Saturday, October 26, 2013

Masala Wok- The Wait Was Well Worth It

Restaurant- Masala Wok
10001 Westheimer road, Houston, Texas 77042
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/26/13


Photo Credit: (http://www.masalawok.com/images/menu_01.png)

UPDATE 6/1/15
Visited after finding out that Kublai Khan closed down. The food isn't as good as it use to be. I only recommend if you want some Indo-Chinese food in the Westchase Area. Food is now a 6/10

Background:
Salam/hello guys! Today I will be reviewing a very popular restaurant here in Houston: Masala Wok. Masala Wok is a restaurant that serves Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisine. They have popular dishes like chicken tikka masala, stir fry chicken, noodles. and rice dishes. It is located in the Westchase district of town, and they have locations in Sugar Land (recently opened), Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and the Virginia suburbs on Washington DC. This restaurant is frequented by many people who come for lunch break from their jobs. When I moved here, this was one of the restaurants that my family and I would often go to because it was very near to where we used to love (Sugar Land). Plus at that time, this was our favorite restaurant. We would always go here with other members of the family or for even special occasions. Since moving to Cypress, we had not gone here at all. This was all 5 years ago. Now today, it was time for me to come back here and try the very food that I used to enjoy back then. The time came after my chemistry lab at UH had finished. I came here hoping that at least the Chinese food would be better than Halal Wok (Review found here). After going through traffic, I arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Masala Wok is located a few blocks after the intersection of the Sam Houston Tollway and Westheimer Road going towards the Galleria. It shares the same strip mall with a Marble Slab and a Sushi bar. Inside was a very vibrant ambiance. The ambiance was dark to give the feeling of being at a casual restaurant. There was a TV that was showing the anticipated soccer (football) game between Real Madrid and Barcelona. It was so anticipated that the nearly every customer INCLUDING the employees were watching the game. I myself was watching the game while waiting in line to order. My turn finally came and I read the menu that was hanging on top.



Let's Eat!
Now when you are ordering, it is important that you tell what meat you want. Like if you want to order noodles or rice, you have to tell the whether you want chicken, lamb, beef, shrimp, vegetarian, or paneer. Same goes with any dish here at Masala Wok. I ordered Chicken Lollipops, which are 4 pieces of chicken wings shaped exactly like a lollipop. I also ordered mixed rice and noodles with steak. To drink, I chose mango juice. I paid a grand total of $16.47 (tax included). The waiting time was a wonderful 4 minutes and 35 seconds. I could see everyone cooking the food freshly on the stoves. To wait for the food, I watched the soccer game.
One more thing. When you get your food, you have to get up from your table and get the cutlery and napkins. Surely they can get it for you when they give you the food right?



Mango Juice


Chicken Lollipops and Mixed rice and noodles with fried egg and steak



The Verdict:
After taking the first bite, I immediately thought to myself "Why did I not come here in 5 years?" The food was fantastic. It was much better than Halal Wok. The only problem I had was that the sauce for the chicken lollipops was too spicy. It tasted like pickle paste but more spicy. Nevertheless, the chicken lollipops were very flavorful, the egg was very fresh, and the noodles and rice were tasty. The steak was perfectly marinated and it perfectly complimented the rice and noodles. All this was drained by a nice bottle of mango juice. Overall, two thumbs up.



Conclusion:
If they had a location on the Northwest side of Houston, then I would definitely be a regular there. I could even get food from here for my family whenever necessary. But until then, I will be making more visits to the current location from UH whenever I feel like having some good noodles. I will definitely try the Indian and Thai options and see how they compare to the Chinese options. If you are on Westheimer and want to eat some good halal Chinese food, then this place would be perfect for you.



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



Restaurant Information
Masala Wok
10001 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77042
Phone: (713) 784-8811
Timings: Sun-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM
Caters: Yes



Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halal Wok- Not The Best Chinese Restaurant Out There

Restaurant: Halal Wok
5680 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas 77036
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/23/13


Photo Credit (http://places1.assets.gotime.com/5f3f538e338c7696e3708dd9cac0fa1c59e1a439_l.jpg)


Background:
Salam/hello guys! For the second consecutive day, I am reviewing a restaurant! While yesterday I reviewed Biryani Pot, today I am reviewing Halal Wok, a Chinese restaurant. Halal Wok is also another restaurant that has been around since I moved to Houston. For 7 years, I would always pass by this place and hardly go inside. Halal Wok is located in the same strip mall as Busy Boy. Today I got out at 11 AM from class! I had forgotten my lunch from home, so I was hungry. I was not in the mood of eating on campus because just yesterday at a club meeting I had delicious McAlister's vegetarian sandwich. M&M Grill is reserved for Saturday because I am taking a friend with me. With regards to money, I could not spend over $10. It has been a while since I actually ate real Chinese food. The last time I ate was at Inchin Bamboo Garden in Cleveland, Ohio, where the food tasted like vomit (Review found here). So I was hoping that this would be a vast improvement from that time. So after driving smoothly on the highway, I arrived.



Let The Experience Begin!
Halal Wok is located in the same strip mall at Busy Boy. You can park anywhere in the strip mall parking lot and eat at the restaurant. Inside, it was very simple. White walls with curtain, and a TV playing CNN. There was only one person working the counter today. Ironically for most of the time I was the only customer! Other people came in near the phase where I finish the last of my meal. There were things that were listed on the board. I read the board and decided to order.



Let's Eat!
I decided to take the lunch special. Basically, I get a meat/seafood dish with rice and an egg roll. The dish I got was beef pepper steak, which is stir fried beef with onions, soy sauce, and green bell peppers. I asked them to make it spicy. To drink, I got my usual can of Pepsi. Altogether, I paid $7.56 (tax included). The waiting time was around 4 minutes, and the food was actually freshly made! From the table, I could hear the cooking of the various dishes. Oh, and one more thing. When you order, you first order then pay. Then after you finish eating, you just get up and leave.



