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Kababish -- a good Indian meal in Jackson Heights

Brian S Sep 10, 2007 06:15 PM

You could pass by Kababish a hundred times and not go in. I have. It looks like a tired steam-table joint where you'd be lucky to get a curry made that day. But today I had spent an hour vainly searching for good Indian food all along Hillside Av in Jamaica, and I was desperate. And over the cash register was a sign saying, "Special! Karahi Gosht or Chicken MADE TO ORDER!" Made to order were the magic words, so after checking with the friendly owner that it would indeed be made just for me, I asked for the lamb (Gosht).

And after ten minutes, a waiter proudly bore a tray to my table. There was the lamb, several tender lamb chops in a deep bowl with a lovely red sauce. There were a few tomatoes in the bowl, a pepper, a slice of pickled green mango, slivers of fresh ginger, a liberal dusting of cilantro -- everything, in short, except curry powder. All the spices were fresh or freshly ground. It was a rich, multilayered, slightly tart sauce, with a thicker white slurry mixed in with the red oil. (I've seen similar at Mina's, but the place this dish reminded me of most is the incredible but long-gone Tabaq.) And it was delicious. I ordered a big fluffy nan, which was made to order too. And all for $11. There was even a free salad.

I hope you eat here every day, said the owner as I left. I just might, too, except that I think that apart from this one dish, everything is from the steam table. So maybe it's a one trick pony. But it's quite a trick!

Kababish, 37-66 74th Street, Jackson Heights (on the corner of 37 place near the Indian movie theater, and a 30 second walk from Jackson Diner) There's another branch on Broadway but they don't serve the Karahi.
205-3625

The owners are actually Pakistani, but the card says "Pakistani Indian Bangladeshi", hence the title of this post. They do a few Afghan dishes too.

-----
Kababish II
3766 74th St, Queens, NY 11372

  1. bigjeff Sep 10, 2007 06:43 PM

    so do they do anything cooked to order? or only the lamb dish you had, and I guess, a chicken dish? sounds heavenly, and yes, I pass by that place all the time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bigjeff
      Brian S Sep 10, 2007 06:51 PM

      I think it's only the lamb and a similar chicken. But maybe the owner could be persuaded to do more? He was very friendly.

    2. missmasala Sep 11, 2007 10:36 AM

      okay, i've been reading posts about indian food for a while now and biting my tongue, but this post sent me over the edge. I just have to ask: why the mania for cooked to order? As far as I'm concerned, most indian food shouldn't be cooked to order. Most of it is stewed stuff and actually tastes better the longer it cooks/sits, as spices have a chance to meld. When I make an indian dinner, I usually make my curry and dal the day before if i can, as they are infinitely better warmed up the next day.
      Some things (ie. raita and breads, tandoori meat) are obviously better cooked fresh. But I just don't understand the cooked to order thing. (my indian family makes curries, lets them sit around for a few hours, and then eats them--pure veg, and they are infinitely better than any "made to order" curry i've ever had here in the USA.)
      Indian food is not like chinese food--it is not stir-fried and made to order.
      This ranks right up there with the people who complain that their indian food is not spicy hot enough. Indian food has a complex blend of spices but is not always hot. In fact, my indian father doesn't like his indian food to be spicy hot at all, since that's not the way his family made it. If you want it hotter, add a spicy condiment, like chili pickle.
      I understand that stuff that has been sitting on a steam table for several days may not be appealing, but please don't be so quick to dismiss steam table stuff. It may actually be much tastier than something that's cooked to order.

      okay, sorry for the rant but had to get that off my chest. Whew!

      8 Replies
      1. re: missmasala
        Brian S Sep 11, 2007 10:45 AM

        So which steam table restaurant in Jackson Heights do you recommend? If there is one which prepares the excellent food you've described above, I'd want to try it. I've never found any as good as what I ate at Kababish, though. And I've been searching for a long time.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/400385

        1. re: Brian S
          missmasala Sep 11, 2007 11:24 AM

          I don't know jackson heights restaurants well enough to recommend any. I'm just saying that your focus on "cooked to order" may be misguided. for instance, on another thread you mention that you went to a place in Ozone park (i forget the name) that was recommended but didn't eat there because they didn't cook anything to order. Who knows, maybe there was something delicious on the steam table that you would have dismissed out of hand because of your insistence on "cooked to order food."

          I'm not trying to fight with you brian, because I love your posts and know that you are knowledgable about food. I am merely trying to say that a focus on "cooked to order" may not always be the best way to find good indian food. That does not mean that most JH steam tables aren't disgusting and awful.

