Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shahnai Restaurant: Not A Great Place to Dine

Restaurant: Shahnai Restaurant & Catering
5920 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77036
Buffet or a-la-carte: Buffet
Date of visit: 10/3/14

Photo Credit: http://www.shahnai.com/images/11.jpg

Background:
Salam/hey guys! Once again, I am late. This was because I had two midterms the previous week and I broke my toe while playing soccer. Now I am on a brace for 2 weeks. For these two weeks, I can't drive. This means that I can only go places with the family, and they rarely go anywhere. The last restaurant before these events unfolded that I visited is called Shahnai. Shahnai is another vintage Houston restaurant. It opened in 2001 and claims to be one of the "jewels of Indian Pakistani cuisine in Houston" They are more known for their banquet hall and their catering. I would always see flyers for events that were to take place in the banquet hall. I also heard mixed reactions about the food that is served in Shahnai. The time came to try as my family were invited to a post Nikah (post declaration of marriage) dinner. As almost always, I go to Indian/Pakistani restaurants ONLY with family or for takeout. After the 30 min drive from Cypress, we arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Shahnai is located in the same strip mall as Bijan and Mercy Islamic Center. There are two parts of this restaurant: the banquet hall, and the restaurant itself. The banquet hall is across the parking lot. The outside reminded me of the restaurants in Saudi, bright neon lights everywhere. Inside was your typical restaurant scene with tables, and the cashier. We had a private room next to the restaurant, which I assumed to be the former banquet hall. After meeting up with the relatives, the bride, and the groom, we were ready to eat.



Let's Eat!
Like almost every Indian/Pakistani restaurant, there was a buffet. Usually we would order, but this time we did go to the buffet. The buffet has the usual tikka, karahi, and rice dishes. As I was going through the buffet spread, I was told to not take the biryani. Instead, they ordered it made. This clearly tells that the biryani in the buffet was not fresh at all. I went and tried the other dishes from the buffet spread. This included Chicken 65, chicken karahi, chicken tikka, kabab, and vegetables. To drink, I had water.



Menu (click to view): BuffetDining MenuCatering Menu
I have never seen a catering menu this vast. Not even separate catering companies that I have reviewed was this big. The buffet is pretty big and the cost is a bit high. The dining menu prices are similar to other Pakistani restaurants that I've been to.



The plate consisting of the buffet items


The Verdict:
The rest of the buffet food was not fresh at all. What was ironic was that the Chicken 65 turned out to be more like Chicken kheema (minced meat). The kababs were completely tasteless, and the karahi was just not good. The only thing close to decent was the chicken tikka. The food was washed down by a few glasses of water. Overall, two thumbs down.
Since this was a party, there was nothing to talk about the service, so the service will not be graded.



Conclusion:
Well, based on what I have heard from people, this is obviously leaned towards the bad things that people have said. There are definitely better Indian/Pakistani restaurants around town. If I were in Hillcroft, I would just drive a few more miles down the road to another restaurant.



Grading:
Service: N/A
Food: 2.5/10
Waiting Time: N/A
Total: 2.5/10 = 25% (F) (New record low)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information: 
Shahnai Restaurant & Catering
5920 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77036
Phone: (713) 953-1388
Timings: Mon-Thu & Sun: 11 AM - Midnight; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 1 AM
Caters: Yes

Dining Hall available

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Golden Grill: Yet another food truck!

Food Truck: Golden Grill
Address: Various locations
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte:
Date of visit: 10/2/14

Photo Credit: http://htownfoodtruckreviews.blogspot.com/


Background:

Salam/hey guys! I am back after a delay due to exams. Today I will be reviewing another food truck that has started to serve halal chicken: Golden Grill. Golden Grill claims to serve the finest grilled cheese sandwiches in Houston. I had actually tried this for the first time the day before. I had their classic cheese sandwich, which is basically grilled cheese on toasted bread. I had then tweeted them saying that their classic was great, and said the one day they should serve halal chicken, since halal is almost always a hit on the UH campus. Next thing you know, they tweeted me back by saying that they do serve halal chicken! To confirm, I asked where they get the meat from and they said Restaurant Depot. Keep in mind that Restaurant Depot sells certified halal meat in bulk amounts. Also keep in mind that if a person claims that the restaurant is halal, believe in that person. If it turns out to be a lie, then the sin is on the seller, not the consumer. It's astounding how people still don't do this and just yell "Haram" right? Anyways, after studying a bit for my exams, I came here for lunch with a friend.



