A Taste Of Afghanistan: Lapis in Washington D.C.
My favorite person was back home for another two weeks of non-stop eating and laughing. After being in the car with someone for 22 hours (ever road trip from Texas to Maryland?) all you want to do after is sleep and eat real food. Road trips are all fun and games until you're stuck eating chips and dip because everything is closed.
When we finally made it back home to Maryland, it was back to normal life for me. This meant working full-time and then coming home to cook + entertain my family. The week was filled with random bouts of political talks, good food, more car rides, sunflowers (get you someone who remembers your favorite flower) and other goodness. As the week winded down I knew that I wanted to try a new restaurant in Washington, D.C.. I live just outside of the district and have been visiting for years to eat and party. For some reason I always end up eating brunch in the capital city, but have been to very few dinners.
So I google'd the best restaurants in D.C. and that's where I stumbled upon Lapis DC. I was excited about Lapis for more reasons than one. The best reason? Afghan food. My love served overseas with the United States Military in Afghanistan. The worst and most precious moments of his life were spent in the mountains with locals cooking up these very dishes. I knew Lapis was the place.
After having a mini heart attack ( their website said no reservations were available), I decided to email the restaurant asking if they could slip in a table for two tonight around six pm. Of course, I "mentioned" the fact that the bf lived in Afghanistan and how much we'd love to dine there. Someone immediately wrote me back saying that she could pencil us in. For the rest of the workday, I couldn't help but to be unfocused. I was excited to see the look on his face when he took the first bite. I wondered if the flavors was bring memories rushing aback. Food has a way of transporting us to places (and people) we once knew. Lapis D.C. was that.
Disclaimer: I've never been to Afghanistan nor have I served in the military, so I won't romanticize the harsh realities of what it means to by deployed in a war zone.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing my love say that the food at Lapis tasted exactly like he remembered. I think the first bite of Palow, Afghan rice pilaf, brought back a rush of emotions. In fact, I'm sure of it due to his slightly aloof state for the remainder of our meal. Food is much more than nourishment. Food is life, love and travel all-in-one. It's an experience and finds its way into our favorite stories whether we realize it or not. One of my favorite elements of Lapis was its menu. It was filled with stories of the family who owns the restaurant. The menu was more like a short story weaving interesting facts and quirky relevant popular culture in between food listings. Genius.
Finally. This is what you came here for, right? I cannot even begin to express to y'all how delightful these dishes were. Of course, I ordered too many apps and was full before our entrees came and yes, I ate it all. I am ashamed of nothing. K walked out of the restaurant with his stomach on a full tank and I was to blame. All plates must be clean when you're with me.
I'm joking but the food was just that good.
Lapis is a cozy restaurant on the end of block in the illustrious Adams Morgan neighborhood. The Afghan powerhouse hugs the corner with its perfect-for-people-watching windows. Upon entering, I noticed the amount of couples here. It was probably because of the sheer romantic feels the place has. The low lights and rowhouse vibes makes it perfect for intimate conversation.
Tables are really close together so keep that in mind. It didn't bother me that a stranger was sitting right next to me because this meant that I got to peek at their plates while debating what to order. Here's what we got:
Starters Tasting Flight: With this you get one of each starter. Why would I say no to that?
1. Bolani- Crispy Afghan Bread (similar to Indian Nann) with fillings. I chose the onion & potato filling. BOMB. I mean can you ever go wrong with onion or potatoes? It's a no from me.
2. Sambosa trio- A crispy pastry trio (we got shrimp) which is served with a yogurt sauce and chutney. This was my first time trying chutney (well I think I've had it at an Indian joint near my house) and my goodness that sauce can go on anything.
3. Shamee kebab- These are patties filled with beef, potatoes, onions and chickpeas. If there's one thing I love, it's a damn chickpea. They're so simple yet packed with flavor.
4. Shore-nakhot- Chickpea (more chickpeas!) and potato salad in a vinegar-cilantro dressing. I have to say that this was one of my favorite dishes. It was basically a chickpea soup. The peas were cooked down and served in a bowl of the vinegar-cilantro dressing. K doesn't do well with cilantro so these weren't his favorite, but if you dig that fresh herb taste you'll love these.
5. Pakowra- Crispy veggies with more yogurt and chutney. These were also crispy and delicious.
and that's JUST the appetizers. We had the nerve (ok, it was me) to order dumplings AND an entree. For the second app- dumplings, we opted for Mantoo beef- steamed dumplings in a tomato and split pea sauce. They were delightful and very filling. We definitely didn't need all of this food.
The main attraction (our entree) was the Qabuli Palow, an Afghan rice pilaf with lamb, carrots and raisins. I know what you're thinking raisins? But they added the perfect amount of sweetness. This was the dish that took him back to his days in the mountains of Afghanistan. Telling stories with his Army brothers, talking about their future lives and surviving it all with grace. When the words left his lips, I couldn't help but to return to my reflective Pisces state. He said that the food was just as he remembered. Every ingredient and flavor was there.
That's when everything came full circle for me. This food experience reminded me of why I love food + travel so much.
No matter our different paths or levels of intensity while traveling, we travel. Black people do travel and so what if it's with the military. Traveling on someone else's dime is always a smart move. As a people, we're constantly shattering stereotypes that we're a monolithic, non-traveling people. We know that's not the case but stories like these only prove it. Seeing the world by any means necessary.
Thank you to Lapis, D.C. for the incredible meal and the best (kinda) surprise dinner date for my love. I can't wait to keep exploring the world with you.