Friday, November 29, 2013

Bonsai Fusion Japanese Steakhouse- The only halal Japanese restaurant in Texas

Bonsai Fusion Japanese Steakhouse
8482 Highway 6 North, Houston, Texas 77095
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/29/13


Photo Credit: (http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/04/c4/82/da/bonsai-fusion-japanese.jpg)

Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be reviewing Bonsai Fusion Japanese Steakhouse. This restaurant has a major first. This is the first (and currently the only) halal Japanese restaurant in all of Texas. This is the nearest restaurant to my house. I was craving for some Japanese food, and I had enough time to try some place before I attended the ICNA convention near the Galleria. I heard of this restaurant from an advertisement in one of the newspapers at the local mosque. I have been here before, but it was a really long time ago. I wanted to see how it changed and decide whether it is worth spending that sort of money. So after bidding goodbye to my parents, I took the 5 minute drive to come here.



Let The Experience Begin:
When I arrived at the restaurant, I proceeded to the door. Now why did I mention this? Because when I tried to open the door, IT WAS LOCKED! I actually came after the posted opening time. Isn't there a rule like "This door is to be remain UNLOCKED during business hours". 2 minutes later, one of the waiters opened the door and let me in. Inside is very dark. There is a bar and tables set up. I asked him whether the food is halal, and he said yes. As always, I take his word. There are a couple of tables that have TVs in front of them, and stoves too! The tables sit around 5 people. This is called hibachi. In hibachi, a highly skilled chef comes and cooks the food right in front of you. In other words, it is like Benihana's but with halal food. The chef performs tricks with the food and the knives, such as flipping them and cutting up the food at an insane rate. So I decided to do the hibachi even though I was by myself. A few minutes later, I got the menu, studied it, and then decided to place my order.



Let's Eat!
I decided to order the New York Strip. Each meat comes with fried rice and vegetables. For the temperature, I got it medium-well. This means that the meat is slightly pink. (Click on this to see the types of steak that are common). I got I also got some free miso soup (dashi stock mixed with miso paste). While waiting for the chef to come, I turned on the TV and watched some basketball highlights. I paid a good price of $11.91 (Tax included). When he came, I turned the TV off, got my phone out, and began to take a video. 


The menu (click to view): Lunch Menu 
Dinner Menu (There is more than a page. Just click the arrow to proceed)

Well good news, no alcohol is used in the cooking even though it is very common in Japanese food! The alcohol that is used is called sake, which is a rice wine. It is often used to give flavor to the rice when it is cooked. I do not know as of yet what they use on the Sapporo steak. This, however, is definitely the most expensive restaurant I have ever been too in my life! Nevertheless I am happy that there are more halal Japanese items than just sushi.


Miso Soup


New York Strip with fried rice and vegetables


The Verdict:
The food was worth the price! The miso soup was one of the most flavorful soups I have ever had in my life. The steak was perfectly cooked medium well. The fried rice was actually tasty, and the vegetables were also delicious! Now I wish I had the money to come often! I am happy that there is no alcohol in the food, and I was able to enjoy it. 
The service was normal. Everything was done as it is expected for a restaurant, despite the locked door during business hours.


Conclusion:
Bonsai is a great restaurant to eat at, and everything is done to accommodate Islamic dietary laws. I will recommend this place for lunch as it is much cheaper than dinner. Only go for dinner for special occasions like birthdays or graduation parties. I will definitely come back for lunch and give my money to them. 


Grading: Because the food is cooked on the table, there is no waiting time. Also, the standard grading for service is 8. I give more points if the people are courteous, professional, and friendly. I deduct points if the people are rude, use profanity, mess up the order, or are unprofessional.
Service: 7/10
Food: 10/10
Waiting time: N/A
Total: 17/20 = 85% (B)
Pricing: $$$$ out of $$$$ 


Restaurant Information:
Bonsai Fusion Japanese Steakhouse
8482 Highway 6 North, Houston, Texas 77095
Phone: (281) 856-0075
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 11 PM; Fri: 11 AM - 11 PM; Sat: 12 PM - 11 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, November 25, 2013

Shisha Express Cafe- A small, hole-in-a-wall restaurant near the Galleria

Restaurant: Shisha Express Cafe
9511 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77063
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/25/13


