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“Delicious and different”
Review of The Helmand

The Helmand
Ranked #30 of 645 Restaurants in Cambridge
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $21 - $30
Cuisines: Middle Eastern
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Large groups, Special occasions, Business meetings
Dining options: Dinner, Reservations
Reviewed May 8, 2013

The concierge at the Sonesta recommended this as the top restaurant in the area and it was barely a block away from the hotel. Our server was superb, knew the menu, guided us to great choices, and kept us well attended. My colleague knew something about Afghan food and seconded the pumpkin recommendation. We ordered two vegetarian dishes and divided these large portions between two people: "Special" was baked pumpkin (delightful!), eggplant, sauteed spinach, and small whole okra served with pallow rice; "Kourma Challow" included green beans, cauliflower, turnips, potato, onions, and tomatoes, with garlic/ginger/cilantro over challow rice. These two preparations of rice were boiled, spiced differently, and then baked. We also ordered two sides: spinach and Kaddo (seasoned baby pumpkin). This was an absolutely extraordinary vegetarian taste treat, with each element beautifully prepared and spiced. Will have to try the sister restaurant in Baltimore and sample the lamb dishes (both restaurants are apparently owned and operated by Mahmood Karzai, a brother of Hamid Karzai; as US taxpayers, we felt that perhaps we count as part owners...).

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1  Thank fred200099
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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201 - 205 of 393 reviews

Reviewed May 4, 2013

For a very alien take on food, some folks like to try exotic food, recipes, restaurants. America certainly is a place for those of us who seek out places like Helmand: a restaurant that serves up food that purports to be from a culture that currently tangled in conflict with our own. Our city has a has a lang and contemporary history of welcoming and resolutely harboring immigrants and one of the many benefits of this acceptance is meals like the one you're likely to have here.

This was our second attempt to visit, the previous having been quickly abandoned due to the long wait. Well, now we know why there was a long wait for a table. I wish we had not waited so long between that first try and our success this Friday to try again.

7:00 PM Friday we met a work friend from a previous job to catch up and sample what those in Cambridge have come to appreciate from middle asia, namely Afghanistan. This is a linen table cloth place with a good wine list and very good table service. The staff did everything to ensure our meal ran smoothly, that we had what we needed when we needed it and perceptibly just as we realized we needed it. There was an absolute minimum of distraction, too. We were able to enjoy the company of our dinner guest and the delights on our plate.

Dinner Details: the bread is very good. The sauces that come with it are very good, too.

Kaddo - comes with or without beef. This appetizer is an impostor; it's really a desert for those who enjoy having their treat before the meal. The menu says it's "baked baby pumpkin seasoned with sugar and served on yogurt garlic sauce, topped with ground beef sauce" but that doesn't nearly do it justice. There are two other meals that I have had that pull off what this does: it does sweet, very sweet and has a bit of savory at the same time. I wouldn't miss the Kaddo. We had it both with and without the beef in order to satisfy one diner. It's great both ways but the beef added the savory for me in a really worthwhile reward.

Chowpan - a great lamb dish, well seasoned with very good rice pillow rice more of the bread and a sautéed eggplant.

Kourma Challow - looked great, our guest enjoyed it immensely. She's actually the one to have recommended Helmand as our destination.

We'll be back. It was a great meal, the room was filled with people really enjoying their meals. The rugs cut the sound enough to allow for conversation and the price about $50 per person seemed reasonable for a great bottle of wine, a terrific, exotic meal and most importantly time catching up with a good friend.

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

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