Before landing here in Chicago in 1982 Nasir Raufi and his wife fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for Iran, and then Germany. He owned a furniture store for a long time, then he opened Afghan Kabob almost three years ago at the intersection of Elston and Montrose. As far as I know it’s the only Afghan restaurant in the region, ever since the demise of Devon Avenue’s Afghan Restaurant, and the (supposedly) in-the-process relocation of Skokie’s Kabul House. Its novelty may be part of the reason they pull in a multiethnic range of customers from all over the city and suburbs, but it’s more likely the solid, careful execution of his country’s cuisine that keeps them coming back.

The recipes come from Rausi’s wife, who shares kitchen duty with a Mexican cook. These aren’t blistering hot, heavy dishes (see the attached photos) such as you might find in Pakistani or Northern Indian restaurants. In some ways they’re reminiscent of more subtly spiced Persian food, such as the pilafs and kebabs at Rogers Park’s great Massouleh, or in the case of dumplings aushak and mantu, central Asian and Turkish varieties. The former are leek, cilantro, and spinach stuffed, and the latter are filled with beef and onion or chicken and onion. They’re loosely wrapped, not bulging or overstuffed, which leads to a nice integration of tomato and meat sauce and yogurt. These and many other dishes are carefully presented, usually with some drizzled concentric circles of yogurt contrasting with the dark reds and oranges of the main feature and a liberal sprinkling of finely ground dried mint. Fussy plating may not be what you expect or even care about when you go for kebabs, but it shows a great deal of care and commitment that extends to the way it tastes as well.

Same goes with vegetable dishes such as the roasted eggplant and tomato bourani badenjan, thicker, stickier, sweeter, and unmuddied by tahini like your typical baba ghanouj, and bourani kadu, mashed sweet butternut squash that could easily pass as pie filling.

Rausi’s signature dish is kabuli palaw, a heaping pile of brown long-grain basmati rice flecked with raisins and dark red shredded sauteed carrot, burying a slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank. This particularly fatty of meat piece is cooked with the rice, lending it its dark brown color and a powerfully hard to resist unctuousness. That, or plain white basmati, show up in abundance on various kebab dishes. If for some reason you find any of these underseasoned, the tables are outfitted with shakers of tangy ground sumac and a blistering thin, vinegary chile sauce.

Ferni, the sole dessert, is a creamy, slightly sweet rice pudding with ground cardamom and tiny threads of vermicelli-like pasta. Digestion of all this wonderful stuff is substantially aided by a glass of sheer chai, a cardamom-flavored green tea that takes on its bubblegummy cast from long boiling and the addition of milk.

Afghan Kabob, 4040 W. Montrose, 773-427-5041