After a few visits to lackluster (and worse) Indo/Pak restaurants in and around Fort Lauderdale, I almost forgot that there is deliciousness around: Nirala Sweets, at Oakland Park and Pine Island in Sunrise.
They're busier than ever, open until 10 most nights, with a pretty large crew working away in the back. It looks like they're now supplying quite a few restaurants and grocers in the area, possibly due in part to the other Indian sweet shop on 44th St. burning down. Nirala was better anyway.
Owner Mohammed is clearly in love with his work, constantly slicing off bits of the kitchen's latest output, samosas, pakoras, sweets, etc. and pressing customers to try them, and having a little for himself. Another year or two of this and he'll weigh 400 pounds.
He was a little skeptical when I ordered paaya, which he'd described simply as cow-foot; I think he figured that would turn me off ("I'll just give you one piece of bread, see if you like it"). In this case it was a couple of gelatinous bones stewed for nine hours, the meat and cartilage soft enough to cut with a plastic fork, suffused with a crazily aromatic, oily broth that was great mopped up with the (packaged) bread. Simple as can be and not much to look at, but damned tasty.
Afterward, with an oh-you-HAVE-to-try-this flourish he cut a little piece of a top-line ($9/lb.) sweet roughly the color of spice cake. Cakey and chewy and moist, it first tasted of honey and maybe rosewater, like a middle eastern semolina cake. Then came the nuts and what I think was cardamom and butter, and it finished off with cheese curds. It was like every Indian sweet rolled into one.
I got a pound of mixed (mostly less expensive) sweets to go, and though they're generally simpler they're of the same quality. It's hard to have prepackaged Indian sweets once you've had ones this fresh and state-of-the-art.
FYI, this is pretty much a bakery, not a restauarnt, zero decor, and sweets and snacks like samosas and aloo chat are the main focus. Styrofoam plates, plastic forks and vinyl tablecloths are the order of the day. Entrees are a simple menu of curries, biriyanis.. and stewed cow-feet. No tandoori chicken.
The only things to watch out for: they don't make their own bread (make sure they reheat it in an oven rather than a microwave if possible), and they have this godawful chutney comprised mostly of ketchup that is to be avoided at all costs (the sqeeze-bottle tamarind chutney and raita are fine). Judging from the variety of ketchups available in Indo-Pak groceries, I'm not going to question its authenticity, but I'll steer clear just the same.