Monday, November 23, 2009

Masala Grill and Teahouse

9108 North Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, AR 72205

There are few things more unexciting than hearing of a new Chinese Buffet or Mexican Restaurant opening. But find me something I’ve never had before and you’ve got my undivided attention. So I’m sure you understand why I wanted to be one of the first to try out Little Rock’s first and only Pakistani restaurant. But I also wanted to make sure I could go with my Pakistani friend so that I could be certain I was getting the authentic food. And he admitted that many times, here in the states, the Pakistani restaurants somewhat alter the recipes to cater more to the masses.

When we arrived at Masala Grill and Teahouse, the first thing that strikes you is the wonderful aroma of spices and herbs. The cardamom and curry spices are about the only thing this cuisine has in common with Indian cuisine. Try thinking of Indian turned up to eleven as they said in the movie Spinal Tap. This is full blown, full blast flavor with a little clearing of the sinus thrown in for good measure. How can that not be healthy?

We decided to try the lunch buffet today which consisted of a fresh salad with lemon and three different types of sauces you could eat with it, a standard yogurt with mint and chili peppers, a yogurt with bits of cucumber and a red sweet and sour sauce. The hot foods included Chicken Tika, which is a grilled chicken with lots of spices, kind of a dry rub Pakistani barbeque if you will. We also tried the chicken qorma which was more of a braised chicken with cardamom and other spices. Gram lentils (very good) with strips of long red, skinny chili peppers on top along with your standard mixed vegetables with a spicy curry. None of which were light on the spicy heat.

Served with a wonderful nan (pita bread) and tea, it was a great meal and a successful experiment by any standard. I’m told the real treat is the Sunday brunch and the various kabab rolls, but will have to wait and try that another time. Pait bhurgia, I’m full…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quest For Pizza

Last week my friend Bill told me that he wanted to go on a quest to find the best local pizza. The only rule would be that it couldn't be part of a chain. Chain being defined as multiple locations in more than one city. Little by little I find that I'm getting insight into what he considers to be the ultimate pizza. I detect a bit of longing for the old Pizza Hut, before Pepsi screwed it up, mingled perhaps with the style of Sbarro in the mall where you can buy single pieces, and maybe even toss in a bit of Pizza Inn. Oddly, these all seem to be chains.

Me? I guess I'm more of an "Ill know it when I taste it" kind of guy. I will admit, I've had a lot more bad pizzas over the years than I've had good.

Our Journey began last Wednesday at Pizza D'Action in Stifft's Station. This proved to be mediocre, surprising for a place with "pizza" in it's name, but I guess not all that unusual. We had the equivalent of the supreme. It was filling but unexciting. The crust was more of a flaky style yeast dough and just didn't have the resistance I like in a well made crust. Today we went to Loca Luna which wants to be known for its wood fired oven pizzas. They have a lunch special with half a pizza and a garden salad for around $8.00.

We tried the four cheese and the pepperoni pizzas. I found the crust to be acceptable in texture, but decidedly lacking in sauce and flavor. And, a bit skimpy as well. If it weren't for the salad, we probably would have needed to stop at the gas station on the way back to get a snack. As it stands, I may not be able to make it the rest of the afternoon...

Oh, well, keep looking I guess.