Santa Cruz, CA is known for its diversity in culture and in cuisine. Almost any variety of ethnic food can be found within the limits of Santa Cruz County, and the residents of Santa Cruz are known for their appreciation of differing cultures and their traditional foods. One of the first restaurants that my wife and I visited after relocating to Santa Cruz County was the Parwana Restaurant on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz, CA. Parwana features genuine Afghan cuisine and a variety of hearty meals and traditional Afghan desserts, all with friendly service and generous portions.
For those who have never tried Afghan food before, Parwana would be an excellent introduction to this interesting variety of Middle Eastern food. The first thing that one notices about Afghan food as opposed to other varieties of Middle Eastern food is that the flavor of Afghan food is much more subtle and significantly less spicy than other regional Middle Eastern foods. Much of the Middle Eastern food that many people are familiar with is quite spicy, and the first thing I noticed about the Afghan food at Parwana is that the food is nowhere near as spicy as, say, Indian food. For someone like myself who does not necessarily enjoy a spicy hot meal, the Afghan food at Parwana is a good way to have a traditional Middle Eastern meal without the resulting burn on my taste buds.
I would describe the bulk of the meals available at Parwana as being very hearty with staples like meat and rice as the main ingredients. Many of the dishes consist of various combinations of meat such as lamb, beef or chicken and some variety of rice or other grains. Several varieties of traditional Afghan sauces compliment the heartiness of the meat and the rice, and the flavor as mentioned above is more subtle and less spicy than what one might expect. In addition to the hearty rice and meat, Parwana includes delicious traditional salads such as a cucumber salad with a yogurt dressing. This yogurt and cucumber salad is one of my favorite items, and I will always order this as a side, even when the meal I order does not include the cucumber salad by default.
In addition to the items mentioned above, Parwana in Santa Cruz offers a number of tea varieties that are served in fine Afghan china. Parwana is very big on having a quality presentation, and this really shows with the care they put into preparing tea for their customers. Many varieties of both green and black tea are available, as well as a selection of herbal teas for those who do not enjoy the caffeine of traditional tea. As for the desserts at Parwana, many of the desserts feature rose water flavoring, which adds a very subtle and delicate flavor to those after dinner treats.
In conclusion, Parwana Restaurant on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz, CA is a classy restaurant that features traditional Afghan cuisine. Much of the food is hearty and with subtle flavoring, and the desserts and tea selection are first class. If you have never tried Afghan cuisine, give Parwana of Santa Cruz a try; you will not be sorry.