I've been to this place three times in the past two years, and each time it was on a Wednesday which raises money for orphans of war. This is such a great idea- to give money to a charity and make a night of it- weekly!
The first visit- So incredible. Rustic wooden chairs, Afghan carpets wall-to-wall-to-ceiling, skylights, and warmly coloured couches. The only thing missing is for ambiance is a hookah. I love that food can be an experience at this place. I can take my shoes off and snuggle next to my date there. The food is all-you-can eat and during my first visit there were non-stop chai and mango lassi samples. This evening, I bought myself some wine for an extra $5 (no biggie). The entertainment was great, too. The cost for this entire night (not including the wine) was $25 dollars and from my understanding, the proceeds were going to the orphans because the staff were volunteering. However, I am a bit surprised... volunteer staff?
The second visit- same incredible atmosphere, less people, more expensive? This time it cost me $25 plus $5 for the orphans. I thought that the staff were volunteering? Huh? I'm confused, but I think it's worth it. The entertainment was incredible- flamenco musicians and a dancer that not only moves her body, but moves my emotions as well. Unfortunately, the food is not as hot as last time, but it still tastes good. I remember loving the chicken dish best.
The third- Great atmosphere and spectacular entertainment. Even more expensive, ($25 for the event and $10 for orphans) and one teeny sample of chai was included. OK- volunteer staff is impossible. I ask a server and she admits, yes she's getting paid but she wasn't before. Well, I'm glad the workers are being paid for their time. I know I don't need to be concerned with that sort of thing, but coming from the restaurant industry, I want to look out for my comrades. But back to the food which was... disappointing. I had two small plates of "hot items" that were barely warm. Maybe my timing at the buffet was bad, but I wish they would've kept some heat in the dishes more efficiently. The quality seemed to be lacking, too- less spices, kidney beans instead of paneer in the saag (cheaper), and waxy peas in the paneer and peas with a watered-down sauce. The tofu and vegetable coconut curry was incredibly sweet even for a coconut curry. While the Afghan lamb and Turkish eggplant were yummy, they were literally cold. The cauliflower in what looked like an Aloo Gobe curry simply tasted like cauliflower in tomato sauce. The best dish of the night was the stuffed parantha- I think I caught them when they'd just come out because they were hot and pillowy soft- delicious! There is also an extensive salad bar with homemade dressings, which I can really appreciate.
Dessert includes spiced rice pudding, pistachio custard which tasted like cardamom (yummy), cheesecake, Golub Jamun (honey donuts), various cookies, and homemade chocolate and fruit sauce. Drinks are apparently not included now and expensive. It was $4.50 for a teeny chai (maybe about 4 oz) that wasn't nearly as good as last time. Their wine selection is pretty sad and expensive ($7.50 for house red?).
Overall, I feel like the quality has gone down while the price has gone up. I don't mind so much about the price- $15 for food, $10 for entertainment, $10 for orphans, but the food has to live up to the standard. Isn't that the point of a restaurant? I can say that I will be going back because it's such a beautiful experience, but I hope the food is hotter and well-spiced next time.