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I'm guilty: Indo-Pak buffet dining in Jackson Heights

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I'm guilty: Indo-Pak buffet dining in Jackson Heights

wrayb | May 2, 2002 09:04 AM

Ok, Ok, it has oft been repeated about how bad the food can be on buffets at all the south Asian places in this neighborhood. But I feel it is my duty to admit that I have been regularly going to Al-Naimat and eating from the buffet. And I do it after 8pm! And I will do it again, soon.

What brings me back? The chicken biryani. The chicken is moist and sweet and flavorful. Not much vegetables with the rice but lots of savory spices: plenty of cinnamon and clove plus a few other spice components, some of which I can't identify but I think it might include juniper berry. Whatever it is, there are little dark buds of flavor bombs that I greatly enjoy. Also each time I go I thoroughly enjoy one or more of the vegetable dishes. Last night the eggplant and potato was really excellent to my taste and the palak paneer (spinach with white cheese cubes) was good too. Previously they had a cauliflower and potato dish that I enjoyed so much that was all I got when I went back for seconds.

If you ask they will make a fresh naan to go with your meal. There are usually at least two dessert choices. The last two times it was kheer (rice pudding) and the orange pretzel looking sweet (jalebee?). Another time the round brown little cakes in flavored syrup (gulab jamun?) was one of the choices. The sweets counter is all you can see from outside and a steady flow of people are buying sweets and other items for take out at the front counter.

I have had a few clunkers. A couple days ago they had butter chicken with boneless white meat chunks. (This is my first time for that dish so I don't know if this is typical.) Even though swimming in an ok sauce the chicken was dry and tastless.

Since I discovered how much I like the biryani from the buffet I haven't tried ordering from the menu. But I saw one table finish off a great looking and smelling whole fish. Al-Naimat has several signs pushing the fish so it might be a specialty for them. I don't know.

They are in the old Jackson Diner location, 37-03 74th near 37th Ave. Open until at least 11pm. The buffet is $6 weekdays, $7 Sat, Sun, & holidays. $1 for a spiced milk tea to go with your dessert and you are all set.

Al-Naimat has been in that location for a while and one night recently I went in on a whim. Ironically the whim was based on my remorse at never having tried the Minar Diner that was previously in that location. Particularly ironic because Minar Diner had tried to make it as "quality place," remodelling after Jackson Diner moved out and having slightly higher prices than most places in the neighborhood and no buffet.

Anyway, if you go, besides giving the biryani a try, I recommend you get just a little bit of several items. There should be at least a couple that are very well spiced (flavor not heat) that you can enjoy having more of. And remember the dynamics of buffet: tandoor or fried items that were prepared hours ago are liable to be dry or worse.

Enjoy and let me know. Am I just cheap or can good chow be found here?

wray

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