How did you come to own this Afghan treasure in Wallingford?
I grew up in a rather wealthy aristocratic family in Afghanistan, and at age 17 my parents sent me to New York City. After the invasion of the Soviets, they couldn’t send me money anymore because all our assets were confiscated and liquidated by the Soviet government. I chose to stay here anyway. I heard that a man had opened a restaurant called Kabul in Seattle, and I flew here to help him out.
What is the philosophy behind Kabul?
There are lots of Afghan restaurants in California and New York, but their menus are like six or seven pages and you have to sit on the ground while you eat. The idea behind Kabul is you walk in and everything is as normal as you would think, except for the food. People should speak English properly, and there shouldn’t be an owner with a big belly and a dirty T-shirt who comes out to greet you. We don’t need the expensive rugs on the walls.
What influences your menu?
Afghanistan was at a crossroads for many different merchants. Every person who passed through the country left something behind. Like the lamb ashak: Turkish influence. Kabobs: maybe the Greeks. China, of course, influenced us all. What you see on the menu are the main dishes that were popular in my family.