Entrance. Photo Credit: Me


Background: 
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be reviewing Shisha Express Grill. My friend and I were hanging out after we had helped out in an event at the local mosque, . I had to drop him off at his house as his friend's car had broken down while coming to pick him up. So I ended up driving him back to his house. On our way, we got hungry. We needed to find a place that was very cheap. Most of the restaurants that were located on the way to his house were not suitable for our budget. Thankfully, my friend knew about this halal (zabihah) place that serves really good Mediterranean food near to his house. And it was the cheapest option available. That place turned out to be this place. So he directed me to the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Shisha Express Cafe is located right after the Shell gas station just after the Gessner Road intersection of Westheimer. Parking was very tight, as my car was nearly touching the road! There was an outdoor patio and an inside seating area. While the outdoor patio was bright, the restaurant interior was dark. There were pictures of US Presidents, and there was a TV playing CNN. The kitchen was located right opposite the tables on the side. There was gelato and traditional Mediterranean sweets available. Now one thing that put me off was people smoking hookah INSIDE the restaurant. Hookah is exactly like smoking. For the whole time, I saw people inside smoking it. Now why can't they smoke outside in the patio like Ranosh? Many people tend to think that hookah is not smoking, considering that smoking is banned inside restaurants across Houston. The reality is that THEY'RE BOTH THE SAME THING!!! It's like tobacco with actual flavors. The nicotine is still there! Inhaling the hookah smell is considered secondhand smoking. I would strongly suggest that either the smoking should be done outside, or there should be a separate hookah room, similar to the designated smoking areas that are common in many places such as airports, government buildings, and restaurants. After we went in, the waitress gave us the menu. We skimmed through the menu and within 5 minutes, we were ready to order.



Let's Eat!
Because we were on a tight budget, we decided to order one dish and share it. That dish was the mixed grill. It had a combination of chicken, kafta, and beef kababs. It came with rice, garlic sauce, and spicy sauce. Normally it comes with salad, but we decided to substitute it with extra meat. We also had baklava lady fingers for dessert. The price we paid was around $14.50 (tax included) and the waiting time was around 12 minutes and 18 seconds. 

Menu (To get a better view, click any of the pictures): 

Appetizers

Sandwiches


Arayes (Mediterranean Quesadillas)


Salads

Mesquite Grilled Platters served with rice


Beverages


Gelato/Sorbet


Gelato on display


Drinks and desserts on display

The menu had the usual gyros, platters, and sandwiches. No big deal as this is common in majority of Mediterranean restaurants.


Mixed Grill


Baklava Lady Finger


The Verdict:
The food was mostly great. The kafta and beef kababs were very delicious! It had a lot of flavor and it was marinated and cooked perfectly. The rice was very good, and so was the garlic sauce. I am not a huge fan of baklava, but the lady finger was decent. The chicken, however, was a different story. It was bland. There was hardly any spice at all in it. The best way to fix it is to add more spices when marinating, or give a lemon so that we could actually make it spicy ourselves. 
The service was great though. The waiters were attentive and friendly. The owner even came and met us, because he actually knew my friend! He was very nice and calm. He even treated his employees nicely. He would take his time and explain to the employees what to do. 



Conclusion:
Now this place is good just for eating. But that is for lunch only. At night, there is hookah smoking, and there is belly dancing. Now before some of you guys go off on me saying that I did something un-Islamic, there was no belly dancing when we visited. If there was belly dancing when we came in, then we would have walked out and eaten somewhere else. Nor do I ever plan on doing hookah. The smell of it has makes me wanna puke. I am, however, thankful that the smell of hookah does not affect the taste of the food, and it paid off as the food was delicious! So, if you wanna grab some nice lunch and want to avoid the rush either in the Galleria or at the restaurants near the offices on Westheimer, come here. But only come for dinner if you plan on doing hookah with friends.



Grading:
Service: 10/10
Food: 8/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 28/30 = 93.3% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information
Shisha Express Cafe
9511 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77063
Phone: (713) 954-9511
Website: None
Timings: Mon-Sun: 12 PM - 2 AM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Sunday, November 24, 2013

China King- A Great Chinese Restaurant

China King
3338 Highway 6, Sugar Land, Texas 77479
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/23/13

Photo Credit: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/china-king-sugar-land?select=hU-BPvHnIFQd13_jUDEp-g#hU-BPvHnIFQd13_jUDEp-g



Background:
Salam/hey guys! So you remember that earlier post about me hanging out with YouTube's Sameer's Eats? Well it included a dinner trip to China King in Sugar Land. Believe it or not, this is the first time I am actually reviewing a restaurant in Sugar Land. The reason I usually don't come here is because this place is extremely far from both UH and my house in Cypress. I had gone with him to other restaurants and got him to eat the most famous dishes of those restaurants. He had also promoted the Halal Food Festival that will be occurring on December 14 at the Masjid Maryam baseball field. The main reason for coming here was to have dinner with the people that signed up as volunteers for the event (I will also be volunteering). The main goals were to get to know each other and tell us what the volunteers will be doing during the event. So after visiting the last restaurant, we drove straight here.



