Lunchtime Snob: Azro Afghan Cuisine

First things first: This stop was déjà vu for me — I reviewed Azro (a male name in Arabic, adapted from the far more common girl's name Azra, meaning virgin) for the San Antonio Current back in early 2013, when it had recently opened at this location as a Moroccan restaurant. The décor is largely unchanged since it reopened under new ownership last summer as an Afghan eatery. A low-padded platform for those who like to eat on a partial lean has been added to the table seating for about 50. A tiny patio is available with a view of the parking lot for those wishing to dine al fresco.

Lunch on a recent weekday at noon was pleasantly unhurried, with a number of women with hijabs (head coverings) and their preschoolers at large tables, a Saudi couple in military camouflage and a quartet of older women dining together. We seated ourselves at a vacant table for four and were immediately greeted by the owner and asked our beverage choices (if you're looking for alcohol to wash down the food, you're out of luck).

For appetizers, we ordered borani badenjani, small eggplant slices sautéed in a tomato and meat sauce with a taste of garlic and mint and drizzled with a thin, homemade yogurt sauce. Eggplant is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, but this was mild and the flavor had a subtlety not found in Greece and Turkey. Our other starter was bolanee (or bolani), a very thin-crusted flatbread stuffed, lightly fried and served with yogurt for dipping. Offered a choice between leek and potato filling, we opted for the leek. A thicker Afghan bread was served on the side.

For main courses we selected chicken quorma (lamb quorma is also on the menu) and the kabab-e-kofta. Several kebabs — chicken, lamb and beef — are on the menu. There are also a few vegetarian entrees. All main courses include basmati rice (white or brown) and a salad. The quorma (more commonly korma) was mildly spiced in a tomato sauce with hints of coriander and cumin. Our orders were mixed up with the rice, and our request for an extra plate to facilitate sharing was ignored, but it was really quite tasty and filling.

The kebab — lean ground beef formed into small strips, seasoned with garlic, coriander and cumin and lightly braised — was the star of the show.

Playing a much smaller, and not so satisfactory role, was the salad: a small bowl of iceberg lettuce, a single cherry tomato, a few carrot peels, with a light oil dressing. Not much to talk about, indeed.

We split and both enjoyed a rich, thick rice pudding dessert, shir-berenj, with a sprinkle of cardamom on top. Prices are a tad high for lunch ($46 for two including tax and tip) — Azro charges the same for lunch and dinner. However, if you want to try a well-prepared meal that moves outside San Antonio's steady staple of Mediterranean restaurants, Azro is an inviting place for a leisurely lunch in Castle Hills.

Azro Afghan Cuisine

2211 N.W. Military Hwy., Suite 131, (210) 342-0011, 11am-3pm and 5-9 Tue-Sun; 11am-10:30pm Fri-Sat

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