Khyber Pass titillates with spices

by Ana Ceballos

Hillcrest eatery serves a rare piece of Afghanistan to adventurous locals in the heart of San Diego.| Antonio Zaragoza, photo editor
Hillcrest eatery serves a rare piece of Afghanistan to adventurous locals in the heart of San Diego.| Antonio Zaragoza, photo editor

Hillcrest is home to an isolated gem. Its sandy colors and dim lights are barely noticeable during dinnertime among the neighborhood’s flashier parts. However, this reserved spot promises hungry customers exotic flavor to remember.

Khyber Pass specializes in Afghan food — cuisine uncommon to these parts, which many would consider daring. Curries and kabobs enriched with spices and intense flavors satiate taste buds when accompanied by fluffy naan bread and creamy yogurt sauce, easing the spiciness.

This family-owned eatery offers savory dishes such as mushroom curry, a mixture of sautéed mushrooms with mild herbs and spices in a tangy curry sauce, with white basmati rice. Khyber Pass’ appetizers are also worth a taste with options such as Mantu, steamed pasta shells filled with ground beef in yogurt sauce.

The restaurant’s dining area is quiet and perfect for a date. There are no disruptive noises in the kitchen or outside while table settings exhibit casual elegance, linen napkins and all.

“The quiet and intimate scene adds to the great experience,” Afghan food enthusiast and customer Ricky Cervantes said. “The variety of authentic Afghan dishes and their complementary sauces were very enjoyable.”

Khyber Pass’ service is decent, though the restaurant’s quietness enhances a lack of attention that could be overlooked in a busier setting. Food is served in a timely manner and water cups never yearn for refills, but don’t expect meal suggestions. With such adventurous options in hand, it would be nice to be advised before making impulsive hunger decisions.

Money matters at Khyber Pass may be a bit of a stretch to the wallet for the average college student. The least expensive dish costs $12.95 while the most expensive plate, the lamb kabob, costs $26.95. This may make customers doubt whether the risk of trying a new cuisine will pay off or not. But it does. Khyber Pass is worth the stretch.

Diners will leave with more than full stomachs as portions are generously served and savory spices clasp to the taste buds long after they have left the building.

“Khyber Pass is great for a date, the setting is intimate and the food is great,” Cervantes said. “The suggestions may even make you appear adventurous in the eyes of that special someone.”