Salang Pass is probably the best Afghan restaurant in the Bay Area, one of those semi-hidden gems in one of the best dining areas of the country. The little restaurant is located in a nondescript block of Little Kabul in Fremont, and doesn't look like much from the outside. Inside it's quite pleasant, with a lower area with tables and chairs and a higher one tented and decorated with long pillows, cushions and low tables. Alas, the tables are set up so you can only sit on one side, so this is not the best seating arrangement for parties of more than three. The walls have mirrors and some nice Afghani art, but there are also cheap prints and a discolored map which bring down the atmosphere a couple of notches. We went for an early dinner there with our two kids and our friends Grant and Desiree and their two kids in July 2005.
The menu is typical Afghan, with appetizers, kebabs, pilaus and other main dishes. Appetizers hover around $6 while main dishes average $12. The meal starts with Afghan naan bread; I'm not very fond of it but others - including our 6 month-old - liked it. They also liked the salad, with its crunchy lettuce, cherry tomatoes and tasty vinaigrette - it was plain, simple and good.
I wouldn't call the mantoo, a dish of delicate but large Afghani ravioli, simple, but it was certainly good. Its meat filling was very nicely spiced, and it was topped with a very refreshing minty yogurt sauce. We ordered it as an appetizer, but you can order a larger portion as an entree - it's highly recommended.
I'm not a pumpkin fan on my best day - but I have to admit that the borani kadoo was quite good as well. The pumpkin was slightly sweet and had been mixed with yogurt and seasoned with cardamon, saffron and other spices. It's the sort of thing that you will only want a little of, so order a portion to share!
The eggplant eaters in our party also gave the thumbs up to the eggplant appetizer; it was smokey and came with that delicious yogurt sauce.
As a main dish I had the quabili pallow. It came with a full lamb shank, that, as you would expect, was a bit fatty, but the combination of the spiced rice and the lamb was very good. Indeed, this was probably the best quabili pallow I've had.
Mike ordered the combo kebabs, one beef and one lamb. They were a little overdone but were very nicely spiced. They came with the same rice as served in the quabili pallow, and Mike couldn't stop eating it.
Grant had the chicken tika (I think), which he liked, but grew bored of - he thought it was best eaten with other dishes. Alas, I don't remember what Desiree ordered.
Service was very amenable in this family restaurant, and it's definitely a child-friendly place. We weren't the only ones with small children there. I'm sure we'll be going back there soon.
37462 Fremont Blvd.