Find a back issue

First Take Restaurant Review: Nora on Greenville Avenue

Firnee with pistachio shavings and caramel sauce (photos by Desiree Espada)

Nora isn’t just the name of owner/chef Matt Pikar’s seven-month-old daughter, it’s also the name of a restaurant on Greenville Avenue serving the kind of Afghan food I could probably eat every single day for the rest of my life. Ever since Nora officially opened on July 18 after two weeks of soft opening, new guests have already become repeat customers. Apparently it only takes a couple bites to get hooked on Matt Pikar’s spices. Something – maybe the way they can magically transport you from Dallas to the Middle East – is simply addictive about them.

Jump for more beautiful photos by Desiree Espada.

Qabili palao with carrots, sweet raisins, and lamb (left); Patio (right)

What to Expect: Pikar opened Afghan Grill on Preston Road 3.5 years ago, which he still owns along with Nora. The food menu at Nora is more or less the same as Afghan Grill’s except for some pricing differences (due to changes in portion sizes) and section rearrangements. Unlike like Afghan Grill, Nora has a separate, fruit-based drink menu.What’s different on Greenville Avenue is that you can order a specialty cocktail, like the chai martini or cardamom spice martini, to pair with your dinner. “As a mother,” says Rosalind Lynam, Pikar’s wife, “I’m very happy to say that the most popular cocktail has been the Stella Nora (named after her two daughters).”

The Design: Nora keeps its color scheme simple with muted tones. Rich dark brown chairs and curtains complement the white tablecloths and walls that barely hold any decoration. There’s a patio outside where diners can soak in natural sunlight and watch the cars on Greenville Avenue go by as savor their qabili palao.

Badenjan chalao - eggplant with onions, garlic and tomato

The Menu: The qabili palao (a saffron rice dish covered with sweet carrot shavings, raisins, and your choice of seasoned pieces of lamb or chicken) is the star here. Our waiter explained that qabili palao is to Afghan culture as hamburgers are to American culture. Matt Pikar told me, “In Afghanistan when you get invited to somebody’s house, if they don’t cook qabili palao, they don’t like you. If they do cook you this dish, it means they love you and treat you very well.” Pikar must love all of his customers, then, because he puts in a good number of hours to make this dish from start to finish. The rice is soaked for 24 hours; then steamed with cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and clove; towards the very end, it’s baked to infuse all the elements together.

Owner and chef Matt Pikar

Any kabob you order is going to be a good choice here. We chose a combination platter of beef, lamb, and salmon, and bit into the juicy pieces wrapped in Pikar’s special spice mixes. For those of you who’re afraid to try Afghan food thinking it might be spicy, it’s actually quite mild. Pikar doesn’t add as much curry or chili pepper as you might think. He sticks to his usual suspects: coriander, cumin, black cardamom and green cardamom. Sometimes, like on top of the mantoo (meat dumplings), he’ll sprinkle dry mint to bring out the pepper and paprika he cooks into the onion, cabbage, and meat that creates the savory filling.

For dessert, cleanse your palate with firnee, a light milk custard decorated with pistachio shavings. The caramel sauce around the edges of the custard acts as an extra sweetening agent to this dessert – a hybrid offspring of jello and pudding that’s smooth and creamy at the same time.

The Crowd: Young professionals like to crowd around the full bar after work, and Middle Eastern folks who look like they’ve tasted Afghan food before add diversity to the yuppie groups.

The Prices: Small plates range from $5-$7, signature dishes go from $15-$18, and kabobs run from $12-$24. Portions are generous, so be prepared to take some of that food home and enjoy the rest for another meal.

Beef and shrimp kabob (left); dining area (right)

5 comments on “First Take Restaurant Review: Nora on Greenville Avenue

  1. The food at Nora is fantastic! Additionally, it’s a nice, upscale addition to the neighborhood.

    By the way, we love the wine list!

    JB

  2. Matt has done it again! Fabulous food like the Afghan Grill up north, but now on Greenville to spread these amazing flavors.

    All these incredible dishes: Qabili pilao, and aush, and kadu (some faves!) bring some of the best spicing and flavorful blends to discerning and sleep palates alike.

    It is awesome cuisine – and a great plus for this cool area of Dallas.

  3. Pingback: Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Aug. 20 | FrontBurner