Menu:
Menu Cover

Soups, Appetizers, Fried Rice, and Noodles


Diet Dishes, Vegetarian, Chicken

Beef, Shrimp, and Egg Foo Young (Chinese Omelette)

American Favorites and Chef's Specialties

Specials, Desserts,  and Drinks

Beef Pepper Steak, Fried Rice, Egg Roll, Pepsi



The Verdict:
The food mostly ranged from bad to mediocre. The only good part was the egg roll. It was very scrumptious and it had a lot of flavor. The fried rice could use some more soy sauce whenever it is cooked to improve from its mediocre taste. The bad part of the dish was the beef pepper steak. While the vegetables were fresh and had taste, the brown sauce was tasteless. There was definitely too much brown sauce in the dish. The beef was nothing to brag about either. Whenever I would mix the rice and the beef pepper steak, there would only be taste in the rice. The plate was drained by a refreshing cup of Pepsi. Overall, a thumb up for the egg roll and a thumb down for the beef pepper steak.



Conclusion:
Well, there are definitely better Chinese places in Houston. I will say, however, that this is much better than Inchin Bamboo Garden. It would have been better if the beef pepper steak had some taste in it. Overall, I would not recommend this place if you want to find a good Chinese restaurant and dine in. I know I will be waiting.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 5/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 23/30 = 76.7% (C)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Halal Wok
5680 Hillcroft Street, Houston, Texas 77036
Phone: (713) 954-9595
Website: None
Facebook: None
Timings: Sun-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel Free to Comment Below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Biryani Pot- Finally, an improvement in Indian restaurants

Restaurant: Biryani Pot
6509 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77057
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/22/13


Photo Credit (http://trademarks.justia.com/media/image.php?serial=85537507)


UPDATE 8/11/17: Came back a few times this year. First visit was for a friend's birthday. Ordered the lamb biryani and it was phenomenal. Second trip with my boss, where we both ordered the chicken biryani lunch special. They started using stainless steel for their thalis, which adds a nice home-like feelings. We both enjoyed the food, and the curries were much better than the last time I had them. It was incredibly filling as well, and it costed only $10! Finally, I came with a colleague. We ordered the chicken biryani family pack to go, but we decided to eat there at the last minute. And yet again the food was great. The portion of the biryani was much bigger than Bawarchi or Hyderabad House, which allowed us to enjoy the food even more. This time, they gave chicken manchurian, and that was honestly as big of a standout as the biryani. It's nice to see a good Indian/Pakistani place that is not too far from my work!

Chicken Biryani Family Pack

Chicken Lunch Special


Background:
Salam/hello guys! Today I will be reviewing another of the three Biryani restaurants here in Houston. The restaurant is called Biryani Pot. My work was let out at 12:30 pm and I had time to kill until 4:00 pm. I had no food with me and I had gotten hungry. For some reason, I was craving Indian food. Here is the thing about Indian food. Tandoori Nite was ruled out because it is not a good place. Then I heard about Biryani Pot. Being an avid fan of biryani since childhood, I wanted to try this place and compare it to Paradise Biryani Pointe (Review found here). I hoped that it would be better than Paradise, and that I would visit again whenever I feel like eating Indian food. Even though I am Indian, I rarely eat at Indian restaurants. Believe it or not, Indians actually prefer to eat at Indian restaurants than other cuisines. I really do not know why this is the common trend. Maybe because they only like spicy food (Indian food expert please help me out)? The reason I am different from other Indians is because I am proud to have a mother who cooks the most amazing Indian food at home. Whenever I actually eat Indian food, I usually get Biryani because it is my favorite Indian dish, and also it is a rare dish made in my house. I sometimes get Indian food that we rarely eat at home, like Tandoori chicken, or naan, or rogan josh (Kashmir mutton dish). So after the work was done, I made the trek to the restaurant.



Let The Experience begin!
Biryani Pot is located just after the CVS on Westheimer road. It is tricky to get in because it is very close to the intersection of Hillcroft avenue and Westheimer road. As I was coming in to park my car, there was a person sitting in front of the cars. I am assuming that he was there to be sure that the cars that park there were customers for the restaurant, and that the cars of non-customers would be towed. Inside the restaurant were the owner, his two helpers, and two waitresses. As I came in, I was greeted and I was asked to sit down. I was then handed the menu by a waitress.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the non-veg lunch special. Here is the thing about Indian restaurants. Many people from India are vegetarians. So you will always see a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian menu. With regards to non-veg, the meat you find are chicken, goat, and seafood. Some places have lamb, and some places are 100% vegetarian! The reason why there is no beef is because most Indians don't eat beef. Hinduism considers cows to be holy, thus eating beef is forbidden in their religion. According to the lunch special consisted of: Chicken Dum Biryani, salad, raita (yogurt and cucumber dish), chicken 65 (appetizer), daal (yellow lentil curry), salad, papad (crisp Indian appetizer), the house special chicken karahi, and naan. They even gave me a dessert called double ka mitha (bread pudding dessert). To drink, I had a can of Pepsi. Service was really fast. I got my food in only 1 minute and 3 seconds! Altogether, I paid $11.34 (tax included). A great price to be honest.






Clockwise: Naan and papad, chicken karahi, daal, Pepsi, salad, chicken 65, double ka mitha and raita (not pictured), biryani



The Verdict:
When the food came out, I thought it was microwaved. However, I saw the chefs making the biryani and curries in the kitchen! After a very long time, I was having freshly made food! It felt good after so many trips with reheated food. It was piping hot when I took my first bite.Well, the biryani was approximately 100 times better than Paradise. No kidding, this was GOOD. It had a lot of flavor, and it really reminded me of the biryani made at Indian weddings. The daal was simply fantastic. It reminded me of the daal my uncle makes whenever we go over to his house. The raita was a good condiment to the biryani. The naan, which I used to eat the karahi and chicken 65 with, was very fresh. There were, however, some mishaps. The karahi was somewhat bland, as it had very little flavor. The chicken 65 was so-so. Not good, not bad, but average. The papad was not crispy enough to my liking also. I felt that it could have used a few extra minutes in the crisper. I did not eat the dessert as I am not a fan of Indian dessert (I am a HUGE chocoholic). All this food was washed down with a can of Pepsi.



