Could this be right? I’m told that there’s only one Afghan restaurant in all of St. Louis! All of Missouri! Qayum Mohammad (pronounced: Kay-YOOM), owner of Sameem Afghan Restaurant, confirmed to me that this is true.
Until recently Sameem was the proverbial hole-in-the-wall tucked away in The Grove on Manchester with seating for only a couple dozen customers, plus some outdoor tables. Four months ago all that changed, when Qayum completely transformed an adjoining building and greatly expanded the restaurant’s seating. The new space is fresh, with attractive wooden chairs, exposed brick, and good lighting.
The space may have changed, but the award-winning menu has not. On the front cover are pictures of various dishes from Qayum’s native land, surrounding a much-acclaimed photo of a somber, young Afghani girl. The refugee with the haunting green eyes and red headscarf appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and is considered by many to be the Afghani Mona Lisa.
My only venture to Afghanistan was in 2002 as part of a congressional delegation three months after 9-11. Our brief pause at Bagram Airbase was spent standing in a 12’ x 12’ army tent, shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (in good favor at the time) and nine member of the U.S. Senate. But Karzai offered no food during our short visit; perhaps because it was 2 a.m. their time, though he did tell us in flawless English that his brother owned a restaurant in Baltimore.
I’ve since made up for my Afghan food deficit at Sameem. Familiar, and not so familiar foods, appear in the listing of Afghan, Indian and Pakistani specialties: Samosas; Eggplant Biryani; Lamb Curry; Beef Kabobs, Tikki Masala; Lamb Palau; Muntoo—a steamed dumpling; and Pakowra—made with chickpea flour. No alcohol or pork is served.
Sameem Afghan Restaurant, 4341 Manchester; Sun, T-Th, 11:30a to 9p; Fri, Sat, 11:30a to 10p.