Salang Pass: Reviews

Salang Pass: Reviews | restaurant info | watch episode (requires RealPlayer: windows | mac)

Salang PassSalang PassSalang Pass
Mantoo, Borani Kadoo, Quabili Pallaw


FanciName: Fanci
Occupation: Veterinary Nurse / Actress
Location: Danville
Favorite Restaurant: Salang Pass
Reviewed Salang Pass: Monday, September 19, 2005

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a very friendly young man, who seated us on pillows in our favorite section. The music was nice. We removed our shoes and got comfortable. I ordered a Turkish coffee and tea — they were both OK. I thought the nutmeg in the coffee was a little too strong for my liking, and the tea was OK. We ordered Borani, with is sautéed pumpkin with a special yogurt sauce on top. You first get a good green salad with wonderfully sweet cherry tomatoes and an Italian-type dressing along with pillowy Afghani naan and two types of Afghani chutney, all of which is delicious. Then came our pumpkin appetizer, which was wonderfully prepared — this is a great choice for pumpkin lovers. It is so hard trying to decide what my main dish choice should be. I chose Quabili Pallaw, and for the side dish I chose Vegi Aushak, both of which were absolutely divine! I could not stop eating. Then, I ordered dessert. Firni and mango ice cream. Yes…okay, I was indulging! I traditionally do not care for rosewater, but decided it sounded tempting, and it was worth it. The Firni was heavenly, and the mango ice cream was the best I have ever had because there were chunks of mangoes in it. What a wonderful experience. The waiter (Mo) was such a pleasure to talk with and his stories of cooking and Afghanistan were quite a treat! Did I mention Afghan food is my favorite?


DionName: Dion
Occupation: Director of Admission at High School
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Isa
Reviewed Salang Pass: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Salang Pass restaurant is located in Fremont and specializes in Afghani cuisine. It was the first time I have ever had food from Afghanistan. Fremont apparently has the largest Afghani community in the United States.

The décor and ambience of the inside of Salang Pass is in no way reflected in the neighborhood/storefront. After exiting Interstate 880 onto Fremont Boulevard, one travels along three miles of strip mall and cookie-cutter housing developments. It reminded me of why I decided to live in the city! But, on the other hand, I was very pleasantly surprised when my companion, Debbie, and I entered Salang Pass.
The restaurant has two distinct sections. To the right are standard tables and chairs, and to the left is a slightly raised floor and with low tables and cushions to sit on. We decided to sit on the floor. This area is draped with tent-like fabric, so you feel like you are reclining in a tent in the middle of some oasis. Painted on the wall, where the standard tables are, is a slightly kitschy mural of the actual Salang Pass with the year 1919 (date of revolution from the British) highlighted. Sitting on the floor, the tables are long and narrow and people sit side by side. If you were with a party of more than three or four, you would never be able to have a conversation with the people at the other end. For two it is intimate.

We shared four dishes and one dessert between the two of us. The first two dishes served were Borani Bademjan ($5.50), which is eggplant sautéed with fresh tomatoes and garlic and topped with a yogurt sauce; and Bolani, which is described as an Afghani calzone stuffed with leeks and topped with ground beef and yogurt. Both were fantastic! The eggplant Borani Bademjan was savory and while the tomatoes and spices added a nice tartness, the cooling yogurt tied it all together. The Bolani is basically flat bread filled with leek and potato. I would recommend that people order this as a side dish and use it like bread for many of the other dishes.

The next two courses were Mantoo ($5.50) — another appetizer of dumplings stuffed with beef — and Chopan Kabob ($13.00), which is lamb served over a bed of basmati rice. The Mantoo was very good with a sweet, yet spicy flavor. The kabob was, unfortunately, the only dish that I did not care for. The lamb was overdone and tough. The rice, however, was perfectly cooked and flavored with cilantro and other spices and then drizzled with lemon — that worked well. The ubiquitous yogurt sauce was on these dishes as well.

Service was good, but maybe a bit too enthusiastic. I think if the two of us ordered ten dishes on the menu, they would have served us without a peep. I believe good service should suggest appropriate portions of food. After the first two courses were served, they were too quick with the following dishes. Perhaps because we weren’t prepared to eat the lamb kabob, it toughened while it waited for us. Two dishes on the menu were not available — one being a dessert — so Aref, the server, gave us their homemade ice cream ($4.00) gratis. The rosewater ice cream topped with pistachios was good, but just not for me. We also ordered Turkish coffee ($2.00) that literally tasted like mud. When we asked for milk and sugar and commented that it wasn’t to our liking, he did not charge us.

