs and he said that they marinate them for 24 hours in olive oil, garlic, pepper, and tumeric (which explains the slightly yellow tint of the chicken).
On top of the two entrees, I ordered a side of Kadu which (if you remember from my review of Afghan Grill) is saut‚ed pumpkin. This is definitely one of the more interesting dishes you can order at an Afghan restaurant. The pumpkin at Faryab was kept slightly firm and wasn't overcooked, which I appreciated. I noticed that they must add a little sugar to the pumkin since it was a little on the sweeter side. Like our appetizer, the Kadu came with meat and yogurt sauces drizzled over it.
Our experience at Faryab was very pleasant. The service was amicable and smooth. I imagine that after Tom Sietsema's review, they made a conscious effort to change the vobe that their wait staff was exhibiting. All of the food was excellent. I'm looking forward to returning to try some of the other dishes I saw on the menu like their sambosas or Mantu - steamed dumplings filled with ground beef and onions, served with yogurt and meat sauces. Our check came to about $57 before tip, which was very reasonable considering the quality of the overall experience we had.
4917 Cordell Ave
Parking: Street parking available, no valet
Reservations: Taken although probably not needed
Smoking: not allowed
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Spotless
Nearest Metro: Bethesda
"I ordered a beer since I can't drink a whole bottle of wine on my own now that Amy is pregnant." Whereas, pre-pregnancy, you could?
Stop reviewing restaurants; I haven't even gotten to Afghan Grill yet and already you're giving another Afghan restaurant a good review, plus it's in my neighborhood. Give us a chance to catch up!
Posted by: jim | Mar 28, 2005 at 11:43 PM
My friend and I were out looking for a good place to eat in Bethesda Friday night. We didn't want something too fancy, and I wanted to try something I hadn't been to before. Wished now I would've picked Faryab. Instead, we went to a very lame, very bad "Irish" pub. Kadu sounds wonderful.
Posted by: Jon | Mar 29, 2005 at 11:07 AM
Yes yes Faryab is quite good (and had good service before Seitsema).
Thanks for the tip on Samantha's.. que bueno!
Posted by: wahoooob | Mar 29, 2005 at 12:33 PM
Yeah. I'm sad that this weekend was my first time there. I usually go to Afghan Grill. They are both very good.
I'm glad you like Samantha's!
Posted by: Jason | Mar 29, 2005 at 01:37 PM
I still say you can't go wrong any place on Cordell Ave. Sorry about your bad Irish experience. Did you mean the British Pub?
Posted by: Bethesda Jim | Jan 08, 2006 at 11:15 PM
faryab,bethesda- service slow indifferent and unresponsive, onwer/maitre d totally obnoxious and rude, tired toclear out table for another seating before we had finished. not worth patronizing.
Posted by: bruce birchman | Oct 18, 2006 at 03:13 PM
Faryab is my favorite restaurant anywhere. I dine there each time I visit my brother in Maryland. I have searched high and low for an Afghan/Persian restaurant in Michigan without success. My favorite meal is spinach with lamb. By far the best meal ever.
Posted by: Terri TC | Apr 12, 2007 at 01:34 PM
I've eaten at Faryab many times. Always excellent service -- even when I go alone. Think Tom S must have it hit it on a rare off night. I can imagine that if they are short help, things may not go as well as it can be busy on the weekends. What I like though, is that when there is a full staff, they keep the patrons as happy as if they are the only ones in the place.
If you go with a group definitely go for the prixed price menus. Terrific deal and a great way to taste all the foods. The house wines complement the meals well.
Posted by: DancinT | Oct 20, 2007 at 01:47 PM
I've been going to Faryab for a very long time--back to the days when they were known as Kabul West, around the corner from their current location on Cordell. Now that I'm in my early 30s, and married, I've turned my husband on to Afghan cuisine at Faryab. We've always had great experiences there. The staff is warm and friendly. The service is prompt, but well timed. We don't have annoying occurrences like getting our entrees while in the midst of eating our appetizers. The food is always fantastic. I think Tom Sietsema went on an off day OR was so annoying that he turned the staff off who was serving him. I can't see how he thought they were rude.
Faryab is definitely a family favorite of ours!
Posted by: Ann in Bethesda | Jan 19, 2008 at 04:01 PM
Great write up. It's on my "must visit" list now.
Posted by: BoldFoodie | Sep 12, 2008 at 02:11 PM