Flatiron Lunch: Bamiyan for Crazy Tender Afghan Chicken
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between – but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
I have a regular lunch with my first boss out of college – and we seem to always have Indian food. Months ago, I walked by Bamiyan, an Afghan restaurant and suggested it for our next outing. It took us a while, but we finally got there last week.
The decor inside of Bamiyan is beyond cozy. It seems that every surface, horizontal and vertical, is covered by colorful textiles. Our table had two different patterns under the glass table top. Flags and banners hang from the ceiling. I didn’t notice this until I was leaving, but they also have a whole row of low tables with cushions. So you can have a full lounge experience, probably better if you are at lunch with someone other than a former boss.
The menu is quite extensive with all dishes served with Afghan bread and salad. In addition, many of the dishes come with white basmati rice. And this is all for just $9.95.
First, our salad course arrived. Instead of a small pile of salad as part of the main plate, a slightly larger salad came beautifully plated as its own course. It had a layer of yogurt based dressing and a drizzle of a sweet slightly spicy sauce on top. The salad was composed of iceberg lettuce, a couple carrots, and a few slices of red cabbage. It wasn’t the most gourmet or largest salad, but it certainly hit the spot.
The salad was accompanied by a small basket with 2 pieces each of Afghan Bread. It reminded me a little of naan, but mostly it resembled a more dry and thinner focaccia. It was a welcome addition to help scoop up the extra salad dressing and the sauce from our main dishes.
My former boss ordered the chicken curry. It came with a large plate of rice and was a decent portion curry. Unfortunately, it really fell short of Indian curry we normally have. Not only did it lack in flavor, it also had an odd taste. In addition to being more acidic than Indian curries, it also had a puzzling metallic taste. The best explanation I can come up with, is that it was caused by an Afghan spice I am not used to. I certainly couldn’t recommend this dish, but my former boss said something like, “it’s not bad, but…” I hope that one of the readers knows more about Afghan food and can identify what spice might have caused such a flavor. Of course, that is assuming it was supposed to taste that way.
One thing I can strongly recommend was the quorma chalow chicken that I ordered. Like the curry, it came with a huge plate of rice. It also wasn’t that similar to Indian dishes I have had. The chicken was cooked with tomatoes and lentils. The menu said it included vegetables, but I didn’t notice any beyond a few onions. I think it the best way to describe it was a chicken and tomato stew.
I think stew is also appropriate based on how easily the chicken fell apart. The chicken was so perfectly cooked, it completely shredded with the touch of the back of my spoon. The whole dish was very subtle. Other than a little salt, it didn’t need anything. They nailed it in its simplicity. I found myself thinking about and craving it later.
The menu stated at the top that the lunch special was available in-house only. But on my way out of Bamiyan, I noticed a paper menu by the door that advertised takeout and delivery weekday lunch specials for $9.95. It seems to be the exact same deal as the in-house special, with Afghan bread and salad. The only catch is they have a $30 minimum order, cash only, and they stipulate they will add $.25 per container. I am not sure if that means you are paying $.25 for the salad to be in a separate container, or if you and your friends order three different dishes, you will pay $.25 per dish for its own container. Either way, sounds like a good time to round up some friends for either a cozy meal at Bamiyan or a delivery with the potential for $.25 surcharges.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- This place feels like the most cozy living room I have ever been in.
- I am excited to try more Afghan food, and they have so many options!
- The chicken was so perfectly cooked – I can’t stop thinking about it.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I don’t have time to try a place that can’t make chicken curry taste good.
- I can get three meals worth of Indian food around the corner for $6.99, this is not a great value.
- I think they have overdone the decor, and I am not buying it.
Bamiyan, 358 3rd Avenue (on the corner of 26th Street), (212) 481-3232