Category Archives: Pakistani

Khyber

khyber restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Pakistani

425 Industrial Mile Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43228
614.275.2022
Facebook

Click here to map it!

This is the kind of story we like to write.

A cook from a restaurant we adore – Adil from Tandoori Grill – strikes out on his own to open a new restaurant, Khyber, in a new part of town. The owner of Tandoori Grill, Said, wishes him well; we’ve spoken to both and there are clearly no hard feelings. The food at Tandoori Grill remains great, the food at Khyber makes for an impressive debut, and just like that the city has doubled in quality Pakistani dining options. As far as we’re concerned, everybody wins.

Khyber occupies the west side space that previously held Azteca de Oro. As with Azteca, environs are humble but comfortable. As with Tandoori Grill, a small Pakistani grocery with a meat counter adjoins.

Pakistani food columbus

Khyber’s speciality is tandoori dishes – grilled meats and nan bread cooked in the tandoor oven. The nan bread is cooked to order and, like at Apna Bazaar/Tandoori Grill, it is thinner, less doughy, and in our estimation far preferable to most other options in town.

pakistani restaurant columbus

Of the tandoori meat dishes we’ve tried, we particularly like the seekh (ground meat) kebabs – available in lamb, beef or chicken. They are nice and juicy, feature a good amount of spicing and heat, and are great paired with nan and a little of Khyber’s yogurt based chutney.

IMG_6019

Also tasty  are the chapli kebabs – burger-like ground beef patties with onions, tomatoes, chiles and spices.

pakistani food columbus

The menu offers some interesting meat stews and satisfying vegetarian options. Stews include nehari - a rich beef curry stew with extremely tender slow cooked beef; goat quorma – a mild curry with lots of gravy and a meat based curry with wheat called haleem, barley, and lentils. Not listed on the menu but also available (and one of our favorites) is aloo keema, a ground meat and potato curry.

potato and ground meat curry

A little drier (in terms of the saucing) but still entirely enjoyable are the karahi dishes – curried meat, either goat or chicken, with tomato, green chili and onion.

IMG_6023

For vegetarians, or as a great side dish for the tandoor grilled meats, there are lahori chana (whole chickpeas in sauce), mash dal (white lentil dal) or bhendi (curried okra). We particularly liked the okra and the mash dal. Adil said that there would be at least one dal available daily.

IMG_6017

The menu is expanding and there are often specials. In addition to the listed items we’ve also tried samosas, goat biryani, cow’s foot curry and house made desserts including kheer (fragrant rice pudding) and semiya halwa (sweet, spiced vermicelli noodles).

One interesting, and somewhat incongruous, item is the New York style gyro. Served as more of a deconstructed dish, it’s comprised of rice topped with lettuce, gyro meat, pita slices, and a generous saucing. Unconventional though it may be, we’d take it over the vast majority of the gyros we’ve tried locally.

new york style gyro

With the most expensive dish priced at $8, and many served for far less, Khyber is very good value for the quality of food and a great addition to the West Side.

Tandoori Grill

pakistani food in columbus ohio

Cuisine: Pakistani

808 Bethel Rd., Columbus OH
614.326.3777
Tuesday-Sunday 11:30am-9pm

When a place looks like this, and has great food, we’re all  kinds of happy:

pakistani take out food columbus

That said, we understand that perhaps not everyone feels similarly. However, when you take the same great food and serve it in a setting like this:

best pakistani food in columbus

…that should make everyone happy!

So here’s the story – when the space next to Apna Bazaar opened up, Apna’s owners pounced on it. They gave it the pictured makeover, named it Tandoori Grill, and evolved from functioning as a simple takeout counter to providing a true, full service, sit-down experience.

Tandoori Grill (and Apna – the takeout counter is still open) specializes in Pakistani cuisine, with an emphasis on tandoori-grilled protein preparations. If you’re familiar with northern Indian cuisine (most Indian served in Columbus is essentially northern Indian in inspiration), this should be comfortable territory for you.

