It’s a shame that I didn’t want to embarrass myself taking a picture of the interior of Lapis. This place is gorgeous, decorated with refurbished furniture, Persian rugs, and modern maps of Kabul. We were seated downstairs, which boasted a bar on one side and a full-service coffee counter on the other. My in-laws were noticeably absent, but I could just hear my mother-in-law’s voice echoing in my head: “I LOVE THIS PLACE!”
Both the drink menu and food menu are large and tasty-looking. My husband got a Founder’s porter. I had the Lapis Manhattan. They said it would taste like cardamom, but….ehhh. It was good, though, and I was looking forward to the two home-preserved maraschino cherries at the bottom. In case you were wondering, yes, I was that kid who ate my PB&J’s in the round so that I could savor the crustless sandwich innards last. Who am I kidding; I still do this. So. Maraschino cherries. Remember that. This would come back to haunt me.
We ordered four dishes between us, even knowing that it was probably too much: pakowra, the sambosa trio, the cauliflower, and lamb tikka. The first two starters came out first.
The pakowra were un-oily, maybe to a fault. They were very falafel-like and kind of dry, but large and filling. The sambosa were quite good, particularly the shrimp, which was a very original flavor and worth the hype. I also really liked the leek one, which was very savory and herbal. The unsung hero of the starter round was the spicy green sauce that accompanied both dishes. Next up: veggie and meat!
The cauliflower was pleasantly soft and served in rich tomato sauce. It was a large side dish, and probably would have sufficed instead of the two appetizers. It was mildly spicy and very fragrant. Its partner, the lamb tikka, was surprisingly unsauced, under-spiced, but had a strong lamb-y flavor and contained a couple of tender bites. Was this $20 worth of lamb? You tell me. They also served it with a fragrant, cinnamon-spiced rice, some flat bread, pickled onions, and more of that green sauce. Just give me the green sauce.
Around this time, we noticed a young man in his early 20’s having an awkward dinner with his parents in which each person picked at their separate meat platters silently. I sometimes like to imagine what people’s stories are, and my guess is that none of these people understood the idea of small plates. Maybe they’re from some small town somewhere and sharing your restaurant dish is considered a form of socialism? In order to avoid a political confrontation, this family kept their dinners and their opinions separate.
Our server came by to clear our plates and offer us dessert, which we opted for just to say we did. It wasn’t until I came back from the bathroom that I discovered that along with our dinner plates, they had cleared away my Manhattan glass with the cherries still in it. Taking my drink before I’m done is a cardinal sin in my book. Everyone knows that’s why anyone orders a Manhattan! It’s basically just a Shirley Temple for adults. (On an unrelated note, they may want to consider putting larger signs on the bathroom doors. Requesting for a friend).
We had the firnee cardamom custard for dessert. I finally got the cardamom flavor that was lacking in my Manhattan, the pistachios were good, and the texture was somewhere between Greek yogurt and jello. It had the necessary spice, but was ultimately probably not worth the calories.
Price: $35 per person.
Bottom line: I’d come back to Lapis, but mostly for the ambiance, and definitely for coffee only. The food was high-quality and everything except the lamb was worth the price, but there is better Afghan food around. If your parents have ever considered going on the Diane Rehm cruise, make them drive you to Baltimore for The Helmand. If you’re a cheapskate, hit up Maiwand Kabob. But maybe if your conservative, xenophobic Minnesotan parents are in town and you want to give them a mild introduction to ethnic food, you could come here. Make sure their selections trickle down to you, steer them away from the likely-too-spicy green sauce, don’t tell them it’s food from Afghanistan, and they’ll be fine.