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Oct 31, 2010 07:13 PM

Darbar Restaurant - Pakistani in Brighton

Not much in the way of true Pakistani in the GBA, so I looked forward with great anticipation to taking Darbar out for a test-drive today. The menu is a whats what of Sindhi-Punjabi fare, the kind of cooking I grew up with and now only mostly eat at home or at restaurants in major metro Pakistani communities (Toronto, Chicago, etc). A cast of kebabs - chapli, bihari, shami (aka Sham-Wow), karahi gosht, keema, korma, jalfrezi, kaleji, biryani, linguine, martini, bikini ! Kay. But also classic special occasion kind of dishes, like nehari, haleem, and paya, which at even the best of restaurants are not always on daily offer.

My car smelled like a hot tandoor the whole ride home, the smells of yeasty roasty toasty ghee-brushed bread had me blowing thru reds to get home in time. While it was quite tasty, it was slightly denser than my preference, lacking that light airy charred 'neapolitan' quality. The chapati, on the other hand, was excellent. Thin, wheaty, pliable and crispy in all the right places.

There is a place for oil in certain Pakistani dishes. Like bone marrow beef shank stew, aka nehari. This is as rich a dish as they come, and it still baffles me as to why my peoples eat it for brekkie, but god bless 'em they do. I understand you may not want that pool of oil in many of your dishes, but you want it here. Stir it right up, nice and thick. It is a very fine rendition, if a tad tamer than my mamas, but who's counting (other than me and ma). Nice big hunks of tender shin meat, garam-masala laced marrow gravy. It's what's for breakfast, apparently.

I had no plans for haleem, but a sample was brought out to me, and darnit if this isn't one of the better restaurant versions I've had around. Much more aggressively spiced (and requested as such), thick & meaty, and they must just have vats of rich bone gravy around because this was amped up with it no doubt.

Tis the day for zombies, so an order of brainz seemed like the obvious thing to do. What was amusing, on this particular day, was the chef informing they were fresh out of brains, but would be right back with another one. Now maybe I should be asking where they source their brains, but so far I'm (relatively) asymptomatic. And the brainz (maghaz masala) were delicious. Creamy, sweet, soft scrambled and spicy. Devoured with chapati.

Bones and brains, Happy Halloween !

Darbar Restaurant
130 North Beacon St
Brighton, MA 02135

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  1. Nice. Who knew there were any restos on that somewhat industrial strech of N. Beacon...

    1. mmm brains

      a group of us had lunch at darbar on saturday. we ordered the chinioti kunna gosht, haleem, sarson ka saag, and magaz masala. the clear favorite of the meal was the magaz masala. i could have eaten the whole dish myself. it was rich, creamy, and slightly spicy. delicious over hot basmati rice or used as a dip for the freshly baked naan. i eagerly look to return and try more dishes

      5 Replies
      1. re: galangatron

        Actually they were out of the first dish, we subbed karahi gosht (goat w/tomato, onion, garlic, spices), which was excellent. (They were also out of goat chops and kadhi pakora.) I couldn't have eaten all the brains myself, they were rich! (I did lick the spoon.) As to the squick factor, they are finely chopped and not recognizable. We also especially liked the flaky naan and onion kulcha. Overall a really good meal, and the room is quite nice. Affable owner eager to explain, and a sweet preteen waitress filling in. They had a small buffet which we forgot to ask about: meat, chicken, potatoes, chickpeas, bread; the meats were reassuringly bone-in, as was the goat dish we ordered. Note: if you want goat ask, the menu sometimes says lamb (not mutton) for goat; and rice or bread is a la carte.

        1. re: Aromatherapy

          So happy you guys enjoyed your visit too, and I wish I would've run into y'all ! But now I know who depleted them of their brains. =) Too bad the kunna gosht was not available, as it is essentially a mutton nehari, and quite tasty. How'd they do with the saag ? I had plans to order it until getting talked into the haleem.

          To yumyum's question below - the 'sauce' that the brains are cooked in is a pretty classic base for many Pakistani dishes. Ginger, garlic, onions, red chile powder, turmeric, tomatoes, cooked until the onions have more or less dissolved and tomatoes have broken down and all the spices have been incorporated. It's a little more restrained than usual to match the sweet & creamy (almost avocado-like) flavour of the brainz.

          To Luther's good point on buffets below - while I have not had the buffet at Darbar, it's pretty much always a good idea to order off the menu, anywhere. I don't remember the last time I ate a buffet at *any* restaurant. It pains me to see folks almost exclusively eat buffet food at desi restaurants, though I have noticed some recent glowing experiences at places like Kebab Factory, for example. It's too easy to pass off tired old curries in this kind of cooking - it all looks the same, BROWN. Granted, there are certain restaurants where, regardless of where it comes from, the buffet table or the pot out back in the kitchen, it's going to be the same. And I'm sure there are restaurants that are keeping the buffet daisy-fresh every minute of the lunch-crush. And of course, nobody is making scratch nehari and haleem to order. But caveats aside, judging a restaurant on its buffet alone, is a poor measure IMO. I realize nobody said this in this thread, and I'm ranting here off on my own, and that's probably because I now have mad-cow disease, but just sayin kay ?

          The Kebab Factory
          414 Washington St, Somerville, MA 02143

          1. re: Nab

            Good to know what the kunna is--we ordered it mainly because it was the first thing on the specials list and we couldn't figure out what it was! Our waitress wasn't up to it, poor kid. The saag (mustard greens) was fine, mellow mustardy bite. Have you been to Madina Market lately--I was wondering how they were doing, it's been a while.

            1. re: Aromatherapy

              Hey AT -

              I've been to Madina Market exactly three times in the past year, and it's been up & down. I still like those guys and will certainly return, but it hasn't quite lived up to memories of when we first went there several years ago. We should check it out again. I also have not been to Grain & Salt yet either, but have almost unanimously heard the negative on it.

        2. re: galangatron

          Unexpectedly, brains were my favorite too, thanks to Galangatron's gentle pushing to order them. Boy, were they rich. Also liked the spicy goat.

        3. I noticed this place driving back from Watertown a few months ago, and wondered why it had so few reviews anywhere. Glad to hear it's worth a trip!

          1. This sounds positively ghoulish.

            For those of us who've not tried brains, can you describe this dish? I know it's a textural thing really, but what is the flavor of the sauce like?

            The nihari sounds right up my alley! That oily slick on top is impressive ...

            1. Depends on the prep, but brains most often reminds me of veal sweetbreads in texture, though I think the flavor is milder.


              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I don't know how they're made at Darbar, but I grew up eating them. They were like runny scrambled eggs, but with a bit more texture and heft. Veal sweetbreads sounds about right (but not overcooked, toughened sweetbreads).