Conclusion:
Biryani Pot is definitely better than Paradise. Their biryani definitely trumps the one served at Paradise. Now if they could fixed their chicken dishes, and the papad, the taste would be even better. I would recommend this restaurant mainly to eat biryani. If you are vegetarian, take the daal and naan. The lunch special is somewhat risky because the dishes except the biryani change. Overall, I would give it one thumb up.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10
Waiting time: 10/10
Total: 26/30 = 86.6% (B)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Biryani Pot
6509 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77057
Phone: (713) 278-8085
Fax: (713) 278-8086
Timings: Mon: Closed; Lunch Tue-Fri: 11 AM - 2:30 PM and Sat-Sun: 11:30 AM - 3 PM; Dinner Tue-Thu and Sun: 5:30 PM - 10 PM and Fri-Sat: 5:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Caters: Yes
To confirm catering order, call (610) 714-2123

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cafe Pita- It's fame lives up

Restaurant- Cafe Pita
5506 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Texas 77056
A-la-carte or buffet? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/19/13


Photo Credit: (http://s3-media2.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/YuHMLDU6wHCZ6BphplaPgw/l.jpg)


Background:
Salam/hello guys! Today I will be reviewing one restaurant franchise that is very unique. Why is it so unique? Because it serves Bosnian food! The restaurant is called Cafe Pita, and they have locations on Westheimer Road and Richmond Avenue! What is also unique about this restaurant is that it was featured on national TV! This restaurant was featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network. The host of the show was famous Chef Guy Fieri. He showcased the restaurant for having a cuisine that was not the norm. He said he really liked the food! Judging on that, I decided to give this place a try. After confirming with the staff that the meat was halal, I set off from my Chemistry Lab and arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Getting into Cafe Pita is like a maze. There is no entrance from Richmond Avenue into the parking lot. When I was driving, I thought there was one, but it turned out to be the entrance to a car mechanic store. To get in, you have to turn onto Barrington road, and then turn into the parking lot. The inside was dark. There were no lights on. Most of the light came from the sun's rays from outside. The local radio was playing in the restaurant, and there was a TV that was promoting tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When I came in, there was no one. I first wondered whether I should sit down and wait for someone to help me. Then came the waiter. Ironically, he was the only person that was waiting tables. So I will cut him some slack. He then directed me to a window side table and then gave me the menu.



Let's Eat!
The menu came with items that were labeled "Guy's Favorite". It seems like the restaurant is very proud of the fact that a famous celebrity chef came to their restaurant and had their food. Nonetheless, it was a very interesting menu, and it gave a nice description of what the dish contained. To drink, I had Pepsi with free refills. To eat, I had Hadzijski Cevap, which is cevap (Bosnian sausage) and beef kabab sauteed in a tomato sauce. It came with lepinja bread (Serbian flatbread) and kajmak, which is a condiment that is a mixture of cream cheese, butter, sour cream, feta cheese, and milk. I paid a total of $12.97 (tax included). The waiting time was really fast at 4 minutes and 47 seconds. Regarding the soda, the price is $1.99, but the free refills mean that I would not mind paying that much for it. If it had been a can, then I would not be happy.



Menu:
The menu mainly has traditional Bosnian delicacies. Although it is not on the website. here is also a mixed grill available for $19.99. In that mixed grill are 10 cevaps, a pljeskavice (Bosnian patty), and kababs (beef and chicken).
Starters
Soup and Salads
Pizza
Sandwiches
Entrees
Desserts


Nice glass of Pepsi


Hadzijski Cevap


The Verdict:
Whatever Guy Fieri said about this restaurant was absolutely correct. It was delicious! The tomato sauce was perfect and was very flavorful. The cevap, regarded to be Bosnia's national dish, was tantalizing. The taste was very unique from other similar sausages that I have had. I now have had kababs from 5 other countries, and most use different techniques. In India and Pakistan, chili and seeds are used. In Iran, chopped parsley and onions are used. In Turkey, there are so many different types of kababs, where some use chili and some use herbs. Now in Bosnia, garlic and onion are used to give the cevap the taste. This one definitely hit the spot. The beef kabab was also very delicious, despite coming as a few chunks. The lepinja was very fluffy and fresh, and the kajmak was very tasty with the lepinja. All the food was washed down with a nice glass of Pepsi.



Conclusion:
Cafe Pita definitely lived up to its reputation of being a popular restaurant. I think Guy Fieri must have enjoyed the food. Because I definitely did. I will be definitely coming here often and trying out their other Bosnian dishes. I would recommend anyone who want to stay away from the usual Indian/Pakistani or Mediterranean food. Trust me, you will come out a fan of Bosnian food, like I did.



