Ariana Afghan Kebab House
787 Ninth Ave.
Of the dueling Afghan kebab houses on this stretch of Ninth Avenue, Ariana racks up the most menu options, including a few vegetarian curries. A single waiter at a time works the two short lines of tables in the narrow dining room hung with tapestries and “Free Afghanistan” posters. Once you’ve been settled with a glass of dough, a mildly tangy yogurt drink with shredded cucumber, or a cardamom-infused tea, the service eases into a “don’t rush the customer” pace. The samusa (dumpling) and fried-turnover appetizers taste not unlike street-fair food; the spiced pumpkin is a better, if sweet, choice. Add a little extra moistness and flavor to your kebab by pairing it with a pilaf, kabuli palow. You may find yourself carefully rationing the raisins, pistachios, and shredded carrots to chew with the chunks of chicken, beef, or lamb. Of the desserts, the best is firnee, a milk pudding studded with almonds and topped with ground pistachios. (If you bend your fork on the baklava, don’t say we didn’t warn you.)