Yeah, the experience at the Afghan restaurant,Parwana, can be like that. From the moment you walk through the door and under the giant butterfly that serves as a sign, you are hit with several things: a wonderful smell that implores you to decipher the main ingredients in the meal, a pleasant soundtrack of Afghan, Middle eastern, and Indian music, and the smiles on everyone’s' faces inside.
You are started off with warm flat bread with a delicious cilantro lime dipping sauce. While it is quite good, do not stuff yourself on it. One of my favorite appetizers there (or anywhere) is the pumpkin. It is so tender, so perfectly sweet and buttery, so melt in your mouth wonderful that it does what it is supposed to do - get your appetite going.
There are other great appetizers such as the Aushak, a dumpling that can be had vegetarian or with meat. This is a popular choice as an entree as well.
My favorite entree is the chicken in a sour cream mushroom sauce. If you can somehow imagine chicken as soft and tender as a cube of butter (warmed of course), then you have a vague idea of the tenderness to this poultry. IT IS SOOOO GOOD! The cucumber salad and yogurt sauce on the side serve as excellent accompaniments to the heartiness and fullness of flavor in the rice and chicken.
I will admit, I have never saved room for dessert in all of the times I have been to Parwana. I have no idea if the desserts are good. It doesn't matter one bit to me. The meal doesn't need a sweet note at the end to finish it. Still, if you are a dessert person, there are options.
This restaurant will always cause me to have cravings. I have since moved 800 miles away from Santa Cruz and cannot readily go to Parwana. Still, just as the Monarch butterflies migrate to Santa Cruz every year, I will make my way to under the butterfly sign and into another plate of some of the finest food I have had.
August 2, 2004
From journal The Food in Santa Cruz