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 10/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 29/30 = 96.6% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$


Restaurant Information:
Cafe Pita
5506 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Texas 77056
Phone: (832) 530-4935
Timings: Mon - Thu & Sun: 11 AM - 9 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM
Caters? Yes

Cafe Pita on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOUW0lnUrEs

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fadi's Mediterranean Grill- Your school cafeteria outside your school

Restaurant- Fadi's Mediterranean Grill
8383 Westheimer Road suite 112, Houston, Texas 77063
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/18/13



Photo Credit: (http://www.fadiscuisine.com/images/fadi-logo.jpg)


Background:
Salam/hello guys! I hope your Eid went well! Today I am bringing to you a very well known restaurant in Houston: Fadi's Mediterranean Grill. Fadi's is well known here in Houston, with three locations in Houston, one location in Sugar Land, and two locations in Dallas. Normally, I would go out on Saturdays to try out a restaurant and review it, but today was a special occasion. I became part of a group called Muslim Youth of Bear Creek. The goal of this is to promote a feeling of community among the Muslims in the Bear Creek Area. They had a board meeting here, and I am a member of the board. We were going to discuss how to recruit people to join the group, how to raise funds for the group, and what events to plan for the community. The reason why the meeting was held here instead of a mosque was because they wanted a more social place. They wanted a place that was not quiet and could relax and not stress. As soon as our classes were finished, we went to the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Fadi's is located just before the intersection of Westheimer and Hillcroft Avenue. It is located at a normal strip mall. Inside the restaurant was very lively. The busboys were bustling around the restaurant, cleaning the mess that the customers left behind. There was a baker making fresh bread. And there were people behind the food counter waiting to serve people. The cashiers were busy helping the customers out with how much they had to pay. My friend and I were the first of our group to arrive. 15 minutes later, everyone else arrived. After everyone else arrived, we decided to start eating.



Let's Eat!
Now things are different here at Fadi's than at other restaurants. At Fadi's, it's more like a school cafeteria. The options are presented right in front of you. First you got the bread, then the vegetables, then the meat, then the desserts, and then the drinks. The people actually ask what you want and they serve it to you. It reminds me of my dark days of middle school, where all processed crap was being served by the cafeteria ladies everyday during lunch. There, the pizza was like half cooked tomato lasagna, and the fried were literally cardboard. You also have an option of ordering dishes that are not displayed. The way you pay for your food is also different. It basically a fair game. You see what you like, and you get it. However, you are at a risk of paying too much for it at the end. It's not that you just pay after you eat. You pay, eat, and if you want to take seconds, pay again! Just like the cafeterias in schools. For budget reasons, the other guys ordered shawarmas sandwiches and plates with juices and soda. Each paid around $10 each. I, on the other hand, had plenty to spend. I heard from other people that the cafeteria style food is worth eating. I ordered a Greek salad, bread, beef pide (Turkish pizza), potatoes, rice, lamb shank, and chicken. For this, I paid a ridiculous $22.50! Two vegetarian and two meat dishes with rice for that price is WAY too much. I could go to another restaurant and get a mixed grill AND a vegetarian dish AND an appetizer for LESS the price. Another annoying thing I saw was that juice was $4! Why so expensive? On the second helping, I got filet mignon kabab for $5.94! Now that's a wonderful deal! I wish they could charge that less for the cafeteria style food. The waiting time for the kabab was a modest 9 minutes and 16 seconds. To drink, I got Perrier sparkling water.


Menu: Regarding the cafeteria style dining, the menu changes and varies per restaurant. There is however a to-go menu:


First dish (counterclockwise: Lamb shank, rice, Greek salad, potatoes, sparkling water, pide, chicken, bread)




Filet Mignon Kabab with vegetables and tahini sauce


The Verdict:
The food had its ups and downs. The rice was delicious, and so were the potatoes, the chicken, bread, pide, and the salad. The lamb shank was very dry and had no flavor. The filet mignon kabab was also delicious. The tahini sauce was a perfect condiment to the kabab. There was also mixed reactions from the other guys. Some liked it, some didn't. All the food that I ordered were washed down by a bottle of Perrier sparkling water.



Conclusion:
Well if you want to come in here, come here for special occasions. Why? Because it is so darn expensive. Why is it so expensive? $4 for juice, and the risk of paying too much because the food that you see is so interesting that you want to try them all. Also, I would recommend that you order directly instead of going cafeteria style because there is a bigger chance that the food will taste better. And more importantly, you will save money.



Grading:
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 8/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 25.5/30 = 85% (B)
Pricing: $$$ out of $$$$



Restaurant information:
Fadi's Mediterranean Grill
8383 Westheimer Road Suite 112, Houston, Texas 77063
Phone: (713) 532-0666
Fax: (713) 532-0677
Timings: Mon-Sat: 11 AM - 10 PM; Sun: 11 AM - 8 PM
Caters? Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Euro Bakery & Cafe- A Taste of Greece in Houston

Restaurant- Euro Bakery and Cafe
5010 Louetta Road, Spring, Texas 77379
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/15/13




UPDATE 12/2/13: Their Sunday business hours is 11 AM - 6 PM. And they hold cooking classes as well. Check their Facebook for more updates.


UPDATE 11/21/13: According to their Facebook, they will start being open on Sundays from December 1st. The opening and closing times have not been confirmed yet. I will get back to you on that.


ORIGINAL REVIEW:

Background:
Salam/hello guys! Eid Mubarak to everyone! And even though it is Eid, I am still reviewing a restaurant! Today, the restaurant is Euro Bakery and Cafe. While the name is "Euro", it actually serves Greek food, the first fully halal Greek restaurant in Houston. Normally, Eid meals are eaten with the whole family, but, both my parents were working, my sister had to go to high school, and I had to go to UH. Thankfully, I only went for a few hours. Although I live in Cypress, I drove all the way to Spring to eat here. The reason why I drove up to Spring was because I had to get my car serviced at the dealer that I bought it from, which was located near the intersection of I-45 and Louetta Road. Although it is a 45 minute drive from my house, I still got my car from there because there were really good deals going on for 2013 Camry models. In fact, this was the closest halal restaurant to the dealership. I was really getting hungry as I did not eat anything after the Eid prayer. So before I gave my car for servicing, I decided to try this restaurant, and see what Greek food was like.