          1. re: missmasala
            Brian S Sep 12, 2007 07:19 AM

            Well I must say it's the first time in my life that anyone hinted my food sophistication level is as low as people who put hot sauce and ketchup on everything lol!

            Two years ago I had an excellent kacchi biryani at a steam table place. They had just put it out. I had it two weeks later on a day it had been sitting around for a few hours, and it was just ho-hum. And of course a kacchi biryani takes over 12 hours to make.

            That made me realize a strange thing about Indian food. India is one of the few countries to have a courtly tradition of cooking... the best stuff isn't the stuff from Mama's kitchen but the elaborate meals prepared for king and local bigwigs. Usually this evolves into a tradition of great restaurants. This is what happened in France, China and Japan. But in India it didn't. The best stuff still comes out of Mama's kitchen... at home.

            Yes, India does have a strong tradition of "street food", snacks like bhel puri. Here's what a famed Indian writer wrote about people's joy after eating a good pani puri: "In that state of beatitude the Maharashtrians stop being surly, the Marwaris look at the millions of stars without being reminded of their own millions, the Sindhis admire the horizon without any intention of selling it, the Gujaratis speculate on the moon instead of the scrips they should have sold, the North Indians dream of things other than Hindi as the official language of the United Nations, and even the Parsi ladies stop nagging their husbands."

            Kacchi biryani, by the way, was invented for the Nizam of Hyderabad, the richest ruler in India. Here's what one travel brochure says about Hyderabad: "Famed for its natural beauty, mosques, minarets, bazaars, lakes, pearls and kacchi biryani, Hyderabad is fast emerging as India's foremost Cybercity, with cyber cafes and software companies coming up in every nook and corner of the city." When the Nizam ate it the meat was marinated for hours in curd and spices, the rice and broth were cooked in clay pots with the lid sealed on by dough. Somehow I dont think they do this in Jackson Heights... and if they did, sitting round for a few hours after the lid was opened wouldn't help it.

            1. re: Brian S
              missmasala Sep 12, 2007 07:44 AM

              Wow, thanks for that!

              Here's my ideal: a place in which meat/veg curries and dals are cooked in advance so the flavors can meld, spinach and fish made to order, no steam table and a high turnover.

              Of course, I haven't found that in NYC yet. Not that I look hard, as Indian is one cuisine I cook often at home. I tend to go out mainly for the stuff I can't/don't make, like chat, dosa, idly, etc.

              1. re: missmasala
                Brian S Sep 12, 2007 08:11 AM

                If you find it, please please post at once!!! I've often thought of checking out Edison/Iselin on the Tristate board.

                1. re: missmasala
                  Brian S Oct 7, 2007 09:55 AM

                  I took your advice and went to a steam table place, where curries are cooked in advance. I liked it, but I liked the food at Kababish more. Read the full story.
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/448517

          2. re: missmasala
            Miss Needle Sep 11, 2007 10:57 AM

            I agree with you that a lot of the stewed stuff/dal tastes better as it melds for a while. But I prefer my vegetables to be freshly cooked. I've never been the biggest fan of palak paneer until I went to Spicy Mina. Before Mina, palak paneer has always been this muddy mess of green-grey mush with some chunks of paneer thrown in. Mina's version with bright fresh green spinach leaves and pan-fried paneer was a revelation. Suvir Saran has a section in his cookbook about stir-fries -- it may not be traditional, but it is indeed tasty.

            1. re: Miss Needle
              missmasala Sep 11, 2007 11:27 AM

              I understand what you are saying. Freshly cooked can be good for some veggie dishes, but for many veggie dishes with traditional masala's that can take 20 minutes or more. (obviously that's not true of spinach) I'm just saying I would be more suspicious of a "made to order" dish of alu gobi, say, that comes to the table in 10 minutes (which means it can't have been truly made to order and cooked properly) than of one that I know was made the day before and reheated.

          3. Joe MacBu Sep 11, 2007 03:40 PM

            If you received the karahi gosht in 10 minutes, it was NOT cooked to order, despite what the owner told you. It was more likely warmed to order, or at least already partially cooked. Even with a pressure cooker, it would take about 30 minutes to make.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Joe MacBu
              Brian S Sep 11, 2007 06:39 PM

              I've never eaten there, but I've heard that Wylie Dufresne served a short rib entree at WD-50 that took two days to prepare. The waiter didn't say, your food will be out in two days, would you like to order an appetizer? But I'd still consider it made to order.

              I used to get karahi food in the old Tawa. It would take about 15 minutes and I could see them cooking it through the kitchen window. The lamb was thin, and underdone, the way I like it.

