Atmosphere: Informal and intimate. Price Range: Most entrees run from $5.75 to $7.00. But vegetarian dishes are considerably less espensive.
Credit Cards: Master Charge, Bank Americard/Visa, personal checks with proper identification.
Hours: Lunch, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a. m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner every day 5:30 to 11p.m.
Special Facilities: Because the restaurant is on the second floor, access by wheelchair is extremely difficult. There are high chairs and booster seats.
Reservations: Not necessary.
A while ago, in about 329 B.C. when Alexander the Great was whipping through the Khyber Pass on his way to India he surely must have stopped off somewhere for an Afghan snack.
Now that's a long reach for a lead-in to today's Family Out, but then it isn't often we talk about Afghan cooking. In fact, if you must know, this is a first.
It is not fetching too far, though, when we relate to you that our foursome has just trekked through the Khyber Pass Restaurant on Calvert Street NW - and we what we found.
But we interrupt for a point of information, which is what our 10-year-lod son and 8-year-old daughter did at the outset. Exactly where, they inquired, is Afghanistan, anyway? Naturally we were quick to inform them that, well, er, wait'll we get home.
All right: It's bordered by Iran on the west, Pakistan on the east and south, the USSR on the north and China on the northeast. And the Khyber Pass winds through the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border - a route by which many an invader took Kabul by its horns.
Actually, you wouldn't need too many people to take over the Khyber Pass Restaurant for there are only a dozen little tables in this cozy new cousin of the Bamiyan Afghan Restaurant in Georgetown.
For that matter, you could easily walk right by the Khyber Pass without even noticing it, for it's on the second floor. But once up the short-and-wide flight of stairs, there's much to catch the eye: A small room dotted with bright red tablecloths, some fresh flowers and hanging plants, deep red and blue carpets and, on the walls, colorful travel posters, jewelry, yet another rug and even a complete native costume.
So with inoffensive mood music and a round of soft drinks and beer, we moved to the menus and a round of indecision laced with a dash of trepidation. When it's that unfamiliar, about all you can do is look for friendly ingredients somewhere in the English-language descriptions of the offerings.
As it turned out, everything clicked beautifully. For a starter, we shared one order of deep-fried pastries filled with ground beef, chick peas and parsley for $1.35.
Tnstant hit. There were four snappy, two-bite meat pies - one for each of us - and unfortunately, nobody backed off.
On the contrary, this buoyant beginning steeled all nerves and had us raring to go on to the next mystery courses.
Our daughter was first to make a selection, based on the secret word that leaps out of any menu she reads: "chicken." Here it can be found in abundance under the name Kabab e Murgh, at $5.85, a sensation of a dish: juicy charcorbroiled boneless bites of soft chicken on long skewers done in a fascinating yogurt-spice marinade and accompanied by tasty white rice. It was served with flair and devoured with zeal and dispatch.
Indeed, the only time our youngest broke stride was to hand off a few trader-bites, and then only under duress. But then none of us was all that eager to part with anything, either.
My wife's praised possession was Sabsi Chalow, at $5.95, which is chunks of lamb done in an onion, garlic and spinach sauce that tastes so much better than it sounds.
Our son, meanwhile, was unusually ecstatic about his choice of Shislik, at $6.75, which is chunks of beef, smoothly sauteed and served with a zesty vegetable sauce of unknowm origins.
I chose something popular enough to get a line on the restaurant's matchbook cover: Quablilong shot; it's delicately seasoned" pieces of lamb under a mound of saffron rice, topped with carrot strips and raisins.
I was prepared to brush aside the latter two ingredients, but to my amazement, they blended in superbly.
Each dish came with what is modestly described as a "small salad." and which is really a sizeable bowlful of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce with a light, pleasantly kicky dressing of the sort children in particular (or is it particular children?) go for. And several offerings were accompanied by pieces of a special bread that looked like Spanish roof tiles (but were easier to chew).
For dessert, the children shared a slice of baklava at $1.50 and, for another $1.50, something with the giggle-provoking name of Gosh-e-Feel. For that matter, it's silly-looking, too - a thin fried pastry shaped like an elephant's ear. It sort of bombed with the kids (no pizazz, said one) but I likes it because it wasn't at all sweet.
My wife tried - and enjoyed - a cardamom spiced tea, at 65 cents, while I was content with coffee, also 65 cents.
As we've suggested on other occasions, these desserts and coffess have a way of jacking up that final reckoning; thus our party's explorations at the Khyber Pass came to $36.33 plus tip. But by concentrating on the generous main courses, or even trying some of the lower-priced vegetarian dishes, one could shave that figure by quite a bit.
In any event, and this surely was one, who would've guessed that our children would wind up wild about Afghan cooking? That's going to be a mighty tall order to keep filling along the local restaurant circuit!