124b Henley Beach Road, Torrensville
The ‘group catch-up dinner’ requires a specific style of establishment: cheap (of course), central (a relative term), cheerful (but not always) and most of all, accommodating. Oh, and the food should be good too. For our clan, the popularity of venues ebb and flow in a regular cycle of obsession and overkill. Recently however, the continuity of this progression has been interrupted by the emergence of a (relative) newcomer, with Parwana cementing itself as our default option. The sense of communal giddiness that precedes any outing at this unassuming Afghani eatery is showing no signs of fatigue; and no-one is complaining.
Each of us admits to first experiencing Parwana on someone else’s recommendation, but none can recall the genesis of this seemingly infinite chain. Perhaps it never had one. Perhaps Parwana’s unexplained and untraceable apparation into our lives is proof of a nonlinear time continuum in which we as diners are omnipresent, experiencing all things simultaneously with no past, no future, only the incomprehensible and mouth-watering “now”. Or – more likely – it could be attributed to the BYO policy and our refusal to leave uncorked bottles unfinished.
From humble beginnings, the venue has grown immensely, not in size, but in warmth and personality – without compromising its rustic roots. Over several visits, we’ve noticed the space evolving in a crescendo of clutter with the once bare walls now adorned with paintings, portraits, mirrors and an assortment of kitschy trinkets. These chronicle Parwana’s story (more specifically, that of the Ayubi family who operate the business) and provide a welcome embrace to diners, literally surrounding them in the rich, personal history of the establishment.
The menu changes slightly from mid-week to weekend, but it’s all delicious. The raisin-y rice is a no-brainer for me, and someone at our table always insists on ordering an extra serve of dumplings (served in a creamy, spicy, yogurt-y sauce). The deconstructed chicken / lamb kebab thing is fresh-tasting, beautifully spiced and plated along with salad, pita, a light sauce-thing, the works. And oh, the eggplant – by which I mean OH! THE EGGPLANT!
If you’re traveling in a throng, opt for the banquet at $40 a head and skirt your way around a bit of everything. (This is what we normally do, as suggested by my somewhat vague menu descriptions.) The spread is varied and generous, and wait staff will happily point out which of the dishes are suitable for vegans and vegos.
Traditional Afghan desserts follow, including the “apple jam” (an apple stewed in a gorgeously sticky, mellifluous syrup) served with homemade almond and cardamom ice cream. Further to this is a range of other ice cream varieties including saffron, ginger and walnut and rose and pistachio.
Parwana has a BYO license (priced moderately), but the menu sports a few fizzy and non-alcoholic liquid options, including a mysterious, savory yoghurt drink. Intriguing. I one day hope to pace myself well enough during the main meal to be able to try one out, but this seems unlikely.
The restaurant is clearly a family-run affair and theirs is not silver-service, but rather the scarce and merry stuff of true hospitality. From the food to the ambiance – everything is of a consistently high quality and I guarantee you’ll be recommending this one to your friends. Budding restaurateurs would do well to model themselves on the venue’s owner (affectionately dubbed “Papa Parwana”), who is always joyous, obliging and handsomely hirsute.
My hope is that this post may form the genesis of a new sequence, branching beyond my own acquaintances and friends-of-friends. Read, go, eat, enjoy and divulge to others the wonder of this modest Adelaide marvel.
Thanks for dropping by. Be well, TV.
PS Signs on the front door advertise that they now open for lunch, and they do takeaway.
PPS This article courtesy of adelaidenow.com.au tells the story behind Parwana. It’s worth checking out and even has some recipes. WOWO.