I'm always very keen to try out new cuisines, so it only took us a week or so to pay Chopan Charcoal a visit. It's in a bit of a tricky spot for parking, on the corner of Milton and Baroona Roads at Milton, but it's extremely handy to Milton train station.
Chopan Charcoal has a fairly small dining room, but the walls are smattered with Afghani decor. I'm also guessing that the low level music in the background was Afghani (which added to the overall atmosphere).
We were greeted by a friendly waitress, shown to our table and given menus. The menus look excellent from the outside - they have a very cool picture of a horseman in traditional dress on the front cover. Once you open up the menu, you'll see it's divided into entrees, salads, kebabs, kormas, pastry dishes and desserts. There are also pictures of a few dishes inside the menu.
A few options on the menu were listed as no longer available, and most of the prices had been changed at some stage along the line (some with liquid paper). Sure the presentation of the menu could be a bit better, but I didn't really care if the food was going to be good.
The only entree which looked gluten free was the chapli kebab (spiced beef patties) which I promptly ordered. The other entrees at Chopan Charcoal are bulani (savoury pastry filled with potatoes & herbs) and samosa (savoury pastry filled with spiced mince & served with chutney).
Shortly after our orders had been taken, the waitress popped out to let me know that due to a large order of chapli kebab earlier in the night, they had run out. So sadly no entree for me.
My wife ordered the bulani ($9.50). When these arrived at the table they looked and smelled delicious. There were two slices on the plate, and the dish consisted of a thin pastry filled with potato and herbs. The pastry was so thin, you could see the green herbs inside. The bulani were served with a small pot of yoghurt and although I didn't get to try any, my wife enjoyed them - the herbs were fresh and the pastry was crisp. Judging by the amount of bulani we saw going to other tables it was a popular entree.
By this time, and after having the flavours of the bulani waft my way, I was starving. Fortuitously I had ordered the mixed kebab plate ($24). When this arrived at the table, I was glad I hadn't ended up getting an entree, because I would have struggled to finish my main. The mixed kebab consisted of one each of the chopan kebab (lamb pieces on the bone marinated in spices), shaami kebab (minced lamb with ground garlic & cherry tomatoes), chicken kebab and teeka kebab (lamb backstrap marinated in spices). The four kebabs had been cooked over charcoal and were served on a large square plate, on a bed of rice, with a green salad on the side.
This turned out to be a lot of meat, and would be a great dish to share around the table. My pick of the kebabs was the chopan kebab, which had a delicious flavour from the marinade, but the shaami kebab wasn't far behind. As this dish isn't served with any sauce, a small pot of yoghurt would make a good addition.
My wife ordered the burani banjan - eggplant cooked with fresh tomatoes, garlic & onion and served with yoghurt. The burani banjan was also served with a side dish of white flat bread. Without a doubt, this dish was the star of the night. Eggplant cooked well is one of my favourite foods anywhere, and this dish was excellent. Normally I'm not a big fan of a lot of onion, but the slices of onion in this dish were meltingly soft and had picked up a lovely flavour from the eggplant. I tried to steal as much of the burani banjan as I could, because it was a fantastic accompaniment to my kebabs. By the time we'd finished this dish there wasn't even a drizzle of the sauce left on the plate, as it had all either been stolen by me, or was mopped up by the flat bread. If you do visit Chopan Charcoal, make sure you order the burani banjan.
Other main course options include karahi (BBQ lamb pieces with tomatoes, eggs & herbs), qabuli (rice with lamb pieces, carrot, sultana & meatball korma), lubia korma (red kidney beans cooked in tomato sauce with selected spices) and mantoo (steamed pastry filled with spiced minced lamb).
At this stage of the night we didn't have any room for any more food, but if you are after something sweet there are a few dessert options, including firni, an Afghani custard served with toasted almonds.
Service was friendly during the night, and fairly relaxed. Although we didn't wait very long for either course, you get the feeling that care is taken with the food at Chopan Charcoal and nothing happens in a hurry.
Chopan Charcoal is BYO and there's a bottle shop handily located in the Baroona Road centre next door. Be warned though, the wine glasses are tiny, so you'll find yourself topping them up every few minutes.
I'm always excited to come across new cuisines in Brisbane and Chopan Charcoal didn't let me down. Although it's a fairly rustic setting, I'll definitely be back with a few friends next time, in order to share a good selection from the menu around the table. Chopan Charcoal is also very good value - our meal was $46.50, so it's not going to break the bank balance even after a few visits.
What does all this mean? Tasty grilled meats and rich vegetable dishes add up to a night of exotic Afghani food, that's both BYO and great value.
food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Value for Money - Great
Ambience - Rustic feel with Afghani touches
Vegetarian - Good
Wine - BYO