Let The Experience Begin!
Like every other food truck, you have to look at their twitter or Facebook page to see where they are for the day. When Golden Grill comes to UH (University of Houston), they are either near the Fleming building or they are near the Engineering building. I was one of the first people to be there. After waiting in the line for a while, I was ready to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the Buff Chick, which was a grilled sandwich consisting of bread, cheddar cheese, buffalo sauce, and chicken. I paid $7 (no sales tax). After ordering, you give your name. When the food is ready, they will call your name. The waiting time was 6 minutes and 10 seconds.



They have pork, but you can request them to cook separately. I was lucky this time because I did the first meat order that day. The Buff Chick is the only halal thing there. They get their chicken from Restaurant Depot, which sell halal meat in bulk amounts.



The Buff Chick




The Verdict:
The food tasted great! Buffalo sauce and cheddar cheese definitely compliment each other. The BBQ sauce was as good as the one I had in Crespo Pizza a few visits ago. The chicken was nice and tender. The food was washed down with a bottle of water. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was good. The cashier confirmed that the food was halal, and before I came here, I actually contacted them via twitter. That's called customer service. And they were actually polite when I confirmed its halal status, compared to another restaurant that I have been to.



Conclusion:
Even though Third Coast is gone, Golden Grill is a wonderful addition to the halal food scene at UH. They usually come every two weeks. Thankfully while they are gone, I can grab a bite at Coreanos, but when they come, I'll definitely be going back.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 9/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 27/30 = 90% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Golden Grill
Various Locations
Facebook: facebook.com/TheGoldenGrill
Twitter: https://twitter.com/goldengrillhtx
Instagram: @goldengrillhtx
Timings: Varies
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, October 6, 2014

Great Khan Mongolian Grill- A Prayer Answered

Restaurant: Great Khan Mongolian Grill
Address: 2150 Highway 6 South, Houston, Texas 77070
Buffet or a-la-carte: Buffet
Date of visit: 9/27/14



Photo Credit: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ZP4iBSaXq-w/UPZI7pxfXXI/AAAAAAAAHm4/lZMurDe_ri4/s1600/Mongolian-Grill-Great-Khat-SH-6-Houston.PNG

Background:
Salam/hey guys! After a hectic September, I am back! Every weekend I've been studying for a very important exam that will be taking place on the 9th of October. Since it is engineering, I have to dedicate a lot of time to preparing for it. I managed to go here only because I left my house early to go to my AutoCAD class. I first found out about this when I saw a business card inside Masjid Hamza. I had then decided that I should give this place a try. After saying goodbye to my parents, I left for the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Great Khan Mongolian Grill is located southbound on highway 6. The sign is clearly visible as you drive. It is near the intersection at Westheimer road. The inside was a lot like Kublai Khan; you have the bar, the tables and booths, and the food area including the woks. One major difference: THERE WAS NO ALCOHOL AT ALL!! This was very welcoming to me! Like Kublai Khan I was greeted at the door, and asked whether I knew what to do here, asked me what to drink, and directed to a booth. After sitting down and collecting my bowl, it was time for the fun part.



Let's Eat!
Well, there is a menu, but you are missing out a lot if you order from it. The chef is in fact YOU! You pick any meat, any vegetables, any powder, and any sauce. You can even name the combo by yourself. Now this is what made me really happy: THERE WAS NO PORK! There was just beef, chicken, and sausage. Just to confirm, I asked whether everything is halal, and he said yes. The sausage turned out to be beef. There are still signs that say "Halal Chicken" or "Halal Lamb", but he has to change it and put some new things on there. He told me that he himself bought the restaurant from the previous owner. In Kublai Khan, there was the designated area for halal meat and you would have to request the chefs to cook it separately.So I decided to get every single meat, fried eggs, bok choy potatoes, peas and carrots, lettuce, beans, green onions, broccoli, tomatoes, and teriyaki sauce. For the starch, I got Mongolian noodles, which were thin rice noodles stir fried with egg and cabbage, since I wanted to try something other than fried rice or udon noodles. I paid $9.73 (tax included) for the bowl. The waiting time was a quick 7 minutes and 20 seconds.



Menu:  http://www1.beyondmenu.com/20389/houston/great-khan-houston-77077.aspx?r=20389
Needless to say that the ordering menu is really impressive. There is a place where it mentions "Ham shrimp", but there is no pork according to the owner. In the create-your-own-bowl, you have options of chicken, beef, sausage for meat, shrimp, scallops, crabs, calamari, and squid for seafood, vegetables ranging from bok choy to potatoes, many powders from masala to chili pepper, and sauces from BBQ to teriyaki to sweet and sour. There are hundreds of combos you can make.



