One of my requirements when we bought a house was that I would be able to walk to bars and restaurants. I wanted to maintain any sense of NY identity that I could, and being able to walk to everything was one of the things I miss most about NYC. Nothing beats Portuguese at 1 AM, sushi at 5 AM. I know that I won’t find such extremes here, but something fabulous happened a few months after we bought our house. The nearby pizza place became an Afghani restaurant, Anaar Bar and Grill.
I finally not only have a bar I could walk to that I really like, but I also have some ethnic cuisine nearby! The owner is super, super nice and the staff is all fantastic. I brought my 87 year old grandma there once, and not only did she love the food (she ordered the mantoo, hoped it came with a man, or two) but the waitress we had still asks me about grandma when I go in. That’s customer service right there.
The Husband and I walked over to have drinks the other night, and the owner invited us to a menu tasting he was having. Of course we were thrilled to go because I love the food, and everyone knows nurses love free food.
When we arrived we were instructed to take an envelope and find a seat. Inside the envelope was a questionnaire about our general dining out habits, amount of money we expect to spend, and what we think Tampa is lacking in terms of restaurants.
So we took out our envelopes and grabbed a booth. They had sangria and hummus tasting while we waited for the main course to begin. The sangria is really, really good. It’s exactly the way the Husband likes his sangria. I prefer mine with more cinnamon, but I still really enjoyed it.
The first food we tried was hummus. They had two tasting stations set up where you could try two different versions of hummus, and vote for which one was on the menu. I liked #2 the best, but they were both good. (I should have probably mentioned that Middle Eastern/Indian/Mediterranean type food is my favorite, so I like pretty much everything Anaar has.)
The hummus on the right is my favorite. The one on the left was good too, but tasted a bit too much like sesame seeds for my style.
The first food item to come out from the kitchen was my personal favorite, the sambusa. I’ll admit, I order the sambusa almost every time I’ve gone to Anaar. I already knew I loved them, so it was a little unfair for the rest of the food. And they were just as great as always.
Best in (my) show, the sambusa.
The next thing was karn yarek. It was a pepper, stuffed with fabulousness. So good, and probably my second favorite.
Out came a few vegetarian dishes that I obviously liked. The okra was fabulous!
Then the moment the Husband was waiting for: Afghani chicken and waffles! Fried chicken on top a piece of naan, cooked like a waffle. It was topped with Anaar sauce, which is a delicious pomegranate sauce. It was really delicious. My only critique is that the chicken was a little too thick for the naan and I think it would be good with the option of a spicy sauce.
I mean, who doesn’t love chicken and waffles?
Out came the Anaar burger next. The Husband and I both didn’t try it. It was made from lamb, and I can’t possibly eat an animal that cute. And the Husband just doesn’t like burgers. But our friends came to join us, and they said they were really good.
They sure do look delicious.
It keeping with the original theme of the restaurant, they ended with some pizza. The first one to come out was a Buffalo chicken pizza. As Buffalonians, we are quite particular about anything Buffalo or pizza. We kind of consider ourselves unofficial experts. The pizza was actually pretty good. For Tampa, it was really good. As Buffalonians, I don’t know that we would ever order it, but honestly, we don’t go there for Buffalo pizza. (The Sicilian pizza, however, is quite fabulous.)
A little piece of home, in Tampa, at an Afghani restaurant.
The next pizza was the sabzi pizza. It was a vegetarian, Mediterranean style pizza and it was delicious. Honestly, as a New Yorker, I don’t tend to go out a lot for real pizza. If we are craving pizza, we make our own. But when I want not real pizza (meaning not cheese and pepperoni), this is the kind I want.
It must be low calorie with all those veggies right?!
And of course we ended with dessert. They served sheer brinj, which is a rice pudding type dessert with different sauces. It was just the right amount of sweet, and the variety of sauces went perfectly with the taste.
Perfect end to an evening of food tasting.
If you find yourself in South Tampa and you want something different for lunch or dinner, head to Anaar. The food is great and the staff is very friendly and efficient. Check it out on a weekend night and you might even spot a belly dancer, dancing with a knife on her head!