Hashmat Ghani was born in Queens, moved to Melville as a kid and now lives in Bellmore. But there’s been one constant in his life.
“Since childhood, my father has been making kebabs in the backyard. It’s a Sunday family thing,” said the 26-year-old. “Then it becomes a passion and you learn to perfect it, and then you say, why not?”
Why not indeed, especially when you’re lucky enough to snag a spot on a busy stretch of South Broadway in Hicksville. After an intense buildout period (“there was literally nothing here, just an empty box”), Ghani and his father Asad opened their eatery, Kandahar Kabab, six weeks ago, bringing fresh and delicious fare to those who love authentic halal Afghan cuisine, and those who don’t yet know they love authentic halal Afghan cuisine.
“Pakistani food, Indian food is spicy,” said Ghani, proudly displaying a heaving plate of Afghani brown rice dotted with large pieces of chicken tikka ($9.99), the morsels glowing like a sunrise. “Afghani food is not meant to be spicy.” He watched closely as a reporter dived in and immediately began raving about the dish. “The kebabs are our own recipe. The difference is in the marination and the taste and the tenderness and the juiciness.”
Aside from the tikka, “we are really known for our lamb palow,” Ghani said of the $11.99 dish sometimes spelled pulao, “and the mantoo.” Right on cue a plate of the latter arrived.
“Hummus you can find anywhere. Baba ganoush you can find anywhere. You’re not going to find mantoo anywhere else,” he said over a $6.99 plate of dumplings filled with minced chicken. (“A lot of my customers are of Hindu background and can’t eat beef. I’m Muslim, I can’t eat pork. So I use chicken so everybody can eat.”) Again, the reporter dived in and again the reporter raved, this time about the surprising combination of flavors — the dumplings, the tomato-and-chickpea sauce atop them, the yogurt sauce atop that, its white surface flecked with dried mint.
Ghani’s family really is from the Kandahar province of southern Afghanistan, and the dining room of his comfortable restaurant of a dozen booths and tables is decorated accordingly — a rug displaying a map of the region adorns one wall, a large mural another, a Muslim prayer still another.
“It took us almost two years to open this up,” he said. "But it was always an idea. We’ve always been discussing it.” And with that, he slipped back into the kitchen. The evening rush was about to begin.
Kandahar Kabab is at 459A South Broadway in Hicksville, 516-595-7886. Opening hours are noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.