Let The Experience Begin!
Euro Bakery and Cafe is located at a strip mall on Louetta Road just after the Kuykendahl Road signal. Inside, it is very different. It feels like I am in a house with the living room converted to the tables. There was even a staircase, similar to what you find at a normal house. The ambiance was very nice. The restaurant was very bright and lively. It also gave a nice view of Louetta Road. Right when you enter, there are displays of these appetizing cakes and Greek desserts. The cashier desk looked like it came out right from the kitchen of the house. It had everything you would expect in a kitchen except the stove. The owner greeted me and proceeded me to the table with the menu ready. I was really interested in the cakes, so I asked him which cakes they were. He was very nice enough to tell me which one. After 5 minutes, I was ready to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered one skewer of exotic chicken souvlaki. For dessert, I ordered a slice of chocolate decadence cake after seeing the display. Souvlaki is basically the Greek version of shawarma. Like the shawarma, there's an option of sandwich or plate. But the main difference is that while the shawarma is cooked on a vertical broiler, souvlaki is cooked on a skewer. So basically in the souvlaki sandwich, there are chunks of meat meat the usual condiments, while the shawarma has sliced meat and the condiments. The same applied to the plate, which I had ordered. The exotic chicken souvlaki came with tzatziki sauce, rice, tomatoes, and onions. The owner was nice enough to let me have the cake after I finished the souvlaki. To drink, I had water, which was free and had free refills. Overall, I paid $15.23 (tax included), which was a great price. The waiting time was very good at 19 minutes and 36 seconds, even though the menu said that it would take 20-25 minutes for the grilled entrees to get ready.


Menu: They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are separate menus for cakes, cookies, pastries & pies, and specialty drinks.
Cakes (price is $5.19 for one slice): http://www.eurobakery-cafe.com/blog/cakes


Exotic Chicken Souvlaki plate


Devoured!


Chocolate decadence cake


The Verdict:
It was delicious! Thankfully the food was made fresh, not microwaved. The best parts of the meal were the chicken, the tzatziki sauce, and the chocolate decadence cake. The chicken was cooked perfectly and perfectly spiced. The tzatziki sauce was fresh, and it was a perfect condiment. The chocolate decadence cake reminded me of my childhood, where I used to go to a dessert shop called Saadeddin Sweets in Saudi Arabia and eat their chocolate cake. Never was I ever disappointed by the quality of that cake. This slice was the closest to that so far here in Houston. This cake was definitely one of the best cakes that I have ever had in my life. Thus as a proud chocoholic, I strongly approve this cake. On the flip side, the rice could be a little more spicy. Maybe a little bit of olive oil or half a tablespoon of lemon juice would make it perfect. This wonderful meal was drained down by a nice big glass of water. Overall, two thumbs up!



Conclusion:
If you want to know what Greek food is like, or if you want to eat some delicious dessert, then this place is perfect for you! They know how to make really delicious food and cake. They are also willing to help you whenever you have any questions. Like for example, if you want to know the difference between Mediterranean food and Greek food, they would actually take the time to explain it to you. I will definitely come back and visit whenever I come to Spring to get my car serviced.



Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 9/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 29/30 = 96.6% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$ 



Restaurant Information:
Euro Bakery & Cafe
5010 Louetta Road, Spring, Texas 77379
Phone: (281) 257-3023
Timings: Mon-Sat: 10 AM - 9 PM; Sun: closed
Caters: Yes


Feel free to comment below!

Cheers! 
Zain Mohammed


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homebase Pizza- A Great Pizza Place Near My House

Restaurant: Homebase Pizza
17111 West Road, Houston, Texas 77095
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/12/13



Photo Credit: (http://s3-media3.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/5ZCoI4LQgBSn9YbUqyGK5w/l.jpg)


Background: 
Salam/hello guys! For only the second time in this blog, I will be reviewing both lunch and dinner on the same day! While lunch was Paradise Biryani Pointe, dinner today was Homebase Pizza. Another thing about this, this is takeout. It is located literally just over a mile away from my house, and opposite Aragon Middle School. This restaurant serves halal chicken toppings on their pizzas. More on that later in this review. Eating pizza, or any takeout from any restaurant, is a rare thing in my house. Yup, for the first time ever, I am reviewing the restaurant food that is being consumed IN MY OWN HOUSE. Every other time I got takeout, I would eat in my car and then drive back to UH or home. So after the 5 minute drive, I entered the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Homebase Pizza is definitely baseball themed. On the side walls, there are autographed pictures of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, and other famous baseball players. The restaurant is mostly geared towards takeout. There were only two tables inside the whole restaurant. I do not blame as this is the case for most pizza restaurants here in Houston. Normally, pizza would come in as an a-la-carte item at really high end restaurants, or fusion restaurants. There was also a big cooler next to the cashier table. And right behind the cashier table was the kitchen. You could see the whole pizza making process occur. And it was all fresh and clean. No processed nonsense! By the way, the owners are Muslims, and they were working very hard with getting delivery orders and pick up orders, and also the pizza making.



Let's Eat!
So how exactly is this a takeout review? Well, my dad ordered it from home and told me to pick it up! What we ordered was a Medium BBQ Chicken Pizza, a large mushrooms and jalapenos pizza, and breadsticks. The preparation time for the whole menu was 20 minutes. Not bad considering the fact that two pizzas and breadsticks were being made. I paid around $28.40 for the pizza (tax included), making this the most expensive review of this blog.



