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Kabab King -- the delightful chaos of Ramadan

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Because of the more or less unanimous advice of those who know, who have told me that Indian and Pakistani food is not good when made to order, because, as with an Italian ragu, the spices need hours to set and meld together, I decided to try a steam table place, where the food is most definitely NOT made to order. I chose what I've heard is the best of the bunch, Kabab King, on the corner of 37 Road and 73 Street. Out of respect for people observing Ramadan, I stayed on 74 Street, watching the bustling crowds, women in saris window-shopping, knots of men chatting on the corner, until ten minutes before sunset. I figured that by the time I got served it would be after Iftar. A lot of other people must have figured the same thing, because the place was packed packed PACKED and total chaos! It was a pleasant chaos though, full of life and fun to be in.

You had to place your order with the guys behind the steam table, then find a seat and wait for a waitress to bring your food. All the trays of food looked picked over, except for one, which was untouched and pristine. So when the surging crowds had pushed me near the counter, I pointed to the neglected tray. Then I persuaded a group of men to let me share their table; it was the only seat in the house. Within 5 minutes, my food came. It was haleem, which I'd always wanted to try. Basically a Pakistani take on congee, simmered for hours, made with lots of oil and spice and shreds of beef. It was rich and flavorful.

Now I must say that I like the food at Deshi and Kababish (two nearby restaurants where food is prepared to order) better. The food at Deshi is basically of the same variety, which means that it, like the food at Kabab King, is mostly made in advance. But the Deshi food is richer, and by comparison the food at Kabab King seems one-dimensional -- and that dimension is probably Bolst's curry powder! But the food at Kabab King is definitely better than I expected, it was worth the trip, and besides I had a lot of fun.

73-01 37th Rd, Flushing
(718) 205-8800
http://www.kababking.com/

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Kabab King Diner
73-01 37th Rd, Queens, NY 11372

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  1. At Kebab King, I stick to the kebabs and rotis, made to order. And the tea. And the paan, but only if the guy is making them to order. When I've eaten the "steam" table offerings, I've had to pay more than I bargained for, a few hours later.

    What's the deal with NYC restaurant health codes and food temperatures? Are these places really allowed to keep the food at room temperature for hours and hours, or are they just getting away with it? Same for the neighborhood slice joints.

    1. that haleem is excellent at kabab king; many a rec from pakistani friends for that particular dish, there. a lot of their stuff is good, and the selection constantly changes, so just go with whatever looks great at the time.

      1. inspired by your recent post; got some to-go food from there, and it was great:

        a. mixed pakoras (large eggplant ones as well as the typical smaller mixed veg ones)
        b. lentil goat
        c. spicy ground beef dish
        d. naan

        the pakora were good, and sold by the dollar; $2 was more than enough. the lentil goat was wonderful; actually kinda spicy, lots of tender goat meat and practically no bones, and the lentils they were cooked in were great too, so it was sort of like two dishes in one. the ground beef was quite spicy actually, and just ground meat cooked w/ onion and some veg, plenty of chili, and great with plain rice. erved with their great naan, this food is great food for a really great price.

        1. i have been eating at kabaab king for almost 5 years now. i always get the kabaabs, naan, chicken biryani, chicken tikka and ras malai. I've eaten the upstairs restauraunt - not bad but the service is so-so, downstairs in the craziness, and take out to eat in my apartment or for the next day. last time i ate there though - the kabaabs were super super spicy.
          for tea - i go to one of those little vegetarian snack&sweet shops - plus good chat.

          1 Reply
          1. re: atraxia

            Kabab King is one of the most authentic Pakistani restaurants in the US. Having said that, I would only stick with the kababs here. The currys and veges do not live up to the expectations.

            Few reccommendations:
            -Bihari Kabab (thinly sliced spicy beef steaks) - that's their best seller
            -Gola Kabab (beef kabab similar to turkish kafta, but spicy)
            -Haleem is great
            -Chicken Boti (This is Pakistani bbq chicken)

            Always try the Raita (yogurt sauce) with any kabab to simmer down the spices.

          2. Yes, I am happy that Kebab King is getting due notice again.
            All the fresh stuff is delicious - have you ever had fluffier light rice?
            Of course, can't recall name but a chicken with tandoori aspect [but not chicken tandoori] really delicious.
            Naan fantastic.
            Bihari Kabab very great.
            Had a chance to exchange a few words with the chief - great fellow.

            1. Wait a second. Kebab King is not steam table. The food on display is cold. There's a difference between steam table, made in advance, and made to order.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KateC.

                Sigh. I just love Kebab King. I have to respectfully disagree with the general feeling on this board about the vegetables. I am always very pleased, especially with the spinach that has meatballs in it (ground chicken?) and the peas in gravy. Also, they have a beef dish that is just one big piece of brisket in oil and gravy and it is out of this world. (Don't know if it's one of the ones mentioned here -- it doesn't sound like it.) But I always get it to go and eat it at home. I think this makes a difference, somehow. This is really homemade, down home, comfort food. It is not fancy, but unlike all the other cheap New York restaurants, it tastes made from scratch originally, not from canned, frozen, prewashed, and processed ingredients to start with. Even though of course it is made ahead. (Of course, Mina's is also made from scratch to order, but that is diffferent and much fancier.)

                They also used to have fantastic sweets, which unfortunately they discontinued. (Sometimes you can still get the crumbly soft brown ones with carrot and almond that taste like carrot cake crossed with caramel by the box, although they sit around longer and so are not as burstingly fresh.)

              2. Oh, wait! Their mixed veg curry has preprocessed green beans (and maybe carrots too?)and that is why it is so disappointing.