When my wife and I went into the AT&T store in Santa Monica to complain about their service, I guess we were a bit too emphatic. The salesperson called the manager. But the manager turned out to be a nice guy, if impotent to solve the problem. He was clearly from some foreign place, so, as is my custom, I asked him where, and he said “Pakistan.” Again, as is my custom, I asked, “So where do you and your friends eat around here?”
He almost sang the praises of Bilal Cuisine, which, according to him, is the best restaurant in which he had ever eaten. And when I checked their website later, the website confirmed that it is the best Pakistani restaurant in town, so it must be true.
So I gathered a group of friends and we went there. We knew in advance there would be no beer served, but my friends agreed to go anyway. The website confirmed that the house specialties were cow brains and marrow, but, my friends are loyal, and they still agreed to come with me.
The restaurant is located in a small corner shopping center with other restaurants, in an area near LAX. A neon sign in the window proclaimed “Indian food.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
For one thing, beef dishes (yes, the brains included) are the specialties of the house. Two television stations were turned to a station speaking Urdu, and a number of locals were watching the news from home. We sat down at a comfortable table next to a group of musicians from the Ivory Coast talking back home on cell phones in French. A few Afghani men in traditional dress sat nearby. It didn’t seem like Los Angeles.
We ordered the whole BBQ chicken that got good reviews on the Internet: a lamb biryani, garlic nan bread, beef in sauce, and — yes — the brains on the side.
Everything was delicious except for the nan bread, which was a bit thick and not cooked in a tandoori oven. The chicken was perhaps the most appetizing — moist and rubbed with spices. The lamb in rice was OK but the lamb was on bones and hard to deal with. The beef came in a thick, rich brown sauce, and had been well cooked so that it was tender. But the most flavorful dish was the beef brains, also in a rich brown sauce. Surprise!
On the table there was a range of sauces: a very hot chili sauce, a medium mint sauce, and a sweet tamarind sauce. There were also slices of ginger and very hot green peppers.
We drank various salty lassies and didn’t really miss the beer that much.
The restaurant is owned by the Malik family, so several men introduced themselves as Malik, and one mentioned that the chef’s name is Malik. Everyone was very friendly, and the friendly gentlemen that waited on our table brought us an extra dish to taste. It was the popular rice dish cooked with brains and marrow.
We found the food to be very delicious, particularly if you crave very spicy dishes from time to time, as I do. I’ll be back to try some of the other dishes. I especially would like to take advantage of the whole baby lamb for $230, which, as my friend Malik pointed out, would serve about 50 Indian people or 12 Americans. I think that was his sense of humor. But it does sound like a good party dish.
There are separate rooms in the back for women, who are veiled and don’t want men staring at them. We tried to get a look, but couldn’t see in.
As one would expect, prices are very reasonable, especially since no alcohol is served. All food is Halal.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
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