Zarak by Afghan Kitchen
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Forks
I am always on the hunt for interesting new restaurants to take the Devils to and this week it was Zarak, a warm new Afghan restaurant perched on Main at E 5th Ave in Mount Pleasant.
As you walk in you notice how warm the space is with lots of wood and earth tones. It’s an awkwardly shaped L space, but they utilize it well and the north-facing wall of windows brings in a ton of light while giving a great view of the North Shore mountains.
Like other reviews of Zarak have commented on, the cocktails were fantastic. I love a good Moscow Mule and went for their rendition; an Afghan Mule. This had the added ingredient of date jam that added a fragrant touch to the cocktail and worked perfectly. A slight sweetness that played against the tartness of the ginger beer. I could drink those all night!
The food and its presentation was upscale and matched the dedication to detail in all other aspects of their operation. Some dishes were a bit too spicy for my palette, but all the flavours were delicious and if I were to use one single word to describe their food it would be aromatic. It’s such an evocative word and it suits them brilliantly.
I went with the intention of only having 2 courses as I’m trying to reverse the 20 pounds Covid added to my waistline. But all good intentions were out the windows when I looked over their menu. I had:
- Fried Chicken, Scallion, Cumin, Chutney. While this starter looked like chicken balls, they were so juicy and moreish (the need to eat more) even though they rated a few degrees higher on the spicy spectrum than I am comfortable with. I ate them all.
- Lamb Shank, Kachaloo, Salata. I don’t know what those last two ingredients are, all I know if this was one of the best lamb shanks I’ve ever had. This dish was bursting with exotic flavours that enhanced the lamb with every bite. This is the dish I’d heard about and was my main reason for wanting to try Zarak. It delivered on my expectations and I’d order it again without hesitation.
- Firni Jar, Milk Pudding, Seasonal Jam. This was like a smooth rice pudding with fruity morsels that were accentuated with hints of cardamom and clover.
The service was spectacular. We were lucky to have Meryem serve us, a Turkish Canadian girl who was passionate about food. Her knowledge of the menu was impressive and her service was warm and attentive. She is the kind of server that makes you want to return regardless of the food; her natural ability to host made us feel so welcomed.
While Afghan food isn’t a cuisine I would rate in my list of favourites, whenever I do have a craving for it they will be my location of choice. And more than that, they are doing such a great job, I want to support them. This is the difference you get when a restaurant is viewed from a perspective of passion opposed to just a business. You can feel it when you walk in the door.
Alistair is a real lover of food having visited 300 restaurants around Vancouver over the last 3 years. Passionate about sharing food while connecting with people, he is the founder and the host of the Dinner Devils. Having spent 10 years living in Europe, he is bringing some of that food culture back home with the creation of this group.