            2. r
              racer x Sep 12, 2007 03:19 PM

              Is this is the place where they advertise tandoori turkey around Thanksgiving?
              If so, I ate there a couple of times while living in Jackson Heights, and I'm afraid I wasn't so impressed with the food as you. Maybe I didn't get the right dish. (It also doesn't seem to be the cleanest place in the neighborhood.) That said, there's certainly always business at the counter, but I've wondered whether that was due to its key location.

              1. k
                KateC. Sep 12, 2007 08:30 PM

                Leaving aside the steam table, all the vegetable dishes at Mina and Kebab King seem much more delicious than those at Jackson Diner or Dehli Palace. Particularly the spinach dishes. Maybe the former are made with fresh instead of frozen spinach.

                As for biryani, I have made it myself (six hours) and it is nothing like what they serve in restaurants, where it seems to be stir fried.

                1. k
                  KateC. Sep 12, 2007 08:33 PM

                  But the vegetable dishes at Mina's are better than those at Kebab King. Make sense: She adds more delicate items such as tomatoes and zucchini at the last minute and doesn't overcook them. Whereas the curries at KK are sturdier. (They are not steam table. They sit out cold.)

                  1. m
                    Mr Porkchop Jan 8, 2012 07:10 AM

                    Wow, this thread went off the rails a bit, but surprisingly it's the last dicsussion of Kababish I was able to find on here (even if this review appears to be for a nearby now closed outpost).

                    Anyway, I went to the closet space/restaurant over on Broadway yesterday after chancing across some write up of their gola kabab, the threaded, spicy, mince meat kabab of a pretty interesting texture (I got it wrapped in a paratha). I read some others describing the meat as being like refired beans, or some sort of dip, and I don't think that's necessarily wrong. It seems to get a lot of attention for it's spiciness. I would say it's notably spicy, but not dare-worthy or anything like that. I would probably opt for naan over paratha (what they offer for their "gola roll") next time, since it was a little bit of grease on grease, but overall, a great lunch.

                    People there were friendly, so as foreign as the ordering might have been, it wasn't awkward or confusing. It's really more a take out place, as there are a grand total of two stools. Prices were good, as you might expect, since they aren't investing in the ambiance.

                    Anyone else enjoy this place? Have any recommendations for anything other than the gola kabab?

                    -----
                    Kababish
                    7064 Broadway, Queens, NY 11372

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Porkchop
                      Jeffsayyes Jan 8, 2012 08:32 AM

                      It's my favorite pakistani place in nyc. I always take visitors there when I can. You're right, the naan is the way to go. it's more fluffy and tasteful than anywhere else in the neighborhood. The regular kebabs are great as well, and pretty much anything they put in that formerly coal-oven. lamb chops are good, and the stews under the glass are usually very good as well. they have the most flavors out of anywhere, and are small enough to maintain good (for JH) hygiene in the place.
                      sometimes you might get a goat brain masala - that's an experience.

                      the pakora is also celebrated by customers, though I dig other things more.

                      1. re: Jeffsayyes
                        E Eto Jan 8, 2012 08:52 AM

                        Gotta agree with Jeff here. Kababish was my regular place for anything kabab'd. The chicken tikka is unlike any tikka I've had (spicier and well balanced) and much better than any of the pedestrian versions elsewhere. The bihari kabab was a standard in my takeout repertoire as well. When they offer it, so was the haleem. One thing I like about their naan is that it had a nice subtle sourdough taste from the fermentation of the dough. I also preferred getting a cheap fix here with their kabab rolls (the tubular sikh kabab in a fresh baked naan with some fixin's). Much better quality food than at any of the carts across the street.

                        1. re: E Eto
                          m
                          Mr Porkchop Jan 18, 2012 08:05 AM

                          Stopped by again this past weekend, and you guys are spot on about the naan. Definetely less rich and lighter than some Indian buffet equivilent, and I get what you're saying about the near sourdough quality. How it's cooked almost made it two breads in one, a pillowy cushion to lay chunks of my beef kabab in one part, then crisped up chips of bread in another.

                          Anyway, my beef kabab, naan, lettuce, yogurt dressing and chai came out to a whopping $4.50. And I even scored a seat. Not too shabby.

                          -----
                          Kababish
                          7064 Broadway, Queens, NY 11372

                          1. re: Mr Porkchop
                            Jeffsayyes Jan 23, 2012 12:33 PM

                            yeah, it's a bit expensive for the area actually

                            1. re: Jeffsayyes
                              m
                              Mr Porkchop Jan 24, 2012 03:28 PM

                              Thankfully I think I can afford the premium. :-)

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