Restaurant >it's the heat
There aren’t that many places in town, if any, that serve the gloriously spiced chapli kebab, the popular Afghan-Pakistani patty that’s made my mouth water ever since sampling the beefy delight when I was but a lad. So when I saw chapli kebab ($11.99) listed on the menu of Kabob n’ Curry, a quiet, tastefully appointed corner-space eatery in a tourist-area strip mall, a Pavlovian impulse kick-started my salivary glands. As I soon found out, the kebab was well worth the drool. The sizable slabs of moist mince, oh-so-subtly crunchy with pomegranate and coriander seeds, are pan-fried and served on a bed of lettuce. On a previous visit, the kebabs were served sizzling on a hot plate, but no matter how they’re served, they’ll totally gratify. Just be sure to ask for a plate of rice (it’s complimentary), and an extra bowl of their incendiary chutney to drizzle atop the meat.
Even though the restaurant touts a menu of “Indian gourmet cuisine,” I found myself drawn to the Pakistani dishes – specifically the nehari ($11.99), arguably the country’s most luscious dish. “Nehar” translates to “morning” in Urdu – so no surprise, then, that the meal is traditionally enjoyed in the morning hours. No matter the time of day, this is Pakistani comfort food at its finest. The velvety-soft shanks of beef are cooked overnight in a thick, lubricious curry spiked with bursts of ginger and chilies. The dish is best enjoyed with one of the many breads offered – I opted for fluffy tandoori roti ($1.50) as my sop of choice.
Aloo paratha ($2.99) worked better as an appetizer. The spiced-potato-stuffed flatbread was cooked to a slightly greasy crisp, but wonderfully flavored nonetheless. No Indo-Pak feast is complete without an order of samosas ($2.99), and the pair of deep-fried potato-veggie pockets here are served up piping hot, though not together. Our waiter brought but one samosa at first and, naturally, I thought we were getting hosed on the deal. But soon after we cut it in half and finished it, the second one was delivered – much to our delight. The service, it should be mentioned, has always been efficient and friendly, if somewhat inexperienced, but the wait staff is always eager to please. I ordered the pani puri ($3.99) – the classic street food snack consisting of puffy puri bread stuffed to bursting with curry, potatoes, puffed wheat and chutney – but they didn’t have enough of the wee whole wheat crispy puffs to warrant charging us, so they placed a trio of puri on a plate, filled them with chickpeas and served it with a bowl of spicy ginger water, at no cost. The result, unfortunately, wasn’t worth the price. Even the ginger water flourish couldn’t save this one. Note: If you do sample the dish, or any of the “chaat” (snack) dishes, be aware that a primary ingredient is asafoetida, and that its strong sulfurous odor may be too much for diners unaccustomed to its pungency.
Falooda ($3.99), the rose-essenced ice cream dessert drink, neutralized the odor, but I was a little disappointed by the absence of vermicelli noodles, not to mention the fact that the ice cream had all but melted when it got to the table. Doughy rounds of gulab jamun ($3.99) didn’t come in a pool of syrup, but they were saturated enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Diners, take heed: The dishes here pack a lot of heat, but culinary riches await those who battle the blaze.