Iftar at Mirchi Cafe in Fremont
- Melanie Wong
Mirchi Cafe occupies the back corner of a strip mall set far back from the street. It bills itself as Indo-Pak fusion cuisine. The flat screen TV was tuned to Pakistani sports and the walls are decorated with photos of the subcontinent. Most of the families around me were chowing on (halal) hamburgers, cheesesteaks, french fries, milkshakes, pizza, scampi, and pasta.
During the month of Ramadan, Mirchi offers a complimentary Iftar plate. Tonight it was four freshly fried potato pakora and a pair of dates. My waiter said that there's more variety on the plate on the weekend. This was the first time I've had sriracha chili sauce with pakora. I liked the combination, so it will not be the last.
I had learned about Mirchi from reviews posted on the halal dining site, Zabihah.com. But I needed to read Mirchi's own website to learn its unique history.
You see, I had heard about Lucia's Italian Restaurant, a Fremont institution for 20+ years. I was sorry that it had changed hands/closed before my time in the area. As it turns out, Lisa Ahmed, CCA grad and the spirit behind Mirchi's cuisine is the granddaughter of Lucia's founders and grew up in the family restaurant. There's a plaque dedicated to the Lucia family patriarch next to the counter.
The side order of home made meatballs in marinara sauce, $3.99, would have made her grandpa proud, I think. The sauce was thick with just a hint of herbs. The meatballs were very good with a soft texture and fresh taste.
I had asked my waiter for help in choosing among palak paneer, sabzi, or chicken tikka for my pizza. He said the CTM (chicken tikka masala) was the best and asked me if I wanted it spicy or not. I picked spicy and almost regretted it when I saw the strips of green pepper and onions on top. However, these turned out to be mild bells and not jalapeno chilis. The masala sauce did have its own heat that kicked in.
The marinated cubes of roasted chicken (dark and white meat) were tender and still moist. I did miss the red food coloring, but was happy that the chicken wasn't at all dried-out. The thin crust, described on the menu as handspun, NY-style dough, was quite credible. It had the high gluten chewiness, ending in a nice crispness on well-done spots, that I like so much about NY pizza. My brother had the leftovers a little while ago and he said it reminded him of Amici's crust. This was heavy on the cheese, still it was a whole lot better than Raja's in SF, and a bargain at $7.99
The red-colored drink was rooh afza, $1.50. Barely sweetened, it was a refreshing mix of lemon water and rosewater. Desserts are housemade here, and the ginger/lime coconut cake, $3.50, was a moist and fairly dense buttermilk layer cake filled with ginger/lime custard and finished with cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut. It had a pure, unadulterated quality that harkened back to old-fashioned home baking.
This was a good showing in one visit. The food was homey and fresh, and the ambience and prices make it comfortable for families. I'd like to hear what else folks recommend to try next.
P.S. to Katya - couldn't help thinking about you while munching on the combination of your two favorite food groups: chicken tikka masala and pizza!
re: Marc Wallace
Mirchi Cafe is closed on Mondays. I'm pretty sure they're open on Saturday and Sunday. The waiter said the Iftar plate to break fast would have more on the weekend. There was a sign on the door that they'll be closed on Friday afternoons during Ramadan, opening up around 5:30pm, if I recall correctly.
re: Melanie Wong
I noticed the shout out to me, Melanie, 1 year and 2 months late. I just discovered this thread for the first time, and bookmarked it. Now that I live in North San Jose, Fremont is of new interest to me. The pizza sounds delish. Thanks for the report!
It is true. Chicken tikka masala (my beloved CTM) and pizza are still my favorite food groups. Sometimes I flirt with Bruschetta or Pad Kee Mao but I always come back. My other one is cereal - I have three boxes of it in my cube at all times and eat it three times a day.
We lived in Fremont from 2/05 to 6/06 and did eat in/take out at Mirchi several times. Always ate pizza, always enjoyed their unique take on this dish. A little difficult to find, but worth the effort.
Agree that the crust is excellent. Best crust I've had on the West Coast by far.(It also reheats incredibly well the next day.) There was a little too much cheese for my taste (and on the palak paneer pizza, which has cubes of fried cheese, and a few leaves of fresh greens on top, the paneer melts into the mozzerella, so it's impossible to distinguish cheese on cheese), and I'm not sure I enjoyed a CMT pizza more than I would have enjoyed a CMT and a margerita pizza separately. But as far as non-traditional pizzas go, it was really good. The Lahore burger was delicious - juicy, well spiced.
I've been a here a few times and the most recent we mistakenly ordered the Aloo Tiki Burger thinking it was beef (I know, what were we thinking!). It was actually quite good, perfectly fried with good spiciness. I tried adding sriracha on the burger and found it to be a great combination. Needless to say, I dipped the fries in sriracha as well!
I also enjoyed the Morrocan mint tea, but I believe you can find it commercially.