Although my brother tipped me off about this Afghani restaurant in Dollard, I finally got to try it with my best friend from high school, as she lives nearby. Driving out to the West Island is my excuse to “get out of town”. Anyways, suburbia isn’t really known for having great ethnic restaurants, and we’ve tried every Indian place along Sources and St-Jean. It seemed like we had run out of options until Aryana.
This family owned restaurant is located in a strip mall, directly across the street from the one with all the Indian restaurants. It’s set up in a small and simple space painted warm salmon-red, which happened to match the top my best friend was wearing. Oddly, the walls were devoid of any paintings or famous tapestries from the area, which would have been nice to look at.
Afghani food, much like the country, is a crossroads between Indian, Pakistani, Persian, Turkish and other Central Asian cuisines, minus the curry. The names of dishes are indicative of this cultural diversity: kebabs (Indian-style tikka, or Persian-style kofta), quormas (kormas), samosas, palows (Iranian-style rice palaos, served with a stew), mantoos (manty, Central Asian dumplings).
My friend, a fake vegetarian (kosher at home, veggie outside), ordered a pumpkin entrée and main course. The entrée was a thin crepe made with pumpkin, topped with a yogourt dressing. She said it was good but couldn’t really taste the pumpkin, but I still wish I had tried it. I was even more envious of her main course, a pumpkin palow, which she said was very spicy, but what’s spicy for one person isn’t necessarily so for the next, and her tastes were never quite as exotic as mine.
I decided to play it safe and ordered a dish I was already familiar with at both Afghani and Iranian restaurants: sabzi quorma palow (spinach, lamb and rice). It was very mildly spiced, the lamb was tender, the rice fragrant, but I couldn’t stop drooling over my friend’s pumpkin dish the whole time. At least I know what to order next time.
For dessert, I had the baklava, which probably wasn’t spectacular because it didn’t register in my mind. If I remember correctly, my friend had the rice pudding, which tasted much better. I also had a chai, but have no memory of what that was like either.
I really hit it off with the son of the owners, who are from Kabul. He was really impressed with my knowledge of the area, which unlike many people, long preceded the events of 911 and the US invasion of Afghanistan, as my father was born in Uzbekistan, just north of there.
So now, when I tell friends I’m going for Afghan, or that I know a great Afghan restaurant, they always assume it’s the one on Duluth, probably because it’s the only one in central Montreal. But Aryana is much better and worth the 20km trip.
P.S. Aryana is BYOB. We didn’t drink, and the right red would have been fantastic with my sabzi palow. Don’t make the same mistake we did by not bringing wine — show up with a bottle or two, even if you decide not to have any.