We had a very fine dinner and a great time Saturday night at Khyber Pass, listening to Xibaba, an amazingly versatile and talented local band that plays Brazilian music in a wide variety of mostly jazzy styles, ranging from bossa nova, samba, and baião, to forro, frevo, and chorinho (most of which I have never heard of.) Xibaba donated their services to help raise funds for Khyber Pass, which has hit a rough patch financially. There was no cover charge, but the band passed the hat to raise funds for the restaurant.
As the owners wrote on their website:
“After 25 years of providing culinary and cultural benefits to the Twin Cities, we at The Khyber Pass Cafe have found ourselves in a very difficult situation, that unfortunately, is all too familiar for so many great businesses and organizations in recent years within our community. The slow economy has left our small restaurant seriously in arrears after a summer of empty tables, unending expenses and minimal income. We do not want to see The Khyber Pass Cafe close its doors. As fall is upon us, we hope to see the usual seasonal increase in business that is indicative of our past years of service. For now, there is no more time. We must meet our financial obligations immediately.”
Local musicians have responded generously to the call for help – there are fundraising performances scheduled this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday (September 23-25), and next Thursday to Sunday (September 29-October 2), featuring Davu Seru and Dean Magraw, jazz trios Merciless Ghost and Charcoal, Jelloslave, the Dave King Trucking Company, and more. Click here for details.
To judge by the crowd that showed up last night, word has gotten out – the place was packed.
If you have never dined at Khyber Pass before, it is definitely worth a visit – the cuisine straddles Persia, India and the Middle East, with distinctive versions of such familiar dishes as hummus, chicken and lamb kabobs and curries, and vegetarian dishes made with potatoes, eggplant and lentils.
I’m trying to avoid meat for the time being, but I did taste a friend’s morgh-e-kebab ($11 lunch/$13 dinner), a chicken kebab served with a cilantro chutney over basmati rice – juicy and very flavorful. I also thoroughly enjoyed my entree, a nightly special of butternut squash topped with a savory garlic yogurt sauce ($12.75); and Carol’s vegetarian plate ($12) – a combination of daal (yellow lentils), eggplant in tomato sauce, and spinach cooked with leeks and spices. Also recommended are the aushak 2 for 7,9,11 – leek dumplings topped with meat or beans and a yogurt mint sauce; and the desserts of fimi (custard, $4) and daygcha (rice pudding with pistachios and walnuts, $4.50) – both flavored with rosewater and cardamom.
Prices are very reasonable – most entrees are in the $12-$14 range. The lunch buffet ($10.50), served Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., offers a good overview of the Khyber Pass’s culinary repertoire. Students get a 20 percent discount on the lunch buffet, and there’s a special 2-for-one dinner offer for students on Monday nights.