Menu: 
Well here is the thing. ONLY the chicken toppings are halal. By chicken toppings, I mean the pizzas that have chicken on them. The other halal pizzas are the Buffalo Chicken Pizza, and the Chicken Alfredo Spinach Pizza. Next to the cash register, there is a certificate from Hira Slaughterhouse in Tomball saying that the restaurant gets their halal chicken from them. All the other chicken items are haram, such as the wings and the chicken strips. I am assuming the reason why not all the chicken is halal is because of the price difference, considering the fact that halal meat is actually more expensive than normal meat. They also sell pork products, but they are cooked separately from the halal chicken. The owner himself is hoping that one day his restaurant would be fully halal, and that he could eliminate the pork from the menu. He said that the main problem was that he couldn't find any supplier who is willing to supply the other halal meats along with the halal pizza. What was ironic was that one of the companies that he talked to would make the meat here, but would ship it off to Europe! The company even gave him in writing that it could not supply his restaurant with halal meat. This was very crucial because the halal meat was already quite expensive, and that he needed a company to supply halal meat for the other items at a cheaper price. The other problem is that most of the customers order pepperoni, which is the case for many other pizza restaurants. In fact, pepperoni is the #1 topping in the United States! He does know, however, that beef pepperoni and turkey bacon are the most common substitutes for pork. If you are still not sure about the authenticity of the halal meat, vegetarian and seafood items are available also.



BBQ Pizza


Breadsticks


Mushroom and Jalapeno Pizza


The Verdict:
All I can say is that the pizzas were amazing! Everyone on my family really liked it! Watch out Crespo Pizza you got company! The chicken and the BBQ sauce were perfect for each other. Though not a fan of jalapenos, I really liked the mushroom and the cheese. The breadsticks were also delicious! Overall, two thumbs up!


Conclusion: 
I wish the best for this restaurant. Their pizzas and breadsticks definitely hit the spot. I really hope that one day that the restaurant becomes fully halal. I wish the best for its owner in negotiating with the money-hungry companies to getting halal meat to this pizza restaurant. Between this and Crespo pizza, the latter is ahead because of the full halal menu, but Homebase Pizza will definitely reach its level once it becomes fully halal in the future.

Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 10/10 (Yup, its as good as Crespo)
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 30/30 = 100% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$


Restaurant Information:
Homebase Pizza
17111 West Road, Houston, Texas 77095
Phone: (281) 858-8611
Website: http://homerunpizzahouston.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HomerunPizzaHouston
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HomeBasePizza
Timings: Mon: Closed; Tue-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 10:30 PM; Sun: 11:30 AM - 9 PM
Caters: Yes
Delivery also available

Feel Free To Comment Below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, October 12, 2013

CLOSED: Paradise Biryani Pointe- Mediocrity at its best

Restaurant: Paradise Biryani Pointe
5711 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77036
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of Visit: 10/12/13



Photo Credit (http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/0e/57/b3/paradise-biryani-pointe.jpg)


UPDATE 10/6/14: Place has closed down. There is a "For Lease" sign where it was. 

Background:
Salam/hello everyone! Today I will be reviewing Paradise Biryani Pointe. Paradise Biryani Pointe is a chain of biryani-centered restaurants that are located all over the United States. There are locations in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. It even plans on opening up a location in Singapore in the future. As usual, this reviews the Houston location. The exponential growth of Biryani-centered restaurants have taken shape here in the United States, with the bulk of it here in Houston. Within a 5 mile distance, there are three restaurants that compete for customers that specialize in biryani. Many people have regarded that Paradise Biryani Pointe is the best out of all 3 due to its success all over the country. They even advertise it as "The Best Biryani in the USA". They also claim to have the authentic Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, exactly like the ones made in India. Being a biryani lover since age 2, I always wanted to try a Biryani specialty restaurant. The best time came after my Engineering exam. Lab was cancelled thankfully, so I was able to go early. After driving through the pouring rain, I arrived at the restaurant.



Let's The Experience Begin!
Paradise Biryani Pointe is located on the 2nd floor of the two story mall opposite Busy Boy. When coming in, a wall with many Indian-American related events greeted me. A little walk to the right and there was a lady who greeted me. She then asked "dine-in or take out", and also how many people were with me. I was handed the menu and I skimmed through the menu. After a while, I placed my order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered their Signature goat biryani. Since the company claims to have "authentic Hyderabadi biryani", I decided to give it a try. Along with the biryani came raita (yogurt and cucumber condiment) and mirchi ka salan (curried chili peppers). To drink, I had a can of Pepsi. The menu actually said that the waiting time would be 20-25 minutes. However, The biryani came out in only 11 minutes and 32 seconds. The problem was one of the things I hate most about restaurants: MICROWAVED FOOD! Seriously, WHAT'S THE BIG PROBLEM IF YOU MAKE IT FRESH???? I RATHER WOULD HAVE NICE FRESH FOOD THAN HEATED UP CRAP. I could tell because I heard the microwave in the kitchen beeping when it was done. Then a few seconds later, my food came out. Oh and one more thing, if you want to have a CAN of soda, expect to pay $2.00. Ridiculous. Why make it so expensive? If it was a fountain drink, then I would understand, but a can, that's too much. You do, however, get free water. All together, I paid $14.06 (tax included), which is rather expensive for biryani and a soda.



Menu: Before I could actually take pics of the menu, the lady nearly snatched it out of my hands just after I ordered. The website itself doesn't list the prices on the website. This is because the prices vary by location. Why not make the prices the same for every single location? I mean, many chain restaurants list prices on their websites don't they? Also, there is a chance that all the menu items would not be available. Why must this happen? As far as I can remember, chicken biryani was $9.99, vegetable and egg biryanis were both $8.99, goat biryani was $10.99, and shrimp biryani was $11.99. All the items that may or may not be available may be found here ---> http://www.paradisebiryanipointe.com/menu.php



Initial Setup


Goat Dum Biryani



All Done!

