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New and Improved Alhamra (San Francisco)

Melanie Wong | May 14, 2006 04:19 AM

Last week parking karma led me to Alhamra when a space opened up in front of the restaurant at dinner time. I was about to head over to Pakwan, but poked my head into Alhamra and was surprised to see a newly remodeled interior. New tile floors, attractive lighting, colorful mural, new tables and chairs, and fresh paint. The stale smells and dingy interior had kept me away before, so I decided to take a seat and try it this time.

For dining in, table service is offered. I picked the achar chicken and the lamb seekh kebabs (two to an order) to have examples of a curry and something from the tandoor, along with rice, naan, and a mango lassi. Ordered "hot", the chicken and kebabs were just a shade to hot for me, and I drank nearly half a pitcher of water. I'd move down to "medium" next time.

The achar chicken ($6.99) was a surprisingly large serving with two boneless and skinless thighs and a big piece of white meat from the breast. This was quite delicious with tangy achar pickle blended with bell peppers, chilis and other spices. As flavorful and highly spiced as this sauce was, the taste of the high quality and moist chicken still came through.

The seekh kebabs ($3.99) were just okay. While the menu said "lamb" and I confirmed this with the waiter, the dry and blandish meat seemed more like beef to me. The seasoning was fine, but the kebabs were missing the smoky char and juiciness of the best examples. The naan ($1.00) was above average.

I was very impressed with the beautiful chawal (seasoned rice, $1.00) here. Very fragrant with long and separate grains of basmati rice, the chawal is cooked on top of the stove and not in a rice cooker like at some places that cut corners. From my vantage point, I could see into the kitchen to watch the woman chef preparing another batch heating the oil, toasting the rice and adding the spices and fresh chilis.

The mango lassi was good quality too, though perhaps a bit small for $2.50. I enjoyed the complimentary chai, which was prepared and served to order.

What else do 'hounds recommend here?


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