Restaurants & Bars

curry-diving: lahore karahi 2/29/2004

solly | Mar 1, 200403:57 PM     4

Last night 5 souls courageously eschewed the Oscar ceremonies in favor of bringing you the latest on an(other) interesting Indian-Pakistani joint in the Tandooriloin. The destination: Lahore Karahi, under new management.

We sampled the following dishes:

aloo pakora ("potato" fritters)
chicken boti
seekh kabab & chicken seekh kabab
tandoori fish & shrimp
vegetable biryani
chicken tikka masala
chicken jalfrezi (wok-fried chicken w/ onions)
bhindi masala (okra)
paya (stewed beef tendons)
naan, sesame naan, afghani naan
kheer, kulfi
mango lassi

Lahore karahi is a one-man operation. The chef warmly greets his clients at the door and then returns behind the counter and sets about preparing meals from scratch. You can watch him chop vegetables, tend to the tandoori oven, roll out naan, and start controlled fires in his pans (usually controlled, that is; last week, a fire got a little out of control and the small restaurant was overcome with smoke). The results are usually excellent. The hits: bhindi masala, chicken jalfrezi, seekh kabab, and the paya. Naan, with the exception of the over-sweet afghani version, are uniformly excellent, properly blistered with a glistening layer of ghee. The cook also seems to have a way with onions. The bed of charred onions under the tandoori items is always very tasty, and the onions starring in curries and wok-fried dishes are deliciously caramelized.

As alluded to, some dishes -- the chicken tikka masala and the vegetable biryani -- were less than stellar. However, some variation in quality could be due to the simple fact that the chef makes everything from scratch. For example, the chicken tikka whose sauce tasted this time a little like Campbell's tomato soup, was dressed with a cloying vinegary sauce on my previous visit last week. The kulfi that tasted too much of bananas this time, was an icy emulsion of dried fruits and nuts last week.

Melanie commented that places like this are rather typical for the area: An amateur chef opens a restaurant and prepares home-style cuisine, before the inevitable crowds cause his/her espousal of more generic preparations.

One last note: It would be impossible to overstate the charm of the chef at Lahore. When I asked him if he could prepare any Gujarati dishes, he responded, "Sure thing, Alex. (That would be my name.) I've never tried it before, but it will taste good!" A few minutes later, we were enjoying aloo pakora, which were ostensibly potato fritters, but seemed more reminiscent of eggplant with a generous dose of scallions. And, as the chef promised, it did taste good!

Lahore Karahi
612 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco

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