>I miss the East Coast. I lived in various spots up and down the East Coast my entire life until I moved to San Diego last November. I never expected to miss it so much, thinking that trading seasons for sunshine was an enviable position. But with September in full swing and nothing changing but a few degrees on the thermometer, I’m craving crunching leaves and the smell of fall.
The other thing that I really miss about the East is the variety of cuisines available in the city. Granted, for some things, such as sushi, the West Coast wins hands down. However, there was much more variety to be had on the East, probably due to the influences of Washington, DC, and NYC being so close to the city in which I lived.
My favorite restaurant back home was an Afghani place called The Helmand. Somewhat famous among Baltimoreans, The Helmand is owned by the brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and consistently provides diners with exquisite service and food. Each time I have dined in this restaurant has resulted in a sublime culinary venture. The food is flavorful, deftly prepared masterpieces of Afghani cuisine.
However, I have not been able to find anything even resembling this experience in San Diego. Since we were in San Francisco, we decided to pursue an Afghani meal, and I have to say, The Helmand Palace, located in the Russian Hill district of San Francisco, was truly a little taste of home.
We arrived at 7 PM to a very uncrowded restaurant, particularly given that it was Saturday night and Labor Day weekend to boot. I was a little worried at the lack of a dinner crowd, but determined to try the place anyway. The servers greeted us promptly and brought water without request, and we ordered one of our favorite Baltimore Helmand dishes – the kaddo bowrani, or pan-fried baby pumpkin. If you have never had this dish, it is a must try. The fried then baked squash has never had it so good! It is doused oil, quickly fried, then covered in sugar and baked. After removal from the oven, it is then covered with a garlicky, lemony yogurt sauce. It is the perfect combination of sweet and sour.
For dinner, we also ordered two of our favorites – the Lamb Lawand and the Lamb Kebabs. Again, pure bliss to enjoy these tastes. The lamb in both dishes was absolutely tender and incredibly flavorful. The sides of baked pears and Afghani rices were perfect accompaniments. The portions were perfect – we cleaned our plates, but did not walk away hungry (Given that we often split things due to the huge portions in restaurants these days, some might say that the portions were small. They weren’t.)
All in all, the Helmand Palace was a nice taste of home for us, and one that we will probably have again when we return to San Francisco. It is a bit out of the way, but not at all difficult to find. If you enjoy Afghan food, or are just looking to try it, I would recommend this place.