Kabobi is a charming, more casual spinoff of Afghan gem The Helmand -

Kabobi is a charming, more casual spinoff of Afghan gem The Helmand

Credit: baltimoresun.com

  • Sep 14 2017 06:12About: 2 months ago
  • 11 views

Going to The Helmand in Mount Vernon is a dining rite of passage for many Baltimoreans. We're proud of this Afghan gem that has been in our midst since 1989.

Now, there's a spinoff — Kabobi from The Helmand — near Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Middle East neighborhood.

The two Helmand restaurants, operated by the Karzai family, share the same soul and many dishes — including the beloved pumpkin appetizer, kaddo borani.

But the new location, which opened in January, has a fast-casual approach.

Actually, Kabobi has a split personality. There is a counter, where diners order food to eat in or take out, and — a few steps down — a chic, modern dining room with soaring ceilings, a wall painted to resemble abstract silver-and-blue minaret towers, and individual and communal tables. The lower level offers full-service dining and a bar.

Owner Qayum Karzai said he wasn't looking to open another Helmand restaurant, but after he was approached by a developer, he realized the merits of establishing an offshoot. The original restaurant is always busy, he said. The Karzais also own Tapas Teatro, Pen & Quill and B Bistro.

The recently introduced dinner menu at Kabobi includes entrees like lamb with basmati rice and chicken kabobs, while the counter menu has various wraps and bowls. Both sides offer appetizers, soups and salads.

We sat in the lower level at dinner time and enjoyed the bold surroundings, familiar Afghan food and giant windows showcasing the street of pedestrians. This new, vibrant version of The Helmand is a great alternative to its older sibling.

Scene & Decor When we went recently during happy hour, only a few customers were camped out in the lower level. I have a feeling that once this place is discovered, there will be a crowd. Even though this is a big, open space with exposed ceiling ducts, the dining room with dramatic painted walls and bare tables is inviting and congenial.

Appetizers We never get tired of eating the wonderful kaddo borani ($4.95), the popular pan-fried and baked baby-pumpkin appetizer drizzled with yogurt garlic sauce. The sabzy starter ($4.95) was also very good. It looked like a jazzed-up creamed spinach, with the leafy greens sauteed with onions, rhubarb, garlic and a touch of cinnamon. We had a small basket of naan ($2.50), which is different from airier Indian naan. The captivating bread is thicker, denser and cut into rectangles.

Entrees One of the staff members recommended the kabuli with boneless chicken ($13.95), and we're glad we followed her excellent suggestion. The delectable pillow of luxurious rice and boneless chicken chunks was mixed with a spicy tomato and herb sauce and adorned with julienne carrots and raisins. A side of soft turnips was a nice addition. The dwopiaza ($14.95) was an enticing, fragrant saute of lamb tenderloin cubes, vinegar-marinated onions and yellow split peas served with pallow rice (a seasoned Afghan dish) and a side of turnips.

Drinks In the dining area, several wines by the glass are available from the bar, including a Tempranillo ($9) and chardonnay ($8), and a limited selection of beer in cans and bottles, such as Union Duckpin ($5). A specialty cocktail listed on the menu wasn't being offered on our visit. (Our waitress said it would be available soon, but she wasn't sure exactly when.)

Service Our friendly waitress was knowledgeable about the cuisine.

Dessert The delicate, house-made baklava ($3.95) with honey and walnuts was a luscious version of the Middle Eastern pastry. The fereny ($3.95), an eggless cardamom pudding, was a soothing ending to the meal, featuring an array of fresh fruit, including strawberries, kiwi and mango, decoratively arranged on top.

Kabobi from The Helmand

Backstory: Owner Qayum Karzai opened the fast-casual side of Kabobi from The Helmand in January. The full-service dining room with a bar started serving sit-down meals in March.

Signature dish: The kaddo borani appetizer

TVs: No TVs at this time, though there may be some in the future, Karzai said.

Where: 855 N. Wolfe St., near Johns Hopkins Hospital, Middle East

Contact: 410-327-2230, helmandkabobi.com

Open: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (or later) Monday through Friday, depending on whether people are in the dining room. Happy hour is 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. those days.

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: Accepts reservations for six and more

Bottom line: The Karzai family are experienced restaurateurs, and their expertise shows at this fabulous Helmand offshoot.



Follow Us on Twitter

Going Helmand Mount Vernon dining rite passage many Baltimoreans. Were proud this Afghan that been midst since 1989. Now theres spinoff Kabobi from near Johns Hopkins Hospital Middle East neighborhood. restaurants...