The Verdict:
So is it the best Hyderabadi biryani? An absolute no. Honestly, this is mediocrity at its finest. Parts of the goat was burned, and the biryani itself wasn't spicy enough. The mirchi ka salan also needed to be more spicy. I really don't get what the hype behind this place is. Then again, what do you expect when the food is heated up in a microwave and then given to you like last time at Shawarma King. Another thing that made me angry was when I was paying the bill. As the lady was swiping my credit card and was printing out the receipt, a man came in saying that he needed food to go. Instead of telling him to wait or getting someone else to help, she stopped giving the bill back to me and proceeded to help me. Hello, I was first! It's common courtesy. Every other restaurant that I have been to, if I was being helped by a waiter/waitress, he/she would tell the other person "I will be with you shortly" and that person would wait patiently. It's like you are going to an exam and your significant other calls you and is still talking to you while the exam had started. Overall, one thumb sideways for the food and one thumb down for the service.



Conclusion:
Let's get it straight. Paradise Biryani Pointe is not the "Best Biryani in the USA". The hype is just not worth it. There are many places in Houston that serve better biryani. Sure it looks like my mom's cooking, but the taste completely lacks. I mean, just look at the review I did of Royal Restaurant, and you will see the difference. They also need to improve on service. They need to take notes from other restaurants on how NOT to serve food by reheating, and also charge less for small things like soda. If you are looking for a nice place for biryani, then I would suggest you find somewhere else.



Grading:
Service: 4/10 (Overpriced soda, microwaved food, being ignored in favor of another customer)
Food: 5.5/10 (Mediocre)
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 19.5/30 = 65% (D) (Only the 2nd D given in this blog)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$


Restaurant Information:
Paradise Biryani Pointe
5711 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77036
Phone: (832) 460-0128
Website: http://www.paradisebiryanipointe.com/index.php
Facebook: None (Available for other locations)
Twitter: None (Available for other locations)
Timings: Mon & Wed-Thu: 11 AM - 11 PM; Fri-Sun: 11 AM - 11:30 PM; Closed Tue.
Caters: Yes


Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shawarma King- The Worst Shawarma I have had so far

Restaurant- Shawarma King
3121 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77057
Buffet or a-la-cart? A-la-cart
Date of visit: 10/8/13


Photo Credit: (http://c0056906.cdn2.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/671959.jpg)


Background:
Salam/ hello everyone! Today I will be reviewing Shawarma King restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant located on Hillcroft Avenue. It is one of the few restaurants that have been around since I moved here from Houston. I have always been a fan of Shawarma since my days in Saudi Arabia. I always remember during my childhood when a cheese bread, shawarma and soda costed only SR 6 ($1.60), and every Wednesday, my dad would go there and get it for me and my family. Not once did it taste bad. It was THAT good, Interestingly a shawarma was the biggest meal I had ever had there. The reason for this was because it weighted 1 kg (2.2 lb)! I would eat it also during the times I would visit the US from Saudi Arabia, but it had never had the same taste as the shawarmas back there. When I moved here in 2006, there were limited options to where we would eat. At that time, I was living in Sugar Land and at that time, there were few halal restaurants. We would have had to drive around 10-20 miles just to get some halal food, and most of the time it was shawarma. We would go different places to eat shawarmas, whether it was near our house, or at Hillcroft avenue. We would often come to Hillcroft Avenue, but we would always pass by this place. The time came to try when I had to take my car to the mechanic. The tire pressure has gone dangerously low. And I had not eaten anything, and I was on a tight budget as usual. I also needed to get back to UH to study for my Saturday exam. This was actually the nearest restaurant that had cheap prices. This time, cheap meant under $10 including tax. So after the tires got fixed, I went here.


Let The Experience Begin
Shawarma King is located near the intersection of Hillcroft Avenue and Westheimer Avenue. You can see from the outside that there is a patio. Parking was really tight as there were a few cars that were parked inappropriately. The restaurant itself was a small, clean restaurant. There were two TVs, one playing Food Network, and another one with pictures of the various menu items. The kitchen was set up like House of Kabob, where everything was visible. You could see the chef making the dishes, and also assembling the plate. After looking at the menu, I proceeded to order.



Let's Eat!
Because I had such a tight budget, I ordered a chicken shawarma sandwich. Along with it, I got a can of Pepsi. I paid only $6.39 (tax included)! It was actually cheaper than most food items at UH! Very nice price! The waiting time was a quick 2 minutes and 30 seconds! Very efficient! Within 5 minutes, I ate up, and left the restaurant. 




The Shawarma (Sorry I took a bite)


The Verdict:
Unfortunately, the taste did not complement the fast service. It was not good at all. I seriously thought that the chicken was microwaved then served because it was so bland and tasteless. Shouldn't the chicken be freshly made like other restaurants do? Whenever I would go and eat shawarma at other restaurants, I would always see someone cutting off chicken from the rotating thing that is commonly used to cook the shawarma. They never had to use the microwave to heat up the chicken. Instead they would use a heater that would be put at a constant temperature to make sure that the chicken is fresh. In this case, the chicken was cut off, then the heater was never turned on for the whole day. The vegetables were also not fresh. The lettuce looked as if it was a few days old. The tomato was just alright. Can they not get fresh vegetables and put them inside the shawarma? The greenness of the lettuce indicates its freshness. The more green it is, the more fresh it is. In this case, the lettuce had really faint green streaks, meaning that it was not fresh at all. Never before in my life would I expect a shawarma to have heated up meat and vegetables that were not fresh. This was drained by a nice can of Pepsi. Overall, 2 thumbs down



Conclusion:
There is no doubt that La Fendee's shawarma is a lot better than Shawarma King's. Out of all the shawarmas that I have tried from many restaurants here and in Saudi Arabia, this was the worst. Yup, I said it. THE WORST. Heated up chicken and vegetables that were not fresh are not good ways to make the food delicious. If you want to try shawarma or simply grab a nice quick snack, then I would recommend you trying somewhere else. I know I am not coming back here.


