Watan Afghan Cuisine

Jackie McMillan
11th Mar 2024

With iridescent metallic green wall tiles, dangling fake greenery, and rows of plush khaki booths lining each side of the elongated  restaurant, Watan Afghan Cuisine is the certainly the fanciest Afghan restaurant I’ve visited in Sydney. Opened by 23-year-old Sasan Najibi just last month, the restaurant occupies a corner block at the end of Granville’s main shopping strip. Despite early popularity with the Afghan community, it had just three tables of customers when we arrived at noon for lunch. Despite this we were told food would take 30 minutes. It took just shy of an hour to get our entree, and an hour-and-a-quarter to get our shared main. We later found out that this is because the transition to lunch from their Afghan breakfast menu is at 12.30pm: those in the know arrived for lunch after 1pm. 

Luckily the food is worth the wait: delicately thin wrappers made the mantu ($14/small)—seasoned beef dumplings—the best rendition I’ve eaten. They’re served under tomato sauce lentils with a drizzle of yoghurt and generous pinches of fresh and dried mint. Cooked on long flat metal swords, the kebab here another standout. Juicy turmeric tinged chicken vies for attention with moulded shami kebab, and tikka kebab where lamb pieces are marinated in garlic, yogurt, coriander seeds and lemon juice. It’s hard to choose a favourite, until you try the chopan kebab—lamb left on the bone, then grilled over charcoal for a great intensity of flavour. Dunk it in Watan yoghurt sauce and tear off some Afghan bread to bring it to your lips. The mixed platter 1 ($55/2 people) gives all four kebab options served over a generous mound of well-executed Qabuli palaw. This is long-grain white rice topped with ribbons of sautéed carrot, raisins and almonds. There’s also a small side salad with mixed leaves, green olives, and good quality tomatoes in three different shades. 

Drinks are limited to tea, dough (a yoghurt drink), soft drinks and colourful mocktails. Garnished with a sour raspberry strap and fresh fruit, the raspberry lime ($14) was full of ripe, red berries. If you’re not in a hurry, this is a tasty and welcoming place to explore Afghan cuisime.