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“Great example of Afghan cuisine”
Review of The Helmand

The Helmand
Ranked #28 of 641 Restaurants in Cambridge
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $21 - $30
Cuisines: Middle Eastern
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Large groups, Business meetings, Romantic, Special occasions
Dining options: Dinner, Reservations
Reviewed April 26, 2013

Our cousin Pam is an anthropologist who spent most of her adult life among Afghani people and always got our appetites excited by her descriptions of their food. When we lived in Chicago, she introduced us to the real thing there at a now-closed restaurant, also called Helmand, where our table was often visited by the owner, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half-brother of Hamid Karzai, current President of Afghanistan, who was rumored to be a partner in the enterprise. Because we loved the food at that Helmand, we were pleased to find another Afghan restaurant of the same name in the Boston area when we were there for a January get-away. On a frigid evening (5 above zero) our party of four slogged several bone-chilling blocks from the "T"-stop and were relieved to enter into the Helmand's toasty dining room, already half-filled and lively at an early hour. It is not an elegant room, but, warmed by a big fireplace and an authenticly-domed Afghan bread oven and decorated with colorful Afghan crafts and artifacts, it felt both cosy and inviting to us. The service we got was correct and dignified (not over-attentive and over-friendly as is so common today). It might have been a little slow at times, but this was compatible with our being relaxed, comfortable, and in no big hurry. Though the menu seemed a bit exotic to the couple with us, who had never had Afghan food before, the menu's careful descriptions of each dish soon had them as eager to order as we were. (Anyone worried about whether they would like this cuisine can look in advance at the detailed menu descriptions and mouth-watering photos of certain dishes at the restaurant's Website, http://www.helmandrestaurant.com/.) The food is wonderfully flavorful but not overly spicy, and there is a wide vegetarian choice. We were happy with all our choices, especially the Chowpan (marinated lamb chops which were some of the best any of us have ever had. I am not sure of the extent of its bar, but Helmand has a good quality and reasonable wine list.

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Thank CHARLES G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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198 - 202 of 388 reviews

Reviewed April 14, 2013

Enjoyed the grilled chicken and the salad. They do not substitute anything in an unusually rigid way, but other than that the service was good and the food enjoyable but not as amazing as everyone said it would be

1  Thank ELFPDX
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 12, 2013

We have visited this restaurant about a dozen times in the past 5 years with family and friends, most recently this past Monday. Parking is easy and free, important for an urban location. The décor is pleasant enough, the tables spaced a bit too close. This is not a problem unless your neighbors think that their conversation is scintillating enough to deserve broadcast (either a growing trend or a sign that I am becoming less tolerant of buffoons as I age).

The food is very good and they treat lamb especially well. Freshly baked bread from their dining room wall oven is always a much appreciated touch. The wine list offers a good range of pricing and consistent quality. The service has never been an issue and on our last visit was actually very impressive. Our waiter was a young man whose haircut and bearing suggested a US military background which we later learned turned out to be the case. Appetizers (yes, do try the baked pumpkin) and desserts are varied enough for all to find something to their liking. Prices are fair, being commensurate with the quality of the product and service, neither a bargain nor a swindle.

My only issue with the place is in the reservation process. I always make a point of calling to make reservations. I have an unusual last name which I take great care to spell out slowly and clearly. ALMOST ALWAYS (my last visit being a pleasant and surprising exception to this rule) we show up on time and the front desk acts not friendly, not welcoming, but SURPRISED. It goes like this - Who are you? I don't see your name here. I am too important to smile. Please wait here. - A few stressful minutes later when I have not quite reached boil from simmer we are seated. There are several reasons why I suspect this charade was not repeated on our most recent visit. 1. It was a Monday and slow. Perhaps during peak demand periods they don't pace the seating reservations properly and prefer to imply that it is your fault that a table isn't ready, not theirs. 2. When I made the original reservation I made a point of asking for the name of the person I was speaking with (always a good idea, I now know). 3. I spoke with a woman and not the grumpy, supercilious, incompetent, old fart I usually encounter there. (I can call him this because I too am a grumpy old fart though, I believe, neither supercilious nor incompetent). 4. I called a second time a few hours before our reservation to change from a party of five to a party of six. This no doubt served to refresh their recollection.

So do try this place. You will enjoy it. But do remember to get the name of the person taking your reservation (and perhaps ask for their mother's maiden name to prevent delay of service, in case you get you-know-who).

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1  Thank John S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 10, 2013

My husband & I went to The Helmand with another couple about 12 days ago. We had a reservation and were seated fairly promptly. The water guy filled our glasses and the waiter brought the menus. Then he didn't come back. After 25 minutes, the waiter reappeared to apologize for the wait & then disappeared again. After 30 minutes we had had enough, especially as another table 4 feet away had turned over since we were seated & the new diners were being served. As we were going, the waiter asked "Are you leaving?" in a very surprised tone as if we had no reason to do so. My husband notified the manger (owner?) on our way out about the reason we were leaving. He also seemed surprised and asked us to stay & assured us that we would be served promptly. No thanks. We went elsewhere, had a lovely meal with great service and left a good tip. The only reason I gave 2 stars instead of one is because the water guy came by at least 3 times and made sure we were well hydrated. We have been to The Helmand twice before and did not experience this problem but the food was not good enough to make up for this latest visit. We won't be back.

    • Service
2  Thank belfast10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 10, 2013

On a road trip to look at potential colleges, we had dinner at The Helmand, about 2 miles from the Hyatt Regency Cambridge (MA). We met family there (9 of us) and we had a wonderful time and the food was simply outstanding. Make reservations ahead of time because the restaurant is very small. There is no "children's menu" but my two little grandnieces shared a chicken dish which they enjoyed.

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Thank 1941redhatnana
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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