Related stories with Kabobi is a charming, more casual spinoff of Afghan gem The Helmand

Hudson Coastal brings flavorful seafood to Fulton -World News
Hudson Coastal brings flavorful seafood to Fulton 2 months ago
Brad and Tricia Hudson were frustrated by the lack of a good seafood restaurant in Howard County. So they took matters into their own hands and opened their fish house, Hudson Coastal Raw Bar & Grille, in Maple Lawn in November. “It was kind of a no
Splendid seafood at Sailor Oyster Bar in Annapolis -World News
Splendid seafood at Sailor Oyster Bar in Annapolis 2 months ago
Sailor Oyster Bar in Annapolis proudly advertises that it needs only a toaster and a blowtorch to make its food. In fact, there's no kitchen at this terrific tavern that is packing in patrons. Owner Scott Herbst, who is also involved in the popular Ts
Annabel Lee Tavern is one of Baltimore's best hidden gems -World News
Annabel Lee Tavern is one of Baltimore's best hidden gems 2 months ago
When people ask me where to take out-of-towners to eat, several great places, from crab houses to waterfront restaurants, come to mind. But there's one more hidden gem I always include on the list: Annabel Lee Tavern. This Canton find, owned by Kurt B
Consistency works for Towson's Orchard Market and Cafe -World News
Consistency works for Towson's Orchard Market and Cafe 2 months ago
The menu at the Orchard Market & Cafe in Towson hasn't changed much since 1997, and I don't want it to. That's the year that Nahid Vaezpour and her daughter and son-in-law, Sharareh and Jason Bulkeley, took over the restaurant. "We keep whatever peopl
Inventive food and friendly vibes at Liv2Eat -World News
Inventive food and friendly vibes at Liv2Eat 2 months ago
Liv2Eat in South Baltimore will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. That's a long time in the restaurant business, where many places fail early on. The sweet, easygoing bistro has found a niche in the neighborhood with its succinct, invent
Sam's Canterbury Cafe employs adults on the autism spectrum -- and serves good food, too -World News
Sam's Canterbury Cafe employs adults on the autism spectrum -- and serves good food, too 2 months ago
When Michael and Jennifer Myers decided to open a restaurant, they had in mind serving the staff as much as the customers. The couple were determined to find a workplace for their 24-year-old son, Sam, who is on the autism spectrum. With the help of t
Whether you're buying a bike or munching on pizza, Handlebar Cafe is sure to please -World News
Whether you're buying a bike or munching on pizza, Handlebar Cafe is sure to please 2 months ago
There's a party going on at Handlebar Cafe in Fells Point, and you don't need a bicycle to join in the fun. At the combo restaurant-bicycle shop, you can buy a bike, get one repaired or simply nosh on chef Chris Marquis' excellent pizzas and other far
Refined ambience, solid Chinese fare at Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn -World News
Refined ambience, solid Chinese fare at Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn 2 months ago
Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn in Lutherville-Timonium has made it past the quarter-century mark and is still going strong. The menu offers familiar Chinese dishes that are fresh and flavorful, and the setting is better than ever after a recent renovatio
At Mustang Alley's, not your average bowling alley food -World News
At Mustang Alley's, not your average bowling alley food 2 months ago
Bowling alleys are not usually the place to go for chef-prepared meals. But that changed in Baltimore with the opening of Mustang Alley's in 2007. As it approaches its 10th anniversary in August, the bowling-bistro venue in Little Italy is still going
Tucked within Little Italy, an Indian cuisine oasis -World News
Tucked within Little Italy, an Indian cuisine oasis 2 months ago
Restaurateur Chander Shekhar became a fan of Little Italy during a visit to Baltimore and soon knew where he wanted his next restaurant to be. "I saw so many people, customers going to restaurants," he said. "I thought that this is a good place for me
Fallston Barrel House could have the magic touch for a cursed corner -World News
Fallston Barrel House could have the magic touch for a cursed corner 2 months ago
With the opening of Fallston Barrel House, a cursed corner may have finally found an occupant that will break the jinx. Over the years, the building at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Route 152 has been the site of Mickey’s Bar and Grill, Mallet Rest
Tiny space, bold flavors at Otto Turkish Cuisine in Federal Hill -World News
Tiny space, bold flavors at Otto Turkish Cuisine in Federal Hill 2 months ago
The modest space doesn’t do justice to the terrific food being prepared in the kitchen at Otto Turkish Cuisine in Federal Hill. Orkun Ayrac and his cousin, Emrah Gulum, are sharing their treasured family recipes in a small dining room that was forme