When asked what zaiqa meant, the proprietor held his fingers to his lips and said "taste." This can presumably be altered slightly to "tasty" and upon further investigation seems to be the name of quite a few Pakistani restaurants around the world. This Urdu word must have a strong meaning to speakers of the language.
Fairly new Zaiqa Restaurant sits on Bath Avenue in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, near the end of the city and home to a small community of Pakistanis. Across the street is Masjid Noor ul Quran, which has constructed 2-dimensional minarets on its awning and converted from a normal Brooklyn storefront into a mosque. The casual space of the restaurant would lend itself well to post-prayer meals. There is nothing in the decor to set it apart from other South Asian steam tables, but the food is bringing a level of excitement on its own.
On a first visit in the morning at 10:45, the steam table was not quite set up but everything seemed to be available through the kitchen. Zaiqa is open 24 hours, surely for the taxi drivers and other laborers that call Bath Beach home and get back at all hours.
On that visit, an order of haleem ($6, above) was made, with a piece of very fresh naan ($1, below) to scoop it up. The fact that the restaurant was quiet and not really set up for lunch did not seem to matter in the quality and freshness of the foods.
The haleem does not attack the tips of your tongue and lips, but rather works on a slow burn as you progress. It comes after you slowly with a very satisfying layer of spice within the complex flavors. The bulk of the volume and color comes from a mixture of lentil, wheat, and barley, while the meats have been cooking for many hours.
On a second visit, the plate below came to $7. Two dishes were asked to be split and served with rice, and came to just about the right amount of food for lunch. The yellow-ish portion of kadhi pakora on the right was the winner of the meal, a dish combining sour and richness. Kadhi is a type of yogurt curry, thick in texture, while pakora is the vegetable fritter most people are familiar with that is soaked inside in this rendition. On the menu here, they call it "karri pakora."
The spinach dish is less outstanding, with more mild flavors. Do watch out for the large chili pepper that looks a lot like a Sichuan peppercorn buried within.
The vegetable samosa ($1, below) is filled mostly with potato, and also standard. Each time you sit down here they bring an excellent mint chutney that is best used with these samosas, but also makes for spicier bites of rice.