The finished product




The Verdict:
The food was spot on. All the meats has plenty of taste, and the vegetables too. The Mongolian noodles were cooked perfectly. It feels great to finally have everything halal in a Mongolian Grill. The food was washed down with a glass of water. Overall, two thumbs up
The service was good too. The owner assured me that all the meat is halal. We talked about how I found out about this restaurant and that I should spread the word about this.



Conclusion: 
Great Khan has been added to the constant diversification of halal food in Houston, something that is only shared with the New York City metro area (includes New Jersey, Long Island, and Westchester County).  I would definitely be back if I ever feel like eating my heart out again. I would recommend



Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 9/10
Waiting time: 10/10
Overall: 29/30 = 96.7% (A)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information
Great Khan Mongolian Grill
2150 Highway 6 South, Houston, Texas 77070
Phone: (281) 531-1122
Timings: Mon-Thu & Sun: 11 AM - 10 PM: Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM
Caters: No


Feel free to comment below, message me on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

100th POST: Artis La Bonne Cuisine- finally some halal BBQ

Restaurant: Artis La Bonne Cuisine
9569 FM 1960, Houston, Texas 77070
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 9/6/14


Background:
Salam/hey guys, and welcome to my milestone 100th post! And on this post, I have a treat! Today's review is Artis La Bonne BBQ. So why is it special? Because we have our first fully halal BBQ in Houston! No longer would you have to drive to Sugar Land, or spend $20+ at Bonsai for some nice halal steak or ribs! I would've gone to Killen's BBQ in Pearland, but since they don't cook their halal brisket separately (certified by Creekstone), it was a no go. I remember going to events where they got food from Pappas BBQ where I had to end up eating the potato salad and bread. No longer would I have to endure that. I found out about this from the Houston Muslim Group on Facebook when someone mentioned how good it was. What also caught my attention was when someone tagged another person and said that they would be the first halal foodies to try that place. Before my Saturday class started, I went to the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Artis La Bonne BBQ is located on FM 1960 going east before the intersection of Perry Road.Inside was very small. There was a really nice guy in the counter. He told me that they had just opened up their business, and that they were previously a catering business that used to operate out of Sugar Land. After seeing the menu and him giving me time, I decided to give the order.



Let's Eat!
I originally was going for the ribs, but the word "Brisket" caught my eye. So I quickly changed my mind and got the brisket. My sides were salad (yes I am eating healthy) with some ranch, and potato salad. The price was really good: $ 9.73 (tax included). Basically this is a two man show. The Chef, Yusuff, cooks everything by himself. Thankfully I got the food at exactly 20 minutes.



Menu: The menu definitely resembles those of famous BBQ places. You have ribs and brisket. There are even family packs and party trays.



The Current Menu. There are also family packs and party trays

Salad and Brisket (Yes I eat healthy)

The Verdict:
The long wait for some good halal BBQ was absolutely worth it! This brisket was flat-out AMAZING! The salad was very fresh, and the ranch perfectly accompanied it. The potato salad was also delicious! The food was washed down with a glass of water. Two thumbs up
The service was phenomenal. The owner turned out to be the chef himself. He has had experience for many years. He was one of the nicest owners that I have ever met (Desi restaurants take notes). He is actually very approachable and you can actually strike a conversation with him. He works very hard. He manages the place and also cooks the food, so you have to actually give some time before you get your food. 



Conclusion:
So is the first halal BBQ restaurant in Houston worth it? A definite yes. I hope to make multiple trips and bring friends/family along. I hope this business is successful.



Grading: 
Service: 10/10
Food: 10/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Artis La Bonne Cuisine
9569 FM 1960, Houston, Texas 77070
Phone: (713) 315-7072
Website: None
Facebook: none
Timings: Mon-Wed: 10:30 AM - 8 PM; Thu: 10:30 AM - 8:30 PM; Fri: 3:30 PM - 8:30 PM; Sat: 10:30 AM - 9:30 PM; Sun: open. Timing will be updated
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, message me on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gyro King: The closest we will get to the Halal Guys in Houston

Food Truck: Gyro King
2424 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, Texas 77054
Date of visit: 8/30/14


Photo Credits: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/gyro-king-houston?select=JYxZuSAVU1Epznpn0fwuwA#w_jmq1iCl73M9--Gdn9yoA



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Sorry I haven't had the time to write a review as I have been extremely busy with school. But here is the first review of the new academic school year. This place is called Gyro King. When I first heard of this place opening up, I got really excited, because it was near UH! This means that I can actually drive here, eat, and then go back to campus within a period of time! This is a lot like the Halal Bros in Austin, where UT students often go a few blocks to grab a platter. This is literally the closest we will have to the famous Halal Guys of Manhattan, because this is also a cart, not a truck. I got to try this place after I finished my Saturday class (yes I am a busy student). I wanted to grab this and then head home.