Grading:
Service: 8/10 (No problems, just rudimentary)
Food: 4/10 (Believe or not I thought this was slightly better than Inchin)
Waiting Time: 10/10 (Probably the only good thing; 2 minutes and 30 seconds)
Total: 22/30 = 73.3% (C)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$


Restaurant Information:
Shawarma King
3121 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77057
Phone: (713) 784-8882
Facebook: None
Timings: Mon-Sat: 11 AM - 10 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pasha Turkish Restaurant- A petite restaurant near Rice University

Restaurant- Pasha Restaurant
2325 University Boulevard Houston, Texas 77005
Buffet or a-la-carte? a-la-carte
Date of visit: 10/5/2013


Photo Credit: (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-CWrSdvcHkug/T96FSxcRcSI/AAAAAAAAFOs/e1ke8LSw0xM/s250-c-k-no/Pasha%2BRestaurant)

Background:
Salam/Hello guys! Today I will be reviewing Pasha restaurant, a Turkish restaurant that is opposite Rice University. Pasha is frequently populated by Rice Students. It is a petite restaurant, which is common in that area of Houston. I was craving for something that would fill me up. The Chemistry lab today was so long that we had to stay until 2:30 just to finish it up. Thus I had little time to eat and come back to finish my homework. With the Galleria area ruled out, I only had the choice of Pasha, or going vegetarian. Of course, the anti-vegetarian me went here. Getting here was very difficult. Driving around the Rice University area is very challenging. Most roads are single lanes, and you have to watch out for cars that are parallel parked or backing out. The roads are not marked properly, so look out for any cars coming near you. When you turn left into a shop or house, you end up causing the whole road to stop just so you could turn. To top it off, the roads were in poor conditions. My car (2013 Camry SE) was susceptible to scratches on its bumper because of all the surprising ditches. Unlike most models, the SE is lower to give it the sporty feeling. When turning to the parking lot of the restaurant. There was another surprise ditch >.< Now back to the restaurant. Pasha has been awarded many times by food review companies, most notably Zagat. Now having a Zagat is something to brag about because it reviews restaurants worldwide and gives recommendations to those who stand out. So after parking my car and checking for damage (Thankfully there wasn't any), I went in.



Let The Experience Begin:
Inside Pasha is very dark. it seems like the lights were not on. on the walls were pictures of famous landmarks in Turkey. There were also pictures with the Turkey tourism logo seal with it. There was also Turkish music playing. It actually reminded me of my trip to Turkey during senior year of High School, eating delicious kafta kababs in front of the Maiden's Tower in Istanbul on a chilly sunny day. Or eating a delicious buffet at a ski resort near Mount Erciyus in the central city of Kayseri. Or eating at a restaurant frequented by government officials in Ankara, the capital city. In reality, I was eating with a view of Rice University, big houses, and trees. The waitress noticed me and helped me to a table. After skimming through the menu, I proceeded to order.



Let's Eat!
After seeing the menu, I had decided to strike out the things that I have had during my trip to Turkey and the Turkish restaurant in Pittsburgh. This included doner (gyro), adana, shish, and kafta. Now don't get me wrong, I love Turkish food. I went to a school run by Turkish Muslims, where they have invited me to their homes and fed us really delicious food. And in Turkey, it was like Man vs. Food FOR 10 CONSECUTIVE DAYS! Constantly being stuffed down with Turkish delicacies like Kayseri dumplings and Iskender (gyro with yogurt and tomato paste). I have tried everything from pide (turkish pizza) to lahmacun (minced meat on top of bread) to dolma (rice and meat stuffed in grape leaves). There was only one thing I didn't try, the Beyti Kabab. Beyti kabab is basically beef and lamb kabab that is packed in a special Anatolian flatbread called lavash. It's actually named after the world famous chef at the famous Beyti restaurant in Istanbul. It's actually the most popular item in that same place where celebrities, politicians and other notable people have dined in. Along with it came vegetables, rice, and yogurt sauce. Along with that, I got free water. While waiting, the waitress gave me free bread to eat while waiting. A nice touch. The waiting time was a modest 10 minutes and 32 seconds. The price was quite expensive at $15.70 (tax included). After paying the bill, you get free Turkish tea! Another nice touch.



Menu: This restaurant has separate menus for lunch and dinner. It even has one dedicated to dessert and Turkish pizzas. Also, alcohol is served but not used in cooking.



Bread and water (don't know what that sauce is)



Beyti Kabab



Turkish Tea



The Verdict:
The food definitely reminded me of the Turkey trip. It was fantastic. It was like being there again and feasting on the food. The lavash was very tasty, but the kabab was the best. The rice was well cooked, the vegetables were fresh, and the yogurt sauce was a perfect condiment. The bread at the beginning was very tasty, and the Turkish tea was absolutely phenomenal. All it needed was one sugar cube and it did the trick. The food was drained by a much needed bottle of water. One area of improvement can be the portion size. There could be some more rice and vegetables because they are perfect accompaniments with the kabab. A couple more pieces of kabab would also be nice. The reason why I am saying is because the $15 I am paying for to eat the food should be filling. In Turkey, I only had to pay around $13 at the kabab place in front of the Maiden's Tower to get some nice filling kafta kabab. Taste wise, they are spot on, but the portions can be a little bigger.



Conclusion:
No doubt Turkish home cooked food is better, but between this and Kebab Factory in Pittsburgh, this one takes the cake for being closest to it. Kebab factory may have bigger portions, but this one is definitely better in taste. And you get free stuff too. I cannot however determine whether it is the best Turkish restaurant in this area of Houston. This is because in a 10 mile radius, there are 6 other Turkish restaurants, half of which are near Rice University. So until I try out the other Turkish restaurants, I can't decide. But I can say that Pasha sets a high standard for Turkish restaurants here, and that I would definitely dine here again.



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


Restaurant Information
Pasha Restaurant
2325 University Boulevard Houston, Texas 77005
Phone: (713) 592-0020
Timings: Sun-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM; Mon: Closed
Caters: Yes
Party Room available


Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed