The latest addition to Boise's ethic grub scene is Tazah Kabob, a satellite cafe serving Afghan food attached to Kabul Market in a strip mall on Overland Road.
The interior is austere to say the least: plain white walls with a few framed pictures of Afghan scenes. But as unadorned as Tazah Kabob may be, its food swings entirely in the other direction.
The best way to experience the joint is to hit it up on weekends between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for the lunch buffet ($8.95). More than a dozen delicacies are available to sample including dishes like qaubili palow, rice with shredded carrots and raisins, and items that lean toward Indian cuisine like aloo mutter. Cinnamon, cardamom and sumac enrich meat and vegetable stews and--miracle of miracles--even make cauliflower delicious.
Sadly, the vivid colors and pungent smells that should waft from a buffet like Tazah Kabob's are absent. Stainless steel lids help retain the space's minimalist chic.
If you can't swing the weekend buffet, Tazah Kabob's regular menu also offers a solid array of Middle Eastern treats. As a whole, the place leans more Persian than Mediterranean, offering a variety of kabobs served with rice but substituting curries and dumplings in place of hummus and baba ghanoush.
The mantu appetizer boasts soft dumplings full of lightly seasoned ground beef and onions, covered with a bright yellow split-pea gravy and a tangy drizzle of herbed yogurt. At $4.50, the appetizer-sized plate is fairly substantial, but a larger dinner platter is also available for $16.95.
Another good choice is the korma ($3.45 side, $7.95 dinner portion), with chunks of beef in a sweet stew of caramelized onions, cumin and coriander. Though korma is also common in Indian food, the Afghan version has a meatier flavor and is closer to gravy than cream sauce.
One of the most unusual items on the menu is abali ($2.49), a yogurt soda. Thick, bubbly and slightly sour, the drink is reportedly quite popular in Afghanistan--especially with slices of cucumber on a hot day. It's an adventurous flavor, but one that's likely to suit American palates in small doses.
But one of the best things about Tazah Kabob is that if any of the spices or ingredients catch your tongue, the staff will point out what aisle they're on in the attached Kabul Market, so you can try them at home, where the decor is likely less barren.