Let The Experience Begin!
Gyro King is located in the Chevron gas station at the intersection of Almeda and Old Spanish Trail. If you are coming from UH, you need to take a left. Right in the vicinity of the food cart is M&M Grill. Haven't gone back there since the whole turkey bacon scandal that has taken place there. If I had gone there, I wouldn't be writing this post. Anyways, I parked the car, and said salam to the person in the cart. Then I looked at the menu and decided what to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the chicken over rice platter. I asked for both the white sauce and the red sauce. I paid $8, and they do not have sales tax. The wait time was approximately 7 minutes/



Menu: The menu is very similar to what the original Halal Guys have. The pricing is much higher than Jones though

The menu (click on the menu to zoom)


The Front

 
Chicken over Rice with White and Red sauce




The Verdict:
One bite of the platter and it was absolutely mouthwatering. I am guessing that the red sauce is either BBQ sauce or buffalo sauce. The vegetables were fresh, and the rice was very tasty. The food was washed down with water. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was great too. He asked me how I found out about the place, and I told him that a friend told me about it. He was very friendly



Conclusion:
So which place do I prefer? I mean, I really love both places, but on the basis of distance from UH, this place. No longer would I need to battle the traffic passing downtown or on 59 to grab a NY style platter. That doesn't mean that I will never go back to Jones though. It will be that I will go there if I am in the vicinity, like I will be going here more often since it is very close to UH. Gyro King. I would recommend trying this place out. I hope their business succeeds since the prices are suitable for everyone in the Rice, UH, and Texas Medical Center area.



Grading: 
Service: 9/10
Food: 9/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 28/30 = 93.3% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Gyro King
2424 Old Spanish Trail, Houston, Texas 77054
Phone: (832) 618-4891
Website: none
Facebook: none
Timings: Mon-Sat: 11 AM - Midnight
Caters: Yes
Delivery also available

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, September 6, 2014

KC Grill N Kabab- A Decent Way to Finish off a Vacation


Restaurant: KC Grill N Kabab
8611 Hauser Court, Lenexa, Kansas 66215
Buffet or a-la-carte: Buffet
Date of visit: 8/22/14



Photo Credit: http://a4.urbancdn.com/w/s/at/xcaF7fVcgYQnZJ-640m.jpg


Background:
Salam/hey guys! At long last, I have the time to write up my final review from my vacation to Kansas City. This time it is KC Grill N Kabab. This is the first review that I have done outside Overland Park. Lenexa is located just a few miles east on 435. This was the last place that I ate at before heading back to Houston. My aunt and uncle wanted me to try out their favorite restaurants; this is one of them. They've been going here and have never been disappointed. After a few hours playing the PS3, I got ready, helped the cousins get ready, and went to the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
KC Grill N Kabab is located at the intersection of West 87th and Hauser Ct. Inside, there were tables, and two TVs. One TV was showing the local news, and the other had a slideshow of famous places in Iran. We met with one of my uncle's colleagues, talked a but about Houston, then progressed to eat.



Let's Eat!
For my final meal in Kansas City, it was a buffet! There were 3 different types of rice, along with condiments, and also popular meals such as koobideh, kabob, and even curry. I do not know the pricing as I did not pay for this.



Menu: http://www.kckabob.com/menu.html

The restaurant offers popular Persian items along with a kids menu. It also gives an idea on how much you would have to pay to eat something there.



Saffron rice with chicken kabob, yogurt sauce, chicken and beef koobideh, and chicken and vegetable curry


The Verdict:
For buffet food, the food was actually not bad! My favorites from this were the koobidehs and the saffron rice. The rest were just acceptable. The food was washed down with a few glasses of water. Overall, one thumb up.
The service was good too. The owner was very friendly and very hard working. He would rotate between seeing the kitchen and also conversing with us and the other customers at the same time.



