Samar Kabab House
Address: 1729 Walkley Rd, Unit 1, Ottawa
Hours: 11am – 10pm daily (may vary during/after pandemic)
Ottawa, you sure like your kebab/kabab/kabob houses! I don’t know why this particular type of structure, but if you Google “kabab house Ottawa”, you will find no less than eight houses which sell kababs. However, there is not a single kabab factory, palace, or the natural alliterative choice, castle! While shawarma eateries in Ottawa have various royal brands, it’s nice to see the kabab staying humble.
Nearly all these houses of kabab are Afghan, and Samar Kabab House is one. Located in the … charming … concrete and asphalt expanse of Herongate Mall, earlier this year my wife and I made a stop to get much more food than two people need for lunch.
Samar’s mantu (beef and lamb dumpling in yogurt and tomato sauces) were at the top of my “to try” list, and from there we added on qabelli rice, a chicken shami platter, bowlani, and sabzi to help the vegetable content of our meal. I couldn’t pass up on a mango lasso, so I tacked that on too.
We ordered ahead for takeout, so it was only a short wait for our food once we got there. For what it’s worth, they have a sizeable dining room, with plenty of light, and comfy-looking booths.
The tented mantu dumplings were earthy and rich, which contrasted well with its tangy pair of yogurt- and tomato-based sauces. The wrappers were tender, and if you’re like my wife and aren’t a fan of lamb, don’t worry, because its meaty flavour won’t hit you hard; she didn’t even notice it at all and assumed it was just beef.
I was really impressed with their skewers of chicken shami. Ground chicken can easily be overcooked, but Samar’s were tender and moist, and not over-compressed, either. The flavour profile had a more Indian lean to it than kababs from further west in the Middle East/South Asia, which helps differentiate them as well.
The naan, which came with the shami platter, had a lightly crisp exterior, while still maintaining a moist, pliable interior that was great for scooping up some of the saucier elements of our meal.
Speaking of which: the sabzi. Made of sauteed spinach, and balanced out with onion and garlic, the sabzi brought some brightness to an otherwise very rich meal, while at the same time being head and shoulders better than the wilted spinach that children of sitcoms past feared so much.
The qabelli rice added a hint of sweetness to our meal with its raisins and carrots, but seemed to be missing the advertised almonds and pistachios, which would have changed the texture and flavour a lot.
I thought the bowlani was a nice little app, comprised of naan that’s filled with seasoned mashed potatoes, and it packed the biggest hit of spice for the whole meal. I’m always down for some carbs filled with carbs! Top it with some of the above sabzi, and you’ve got yourself a meal right there.
To cap things off: the mango lassi. It was made fresh to order (I heard a blender just before my order was brought out), and was smooth and creamy, with a great mango flavour.
The more I Afghan food I have, the more I enjoy this cuisine which strongly reflects the country’s place at the crossroads of so many cultures. Samar Kabab House is more than a simple kabab restaurant, and does their heritage proud with delicious, well-executed dishes.