Because of the more or less unanimous advice of those who know, who have told me that Indian and Pakistani food is not good when made to order, because, as with an Italian ragu, the spices need hours to set and meld together, I decided to try a steam table place, where the food is most definitely NOT made to order. I chose what I've heard is the best of the bunch, Kabab King, on the corner of 37 Road and 73 Street. Out of respect for people observing Ramadan, I stayed on 74 Street, watching the bustling crowds, women in saris window-shopping, knots of men chatting on the corner, until ten minutes before sunset. I figured that by the time I got served it would be after Iftar. A lot of other people must have figured the same thing, because the place was packed packed PACKED and total chaos! It was a pleasant chaos though, full of life and fun to be in.
You had to place your order with the guys behind the steam table, then find a seat and wait for a waitress to bring your food. All the trays of food looked picked over, except for one, which was untouched and pristine. So when the surging crowds had pushed me near the counter, I pointed to the neglected tray. Then I persuaded a group of men to let me share their table; it was the only seat in the house. Within 5 minutes, my food came. It was haleem, which I'd always wanted to try. Basically a Pakistani take on congee, simmered for hours, made with lots of oil and spice and shreds of beef. It was rich and flavorful.
Now I must say that I like the food at Deshi and Kababish (two nearby restaurants where food is prepared to order) better. The food at Deshi is basically of the same variety, which means that it, like the food at Kabab King, is mostly made in advance. But the Deshi food is richer, and by comparison the food at Kabab King seems one-dimensional -- and that dimension is probably Bolst's curry powder! But the food at Kabab King is definitely better than I expected, it was worth the trip, and besides I had a lot of fun.
73-01 37th Rd, Flushing
Kabab King Diner
73-01 37th Rd, Queens, NY 11372