Conclusion:
KC Grill N Kabab is a pretty good place to try the taste of Iran. From what I had sampled, I would highly recommend the Koobidehs, as they were scrumptious and flavorful. I will definitely come back and try things from their menu the next time I visit Kansas City.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10
Overall: 16.5/20 = 82.5% (B)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
KC Grill N Kabab
8611 Hauser Court, Lenexa, Kansas 66215
Phone: (913) 541-1900
Website: http://www.kckabob.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/KC-Grill-n-Kabob/184644694894265
Timings: Mon: 11 AM - 3 PM; Tue-Thu: 11 AM - 9 PM; Fri and Sat: 11 AM - 10 PM; Sun: 11 AM - 9 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, message me on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jack Stack BBQ - First Fine Dining Experience

Restaurant: Jack Stack BBQ
9520 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, Kansas 66212
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 8.20/14








Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be reviewing the second restaurant that I visited in Kansas City: Jack Stack BBQ. Jack Stack BBQ is considered to be one of the finest BBQ places in Kansas City. They also ship BBQ orders nationwide. Kansas City is considered to be the BBQ capital of America, and this is considered to be one of the main contributors to the Kansas City BBQ food scene. They have four locations in the City: Wyandotte and Ward Parkway in the Country Club Plaza, 22nd Street and Wyandotte downtown, 95th and Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas, and 135th and Holmes in Martin City. This one reviews the locations in Overland Park, since it is near to my aunt's house. This visit would not have been possible if I hadn't been on the zabihah.com app after my uncle said that we were going there. After giving the cousins food, we left my aunt's house and arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
When we arrived at the place, there was actually a waiting line! This gives a hint that this place has one of the best foods in the entire city, we just sat at the sitting area waiting for the pager to vibrate. When the pager vibrates, that means a table is ready for you. Inside was bustling. There was a bar that showed the Royals vs Rockies game. Nearly every table was full. We got one of the booths. We were immediately offered water as we sat down along with the menus. After a few minutes, we were ready to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the New Zealand rack of lamb, the only zabiha halal thing in the restaurant. My uncle ordered a steak, my sister ordered shrimp, and my aunt ordered tilapia. For appetizers, we ordered onion rings. Condiments included ketchup and homemade BBQ sauce. Everyone in the group eats zabiha except my uncle. Anyone who attacks either on Facebook, email, or this blog will be reported. We specifically asked to cook everything separately to avoid cross-contamination. At $32.50 + tax, the New Zealand rack of lamb takes the title of the most expensive food item that I have ever tried in this blog and my entire life. The waiting time was decent, but I will be lenient since the restaurant was packed like crazy



Menu (click to view): Dine-in,
Well, the prices clearly indicate that this is the most expensive restaurant that I have ever visited in this blog. Pork is served, but the lamb and seafood can be cooked separately. Also, the vast majority of the other menu items only have the non-halal meats.

The Onion Rings, and the red thing is BBQ sauce.  My aunt is also annoyed at how my uncle is always on the phone lol

The Caesar Salad.


The Rack of lamb with a cheese and chive spud and jelly


The Verdict:
To be very honest, we horribly underestimated how big the onion rings would be. But when I tried it, it was absolutely amazing! This takes the title as the best onion rings that I have ever had in my entire life. It went very well with the BBQ sauce. The Caesar salad itself was off the chains. The vegetables were very fresh, and the portion was really big. Then the grand finale: the rack of lamb. It may look small, but it was very filling. The spud came with a bonus: cream! By the time I finished this, I was completely stuffed. Only one word to describe the dish: divine.
The service was top notch too. There were constant refills, and the waitress had a nice smile on her face. She was very helpful, let us take our time to decide what to order, and told us about what had alcohol and bacon so that we would know what not to order.



Conclusion:
Jack Stack shows why Kansas City is the BBQ capital of America. Their lamb was as amazing as the BBQ might be. Let's hope one day that halal meat could be used to cook other items like ribs and brisket. I would definitely recommend and I would definitely come and visit again whenever I visit Kansas City Again.



Restaurant Information
Service: 10/10
Food: 10/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 30/30 = 100% (A)
Pricing: $$$$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Jack Stack BBQ
9520 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, Kansas 66212
Phone: (913) 385-7427
Website: http://www.jackstackbbq.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jackstackbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackstackbbq; @jackstackbbq
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 10:30 PM; Sun: 11 AM - 9 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, message me on Facebook, or send me an email!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed