After my introduction to Afghani cuisine in Merrylands with Taste Food Tours, I entered Bakhtar Restaurant in Liverpool somewhat emboldened.
Skipping straight past the mantu (dumplings) I had tried before, I went for Ashak ($11.99). Arriving under the same tomato-based lentils, these dumplings, originating from the city of Kabul, are filled with chives, and drizzled with garlic-yoghurt. They taste fresher and greener than mantu, and you can season them yourself with chilli powder and sumac from shakers resting on every table in the small restaurant.
While basically furnished, the bright green walls and fiercely modern chandeliers give the room some visual interest, along with three prints of Afghanistan. The central print is of kebabs being grilled over charcoal, and that’s just what you should order here – they’re a specialty of the house. A Mix Kebab Platter ($16.99) gives you the trio – lamb minced on the premises, marinated, juicy chicken and plump lamb tikka – all charred, smoky and nicely lean. They’re presented with their drippings on a piece of Afghan bread, accompanied by washed onions, lightly pickled red cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, and a half tomato that has been blackened on the grill. Wrap up your own selection in a torn off segment of hot bread, served straight from the tandoor.
We also try Bolani ($4.99), which reminded me of Mexican quesadilla. They’re made by frying off Afghan flatbread stuffed with mashed potatoes and leeks, and served with a spicy tomato sauce for dipping.
To complete your authentic Afghan experience, try them with a glass of Dough ($3). This tangy yoghurt drink is a surprisingly salty digestive flavoured with dried mint and lemon. It has a cooling and refreshing effect on your palate, though it wasn't great at quenching thirst, so perhaps it’s best enjoyed side-by-side with a self-service soft drink from their fridge.
Shop 8/48 Elizabeth Street, Liverpool
Ph: (02) 8798 2795