Eat the Strip

Mezbaan Restaurant

3098 Carling Ave Unit 8, Nepean, ON K2B 7K2

June 1, 2023 10:55 AM

By: Ameya Charnalia


Growing up in a Delhi neighbourhood with a large Afghan refugee population, I grew accustomed to Afghan shops and restaurants on nearly every street corner.

In the evenings, after a game of cricket with the kids from my block, I’d go to my Afghan friend Sikander’s house to play video games.

His dad would almost always send me home with a bag full of fresh Afghan naan.

This fluffy, long naan is made with whole wheat flour and often contains nigella seeds. It’s sometimes called the snowshoe naan because of its narrow at the tip and wide at the centre shape.

Those childhood memories came rushing back to me when we finally decided this week to grab dinner at Mezbaan, an Afghan restaurant located near Bayshore.

Their naan was warm, soft and the nutty flavour from the nigella seeds made us keep going back for more even though we were stuffed after our main course.

The "snowshoe naan" launched me right back to my childhood in a Delhi neighbourhood known for its Afghan food
The "snowshoe naan" launched me right back to my childhood in a Delhi neighbourhood known for its Afghan food

Speaking of the main course, Danielle and I ordered the qabuli uzbeki and the chaplee kebab—two well-known dishes popular both in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan. Danielle’s brother Sean, who also accompanied us on this Eat the Strip adventure, opted for the tandoori chicken kebab.

The qabuli uzbeki, from the north of the country, is a rich pulao dish that usually involves cooking rice in stock or broth, adding spices and other ingredients such as meat and vegetables. At Mezbaan, it was the uncontested titan—a huge serving of lamb meat on a bed of rice adorned with carrots and raisins.

Qabuli uzbeki, the pièce de résistance of our meal at Mezbaan
Qabuli uzbeki, the pièce de résistance of our meal at Mezbaan

The shank of lamb was either slow-cooked or pressure cooked such that the meat was falling off the bone.

There’s no question about it: if you go to Mezbaan, you must order the qabuli uzbeki.

As for my chaplee kebab, made of spicy ground chicken or beef—both options were available—the texture stood out in contrast to Danielle’s lamb. While not as juicy, it was spicier, with the flavour from the coriander seeds in its spice blend popping with each bite. Traditionally, the kebab’s mince is mixed with chilli powder, coriander leaves, onions, eggs, ginger, coriander or cumin seeds, corn starch, salt and pepper and lime juice.

Oh, right, I forgot the key ingredient: green chillies.

Lots of them.

All kebab plates from the main course, including the chaplee kebab pictured above came with rice, salad and naan
All kebab plates from the main course, including the chaplee kebab pictured above came with rice, salad and naan

To take a break from the spice, I tried some of Sean’s tandoori chicken. The subtle flavour from the spice blend, combined with the smoky charcoal tandoor, made for a lighter dish. It was significantly less spicy than its Indian or Pakistani counterpart, which tend to amp up the chilli powder in their marinade.

This was probably the juiciest tandoori chicken I’ve had in Ottawa.

Our total for the meal plus two pops came to $70.

Fortunately, I don’t have to travel 7,000 miles for the naan. It feels good knowing there’s a slice of home right here, hidden in a strip mall near Bayshore, less than five miles away.