Especially if you start with their tandoori chicken platter. The dish exhibits all of the traits one would expect from the style of preparation, but raises it to a level otherwise unfound in town. The char is restrained but present,  the marinade penetrates deeply and has a brightness and complexity of flavor that’s in a league of its own, and the tenderness is second to none.

tandoori chicken tandoori grill Columbus

It would’ve been the hit of the meal, were it not for the tandoori kabob karahi. This dish, made of ground chicken kefta-like kebabs that have been grilled, sliced, and tossed in a tomato based masala sauce,  had our table of 4 fighting over the scraps. It’s a bit on the spicy side, and a wonderfully complex melding of flavors and textures.

best northern indian food in columbus

On a previous visit we tried the fish karahi, and found it similarly appealing. The kitchen took obvious care in not overcooking it, and the distinct flavor and texture of the fish made for a dish that differentiated itself significantly from its karahi-sauced compadre.

best indian food in columbus oh

Our meal began with crispy, flaky samosa, one filled with a minced chicken mix, the other with a potato mix. Both were enjoyed, with our nod going to the chicken version.

best samosas in columbus

Rarely have we had such a satisfying meal and yet left feeling like there’s so much more to try, but we’re big fans of dishes such as pakora, tikka masalas, kormas, and seekh kabobs, and eagerly look forward to the chance to taste them.

Especially since we’re relieved to report that food at Tandoori Grill is every bit as good as Apna’s has been. Service has been on the ball on both of our visits, making for a complete and completely pleasant experience.

Read more about Apna Bazaar and some of their other dishes here.

Apna Bazaar

Cuisine: Pakistani/Indian

810 Bethel Road
614.326.2762
www.apnabazaar.biz

Click here to map it!

After our experiences at Luc’sMecca, and Arirang, we’ve come to believe that some of the best international cuisine in town is put out by pint-sized kitchens shoehorned into the corners of out-of-the-way ethnic groceries.  As such, when we were told about another grocer/kitchen combo out on Bethel Rd. (thanks, Amar), we were primed to expect the best… and we are happy to say that we weren’t let down.

Apna is located in a fun (from an alt.eats perspective) little strip mall across the street from Microcenter that is also home to Banana Leaf, a Korean restaurant, a Thai/ Vietnamese restaurant, a Mexican grocery store, and a bubble tea shop.  While Apna’s primary focus seems to be on take-out and catering, they’re also happy to serve you at a table in the back of the store that seats up to 8 people.

Apna Bazaar’s kitchen specializes in tandoori and karhai preparations.  The photo above is the tandoor oven, which we were allowed into the kitchen to admire. Another shot in the kitchen (below): making chicken samosas.

We started with tandoori boneless chicken (you can also get a leg and thigh or a whole chicken), served straight from the tandoor. Garnished with onion, lime, and with a relatively mild sauce on the side, this dish was a little spicy, far more tender than most tandooris we’ve had, and very very popular. It was altogether too quickly devoured.

Luckily for our hungry group of 8, the food kept coming. We sampled (below, clockwise from top left) chicken karhai, beef nihari, goat qorma and chicken kabab karhai.

The word karhai (or karahi) refers to both a traditional wok-like Indian/Pakistani cooking dish, and a cooking method that uses this dish. Apna offers chicken (whole or half), goat, and kabab karhai preparations. We tried the (bone on) chicken karhai – fragrant with ginger, this was one of the more mildly spiced dishes we tried – and the kabab karhai, a generous quantity of heavily spiced ground chicken shish kababs, chopped up and sauteed with onions and tomatoes.  Both were enjoyed by all, with the nod going to the kabab version.

The nihari was another crowd pleaser, a delicious rich stew of tender beef shanks cooked overnight.  Apparently a popular breakfast dish in Pakistan, Apna’s nihari was deeply flavored with cloves, cumin, ginger and cardamon, and had a heat that came on slowly and peaked impressively.

