November 5, 2001 | Ask Gael
Is this the moment for Afghan comfort food?
Find a place in your diet for compassion. On a stretch of Second Avenue where numbed locals seeking solace filled the surrounding sidewalk cafés and stretched Baraonda to bursting throughout September, Pamir was ominously deserted. Desperate, the Bayat brothers, Sultan and Farid, covered up the big sign above the awning that trumpeted THE FOOD OF AFGHANISTAN and hung not one but three American flags in the window. Slowly, friends of the past two decades began to return. "Thank God," says Sultan. I'd almost forgotten the coziness of tribal carpets, hanging copper and saddle bags, the warm (now almost relieved) welcome, and the luscious ravioli-like aushak under a mantle of yogurt and savory meat sauce. I'd come again for the aushak alone, and for satiny eggplant and pumpkin similarly draped. We're happy sharing crisp phyllo turnovers studded with scallions or onion and potato (to dip in a trio of sauces), juicy ground-beef kebabs and skewers of marinated lamb chops with caramelized onion and brown rice. Chunks of juicy lamb shore up the pistachio-and-almond-tossed pilaf (called palaw). The arrival of two young Middle-Eastern-looking men at a table behind us chokes off our uninhibited debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the conversation segues to dessert. "The baklava [baghlawa] is pretty good," a pal advises. Agreed -- it's chewy and not too sweet. Okay, we're compassionate wusses. But well-fed.
Pamir 1437 Second Avenue, near 74th Street, 212 734 3791