Bamiyan is one of Sydney’s few restaurants serving Afghani food, a cuisine that fuses Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. Think Indian curries and Nepalese dumplings kicked up with influences from China, Turkey, Iran and other regions/areas of the Middle East.
With only eight months under its belt (the restaurant opened in August 2011), Bamiyan has fast become a hit with locals. On a Saturday night, the place is chock-a-block with diners, mostly small tables of couples or friends, dotted with a few larger celebratory groups or families with kids. It’s warm and cosy in here, with Afghani prints and tapestries hanging on yellow ochre walls. Linen tablecloths, folded napkins and wine glasses add a touch of date-night fancy.
Start things off with ashaak dumplings ($11.90) stuffed with a vegetarian filling of gandana, or garlic chives. The olive oil dumplings are almost hidden beneath a liberal drenching of chunky tomato and chickpea sauce, cool drizzles of yoghurt and a heavy dusting of dried mint.
Kadoo bolanee ($9.90) is another house specialty, a soft Afghani flat bread folded around fried pumpkin seasoned with garlic and spices, served with a spicy chutney that has plenty of kick.
Not everything is spicy here, and the chilli scale on the menu will help steer you in either direction. Kabuli pulao ($25.90) is a celebration of one of the cornerstones of Afghani cuisine: rice. It’s a colourful mound of fluffy basmati rice – each grain long and separate – slow-cooked and scattered with plump sultanas, sweet julienned carrots, almonds and a few elusive pieces of tender baked chicken. The aroma of cumin and cardamom is irresistible. It’s a bonus two-in-one dish, with a bowl of mild and creamy chicken korma included on the side.
Afghani cuisine is known for its affection for meat dishes, but the banjan boranee ($13.90) is a vegetarian highlight. Thick slices of eggplant are deep-fried until soft, sweet and sticky. The smoky nutty eggplant is a perfect marriage with the accompanying dousing of tomato sauce and swirls of yoghurt.