You have to admit it, that chili pepper in a chef's hat is pretty handsome. If this place became a chain, ascribing human form to that green chili, in the form of song and dance, is going to become great fun.
In the more near future though, are the purveyors here bragging with anthropomorphism about spice levels of their cuisine specifically, or Pakistani food in general? After five dishes, I can attest to a certain heat level running through each plate. Not the type of heat that burns your lips upon impact, but the kind you feel creeping up after a few bites and all the way until you finish the last morsel. It hangs around and causes you to pour yourself an extra two or three cups of water. It is a good feeling.
The first visit here was solo, but determined to eat more than one item, a split order was asked for. The above dishes, ground chicken, lamb curry, a piece of naan, and an unseen cup of milk tea came to the princely sum of $10.
Stacks of naan are constantly coming from the kitchen in the back, fresh and hot. Takeout orders here on Coney Island Avenue are constant, as taxi drivers stream in at all times. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, and I would not be surprised to see bustle here at 3 or 4 in the morning when shifts were ending and men went home.
I have only traveled to East Pakistan, but the feelings of being welcome were strong here just as there. This restaurant is set up for people that know the food, but they seem genuinely pleased to slow down and explain the options to someone like myself that might need to ask a few questions. On a second visit I was not alone, and the two of us were treated with even more care by the staff members that seemed to recognize me from the first meal. I am certainly not fussy about service, but this feeling of warmth was palpable, and special.
On that second visit, we asked for a split portion of chicken tikka ($3, above), some of the most moist and juicy versions I have ever seen. Each meal will also include a small bowl of yogurt chutney with cilantro and mint that pairs well with the chicken.
Whenever I am in the mood for naan lately as I was before this meal, I also tend to think about haleem ($6, below), the dish of lentils and grains and always so full of spices. The "stew" here is made with chicken, and the puffy warm pieces of naan pick it up perfectly.
Heat levels rise even further with the goat curry ($5, below), a spicy, oily, tender dish. The perfect brown and red visuals in the pan made it an easy order on this chilly afternoon.
Having put much of the order in containers to go after thoroughly stuffing ourselves, the very kind woman in charge of the dining room brought us a small bowl of dessert with two spoons and a terrific smile. The light green half was our favorite, a pistachio flavored custard with very mild sweetness.
There are so many South Asian steam table restaurants in this area of Coney Island Avenue that it may be hard to select one. I initially chose this because of the good crowd gathered in the front making orders and the parked cabs outside, and after two visits have only confirmed this initial impression with two very good meals. But on top of a very happy belly, the overall good-hearted nature of the spot stands out and makes it a worthy place to come for a meal at anytime of day or night.