The qorma (korma) consisted of tender goat served in a sauce whose richness was similar to the nihari, but was distinctly different in flavor with plenty of cardamon and a lot of chili. Among a table full of spicy-hot foods, it was the hottest of the dishes that we tried.

The meal was accompanied by seemingly endless piles of naan bread. Apna’s naan is different than most, and is considered by our Indian friends to be more authentic – made with whole meal flour, it was lighter, crisper, less doughy and served without any butter or ghee.

Apna Bazaar also has a selection of Indian sweets including gulab jaman, laddo and halwa, but as we were too full, we managed only a cup of steaming hot milky chai.

Apna Bazaar does not provide many options for vegetarians, and with the exception of potato samosas and naan bread all of the dishes are meat based. Drink selections are also limited but include water, chai, Coke and some Pakistani sodas including the sweet and floral Pakola.

Our bill, including drinks, came to about $10 per person. The owner seemed willing and able to adjust the spice level in most of the dishes. We recommend calling ahead an hour before you want to collect your food.

Mecca Market & Grill

Cuisine: Pakistani
2256 South Hamilton Rd
614. 501-1550

Click here to map it!

Mecca started out as a grocery store and purveyor of halal meat.  When the latest owner took over the store, he decided to put a kitchen together and offer Pakistani food. In his own words,” I have meat and groceries in here, why not cook some food and offer take out.”

As you walk into Mecca Market, you will be greeted by the friendly owner and his staff. They are very helpful and eager to answer any questions about their groceries, halal meat and their menu.

Walking towards the back, you’ll see a meat counter and next to it is the counter where you order your food. Since this is intended to be a take out business, they don’t have a dining area set up in the store. However, if you really want to eat in, there is a card table that will seat about 6 people. Due to the small operation, not everything listed on the menu is available everyday. If you’re not up for simply trying whatever happens to be on offer, it is probably best to call ahead and see what is available.

Pakistani food according to the owner is  more intensely spiced than Indian food. But there are a lot of similarities with Northern Indian food because of the shared geographic region and with their use of the tandoor.

First up was the garlic naan. The naan had the perfect texture of being crispy on the outside and slighty chewy on the inside. It could have used a little more garlic but that depends on how much you like garlic. We had also ordered a plain naan as well and the execution of it was just as perfect as the garlic one. Plastic silverware was offered to us but we decided to use the naan and our hands for utensils.

We ordered a serving of tandoori chicken and batair. Batair is quail and it is a very popular fowl eaten in Pakistan. This is something that is not usually offered in Indian restaurants. If you see Batair on the menu, then you are likely in the hands of a Pakistani chef. Flavor wise, both birds were phenomenal. Intensely spiced and had the right amount of charring. The quail was definitely more tender of the two. It’s hard to say what quail taste like as the spices definitely overpowered the taste of the meat. However you can tell the difference by the texture. We will be ordering it again next time.

Next up was the goat curry. This was surprisingly not spicy and mild with curry spices. Overall it was very savory and went well with the naan bread which we used to sop up the curry sauce.

We ordered the briyani of the day which was the chicken briyani. The staff explained that briyanis takes a while to cook so they pick a different meat each day to make a pot of briyani instead of offering 3-4 types of briyanis a day. They are happy to take custom orders if you call in the morning for a pick up later in the day. The briyani was very fragrant with a deluge of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and etc. The rice was perfectly tender and the chicken was nicely integrated with the dish absorbing all the spices and liquid that the rice was cooking in.

Lunch for 3 with two drinks came up to $20. Most dishes range from $5 – $10. There are a few vegetarian offerings like palak paneer and couple of aloo dishes. Best advice is to call ahead and check what dishes they are offering for the day or call ahead for a custom order. The people at Mecca are very accommodating and will cater and deliver their food for a function/party.