In keeping with the Islamic faith, alcohol is not served at this restaurant. We did bring bottle of wine, and they placed glasses and a corkscrew in front of us. They never touched our wine bottle to fill our glasses, but neither did they charge a corkage fee — yay!

The cost of the dinner, which would have easily fed three people, was $39.69. Service and food were so good that we left $50.00 total. I would again visit Salang Pass if it wasn’t so far from San Francisco, and I’m glad this restaurant was selected for my introduction to Afghani food!


MichaelName: Michael
Occupation: Music Promoter
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Antica Trattoria
Reviewed Salang Pass: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

If you have any inkling to venture out and try a new ethnic cuisine and you have a sense of adventure, Salang Pass, a unique Afghan restaurant in Fremont, is a good place to try. Not everything is outstanding, but there are many notable dishes, the people are warm and friendly, and the service, though not perfect, would also bring you back again. The atmosphere, though nothing to write home about from an aesthetic viewpoint, is decorated with an array of traditional Afghan fanfare. Upon entering from an ordinary storefront, there is the option to sit at one of the 15-20 tables or to embark up the platform to a tented covered area. Nasser, our waiter and an immigrant to the United States following the Soviet invasion, explained the multi-colored tented curtains, long cushions, and low tables. Sitting close to the ground under a tent is traditional in living rooms to make guests feel welcome in Afghani homes. And even though the restaurant looks somewhat tired, the walls are painted in cheerful mango and orange tones.

The menu consists of tasty appetizers including the Borani Bademjan — a zesty dish of steamed and baked thinly-sliced eggplant with a tomato sauce and light yogurt sauce on top. The tender eggplant was seasoned with some wonderful Middle Eastern-type spices that gave a hint of it being a Mediterranean-style dish, yet it was clearly distinct from anything I had eaten. The second appetizer, Borani Kadoo — a pumpkin dish cubed with spices — was somewhat less impressive. I’m a big fan of pumpkin, but the vegetable seemed a bit overdone, either from a lack of freshness (possibly frozen) or simply from being overcooked. Saffron, a delicious spice when used judiciously, overwhelmed the dish, making each bite somewhat acrid. Included with the entrees is a simple salad of mixed greens and vegetables, which is placed quickly on the table upon ordering. The bread, a naan style meets focaccia, was underwhelming and possibly on the stale side. A better choice would have been to order the calzone-style bread made with leeks and potatoes that looked fresh and appetizing and got lots of smiles from our neighbors. The salad, though fresh in terms of the lettuce, had a dressing that resembled something straight from a bottle on a grocery store shelf. Other salads included the seemingly more interesting Salata, a mixture of red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint with a special dressing.

The most impressive part of the dinner, and one that would bring me back, were the entrees. Several were noteworthy, including the Mantoo, which was a sort of dumpling/ravioli hybrid stuffed with beef, onions, and a nice array of spiced seasonings. The tart yogurt sauce on top gave the dish an almost Eastern European flair, reminding me of my background. It makes sense, given that Afghanistan straddles many borders, including the former Soviet Union. The Afghani meatballs were also memorable, tangy with a rich cilantro and tomato sauce. The sauce was plentiful, but not overdone in terms of richness. Finally, the kabob, which comprised a main section of the menu and needed to be tried, was another winner. Tender chunks of lamb shank off the bone were cooked just right. They were tender and flavorful and served with a mild, but slightly seasoned, basmati rice and grilled tomato. For a group, I would recommend ordering at least one kabob, which gives you a choice of lamb, chicken, beef, or combination, because it will balance out the richer and more complex dishes.

The desserts are a combination of ice creams and a baklava-style pastry, which we opted not to try. Instead, when we requested a typical Afghan dessert, Nasser suggested the Jala — a homemade ice cream over rice noodles with syrup flavored with rosewater and cardamom. I can’t say I fell in love with this dessert, but I found myself eating it nevertheless. Perhaps the refreshing and cool ice cream and the unusual spice of the cardamom piqued my interest. In any case, it was exotic and worth trying.

All in all, I would recommend Salang Pass for its charm, ethnicity, and overall interesting and tasty select dishes — especially in the entree category. With advance notice, this location will accommodate private parties of up to forty people, and they also have room across the street for even larger parties. The prices are fair with appetizers and salads in the $3-5 range, and entrees between $11-15. The restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license, but you can bring your own, and there is a store right around the corner has a selection of beer and wine.

