Darul Kebab - meh.
We went to Darul Kebab, the halal kebab house on Mass Ave where the KFC (and Banjos... for about 2 weeks) used to be. The place is packed to the brim with chairs and tables, making it very claustrophobic and tight for people to get by. The place was packed with families, which I always consider a good sign. I had to get up and move my seat and let folks by a couple times, so it gave me anxiety and I ended up sitting right next to my DC instead of across. Good thing we're tight like that.
The interior is still KFC-like, but more like a parallel-universe KFC where all the food is Pakistani, with two monster LCD panels displaying menu items at a walk-up counter. It's not clear that there's also wait service, so there seemed to be a lot of confused people walking around.
We started with the Aloo Chop as an appetizer, which is one of my favorite things my dad makes - a breaded deep fried potato croquette filled with all sorts of spicy peas and goodness. Unfortunately ours came cold in the center, so we sent it back. It somehow returned at the very tail end of the meal, well after we'd lost interest. Oh well.
I had read a lot from previous hounds' postings about the Koliza Singara, which is essentially a chicken liver samosa, and ordered one. It was pretty nasty - I don't say that because I'm not a liver fan, because I am. Just something about the texture, the smell, the pungency, the presentation, that was so unappetizing. A doughy pandora's box of hepatic evil. I took two nibbles and we left the pitiful thing sitting there.
An order of Daal Makhni arrived, which we found too thick and gloppy. It was as if the daal had been cooked down too long, and would crust over at any minute. The Daal had a surprising underlying burn of chili heat.
My DC and I were very hot about trying their haleem, as we are haleem fiends. We LOVE Darbar's rendition, and Kebab & Tandoor's (Waltham) haleem comes in a very close second. Darul's version was different than anything we'd ever eaten. I've never seen such a yellow daal-y haleem. I'm used to the typical Pakistani and Hyderabadi style of haleem which resembles an unctuous brown sludge, with fibers of goat throughout it, with accompanying slivers of fresh ginger and green chilis. My disgusting description is conveyed with 100% affection - I truly love the stuff. This? Not so much. Very little meaty wheaty flavor, thin texture that I wasn't expecting, and harsh heat. I'm thinking everything was sprinkled with some Shan spice packet sparkle.
Chicken kebab with bone-in was a bright red roast chicken. It was just fine, and not dry. Good but unremarkable. It came with some doughy flaps of butter-laden naan as well.
An order of paratha came out way too late. It was a bit thick and greasy, but paratha is good nonetheless. I loved the paper it was served on (see pic).
Overall, we thought Darul Kebab was meh. Maybe the other kebabs are better, but our chicky kebab wasn't mind blowing. The spicing was harsh and potent and was probably a result of a liberal shaky shake of a Shani spice packet. And finally, Darbar in Brighton is the place to go for haleem, that's for sure.
I've been back a couple of times myself. Honestly I essentially agree with much of your criticism.
The service is just bad.
I actually got the part frozen chicken liver thingy once, ick.
That said, the fish dish, and the goat stew I had were honestly both delicious. The goat was one of the best goat dishes I've eaten in Boston. Blows away the version I had at Highland Kitchen not too long ago.
With the popularity of the place they are doing something right. I think they do well with savory stewy thing (easier to just prepare and forget.) I also have tended to get there spot on noon or a little earlier, when everything is freshly prepared.
I think the flavor and seasoning in some of the dishes is very good, everything else, well you said it all and I agree.
150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
Oh, and speaking of the decor, did you notice the rather mystifying homage to banjos on the walls? The history of the banjo, examples of banjos, etc. I went around to see if there were Bangladeshi claims on the banjo, but apparently not. It's either a labor of love, or one of neglect (wall decorations left behind from some past incarnation of the store).
Good review Prav. You beat me to the punch. I was there a few days after you and was also thoroughly underwhelmed. I've previously written unenthusiastically about their chicken liver samosas on the liver thread. When I went there on this recent visit, I asked for them and was told they no longer carried them. I had a throughly bland fish curry and rice, and took home vegetable samosas, goat biryani, and kala jamuns (a relative of gulab). The samosas and biryani were good, the sweets horrendous. The next day I felt a little queasy. They have food sitting on steam tables for long periods. That's not good -- for the food, or for you. Service was incredibly slow, as well. Rather comically, although the fish curry and rice I ordered were spooned from the steam table into little bowls and taken back into the kitchen, they re-emerged fifteen minutes later in an unappetizingly lukewarm state. Perhaps they have an anti-microwave back there that cools rather than nukes.
Nevertheless, I hope they stay in business for another eight days. They are showing the cricket world cup on their TVs and I'd like to go there at 5 a.m. and watch the final.
Have they figured out the service? I went there shortly after it opening and it was pretty clear they were still figuring out how to combine table service, takeout/steam-table food, and delivery (e.g., no host or waiter stations, waiters and takeout guys fighting over the one POS, lots of different staff serving one table, etc).
The last time I went there, I was perusing a paper menu (along with a half-dozen other people) when a rather hunchbacked old Pakistani man put his hand on my shoulder and said "I'll show you what to eat!" and hustled me towards the register. He had an animated conversation with the two people behind the counter and pointed at a few things on the menu, "You want kebab? Okay!" he said and ordered for me. The register girl smiled as if this was the way their service usually ran.