No tags for this post.
  • gg

    I’ve eaten three or four times at Salang, and I agree it is a fine restaurant experience. Not only are the food options unusual, and tasty, but the elevated eating area, with rugs and low tables is interesting. I’ve also had very good service, very patient. I would remind Dion that this is Check Please! Bay Area, not San Francisco, and that if you live in Fremont, Isa is just as far away as Salang is for him.

  • Jessica

    I’ve even several times at Salang, and even had them cater my otherwise American-style wedding. My favorites are the bolani, quabili pallow and teka beef kabobs. We have brought several friends there who had never tried Afghan food before. They all came with trepidation, and left raving about the food!

  • Roxie and Leslie

    We’ve eaten at Salang many times and have never been disappointed. Wonderful flavors. I agree with Franci regarding the pumkin dish – wow! Also the garbonzo bean side dish is very tasty. The spiced tea is a great beverage with this food.

    The service has always been excellent. The more you go the more you learn about the food and the culture. They love answering your questions.

    It’s been too long – we “need” to get back to Salang.

  • Sam Ramirez

    The Salang Pass is a very cozy place. However, there was not one thing except the salad that I enjoyed. It needs something to get your teeth to work on that gives you that feeling of having eaten.!! It is ggenerally a bit of that and a bit of this. Perhaps, being raised on steak and eggs has a bearing on my comment

  • Kim Nguyen

    My boyfriend and I went to eat at Salang Pass yesterday evening. This was our first time eating Afghan food, and boy were we surprised. It was delicious. We had the Borani Kadoo, Mantoo, Bolani, and Quabili Pallaw. My boyfriend describes the Mantoo as being similar to a creamy lasagna; very flavorful. He ate everything off of his dish along with almost all of mine. :) The only things that weren’t great was the salad and the Naan (dry and stale). The basmati rice in the Quabili Pallaw tasted great topped with some yogurt and hot sauce. We will definitely come back again.

  • Juliet

    I ate at Salang Pass the summer of 2005. It was my second experience at an Afghani restaurant. I was not familiar with Afghani food at all. Both times were a delightfully delicious experience. Afghani food is very tasty. My companion had the Mantoo which she raved about and I had the Quabili Pallow. Yummy!! If you’ve never been to Salang Pass, you’re in for a treat!

  • kimi_kimi

    I just came back from a delicious lunch at Salang Pass. I was seated right away and there were only 2 other tables that were taken as this is a Sunday afternoon. The ambience is exotic yet comfortable. Patrons have the choice of sitting at a table or on the floor. Of course I opted for the floor. A salad with italian dressing was promptly served to me as I was going over the menu.For appetizer, I had the Aushak Afghani styled ravioli stuffed with leek and seasonings, topped with ground beef and a special yogurt sauce. It was very rich and flavorful but a tad mushy for my taste. Entree was Lamb Korma which was rich as well with lots of basamic rice. For dessert I had the rose water homemade ice cream. Overall I liked the service and music was soothing. Parking is sparse and as I’ve never had afghani food it was a great experience. Please try to eat there for lunch between 2-4pm where it tends not to be busy. Good luck!

  • Raymano

    Salang Pass is truly one of the best Restaurants I’ve been to, mainly in terms of food.

    First, you would in and theres this traditional floor seating area that they have made as a stage type thing and its covered with Lots of color ful drapes within it. I can really explain the decor, you would have to check it out yourself, but its very unique.

    They have a large murual in the table seating section illustrating a country side. Lots of other Afghan Decor all over.

    Thats not even the best part about it, the FOOD was excellent!!!! This is really good food,. I love Afghan food and have tried most if not all the Afghan restaurants in the bay, but this has the best FOOD. I ordered Mantu, Qabilly pallow, boloni, and Jala for dessert. I was so full by the time I finished that I took advantage of this floor cusion seeting and just layed down. The owner approached me and informed me that is why traditionally people sat on the floor duuring food, was so that they could just lay down.

    The server was very attentive to our needs and we got good service. The manager on duuty, zak, I believe is his hame is very nice man, he’ll come and talk to you and explain afghan culure.

    I will come back many many many times again.

  • Lucki Herrera

    I would like if KQED can do a review of my favorite restaurant ; Nick’s family restaurant in San Leandro / San Lorenzo. It is by the Kmart near Bayfair mall.