Let The Experience Begin
China King is located just after the intersection of Highway 6 and Williams Trace Boulevard. There was a really nice artwork of horses galloping in the forest with Chinese writing on it. In front was the counter, where the payments and the pick up orders are handled. While waiting for the other people to arrive, Sameer and I looked at the menu and saw what was interesting to see. As soon as the other signed-up volunteers arrived, we were ready to order.



Let's Eat!
We ordered LOTS of food! There were a total of 8 people on the table! For appetizers, we ordered steamed beef dumplings, spicy chicken wings, egg drop soup, and hot and sour food. For entrees, we ordered Szechwan Beef, General Tso's Chicken, fried rice, and regular steamed rice. To drink, we had a combination of Sprite, Diet Coke, and Sunkist. I did not pay for anything, but normally you are looking at between $15 and $20. The waiting time was great. The soups and the free rice crackers came in 3 minute and 56 seconds. Within 2 minutes later, the dumplings and the chicken wings came. Finally, 8 minutes later, all the entrees came.



Menu: http://www.halalchinaking.com/ourmenu.html
Judging by what they offer, I have actually decided what to order the next time I go there. Hint: It's a meat, but rarely halal. Otherwise, it's a lot like your typical Chinese restaurant. Many of the items here are also available at the other Chinese restaurants all over the world. Be careful as the non-lunch special items do not come with rice, as it is the case for many Chinese restaurants.


Rice Crackers

Egg Drop Soup

Hot and Sour Soup

Fried Rice, Szechwan Beef, and General Tso's Chicken (Photo Credit to Sameer. I couldn't get a pic of the wings or the dumplings as my phone died)


The Verdict:
I can say nothing but praise for the food. The dumplings were very tasty. It was perfectly steamed and the beef was cooked right. Now don't worry about the pictures of the dumplings. It was cooked exactly like an example that is seen on Google Images, with its off-white texture. The wings were perfectly spicy. It was red-colored chicken with bell peppers, onions, and jalapeno pieces. The fried rice had the perfect amount of soy sauce, and the szechwan beef was also tasty. The clear winner was the General Tso's Chicken. Words cannot describe how much flavor that had. Once you put it in your mouth, you immediately get a strong, positive reaction on how tasty it is. The other people, including Sameer, enjoyed the food as well. Because both soups were given individually, I did not get to try it as the other people ordered it and ate it. They said it was really delicious too. The food was washed down with a nice can of Sprite. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was great too. They were very calm in talking to Sameer about the restaurant participating in the festival. The waiter was a really nice guy. He always smiled and he let us take our time, and was even willing to get us more food if we wanted to. 



Conclusion:
Well, I finally found a nice place to eat Chinese food. If you are in Sugar Land and want some delicious Chinese food, then come here. You will feel welcome, and you will definitely enjoy the food. I will definitely recommend this restaurant.



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 9.5/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 28.5/30 = 95% (A) (First A for a Chinese restaurant)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
China King
3338 Highway 6, Sugar Land, Texas 77479
Phone: (281) 980-8886
Facebook: None
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM; Sun: 11 AM - 10:30 PM
Caters: Yes
Delivery available within 6 mile radius

Feel free to comment below

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, November 23, 2013

THE SURPRISE

So remember when I was telling you about a surprise coming up! Well, the epic surprise is that I got the opportunity to hang out with the one and only Sameer Sarmast. Who is he you may ask? He is the main guy from Sameer's Eats! Yes, that show on YouTube where he showcases halal restaurants. He is also the main guy that is running Texas's first ever Halal Food Festival that will take place on December 14th at the Maryam Masjid baseball field in Sugar Land. We went and ate at different restaurants, and had nice conversations about food, life, and the upcoming festival.


Me and Sameer

The first restaurant that we stopped at was Busy Boy on Hillcroft. We decided to buy one philly cheesesteak sandwich and share it. Sameer was also promoting the Festival by talking to the management of the restaurant. He asked them whether he could hang the poster that is promoting the festival outside the restaurant and he left many flyers inside the restaurant. He also asked them whether they could be a vendor for the festival. We then proceeded to talk while waiting for the cheesesteak to come.


The Philly Cheeseteak

According to Sameer, it was very decent, and I enjoyed it too.


Running short on time because we had to meet the volunteers for the food festival at 7:30, we decided to go to one more restaurant. We had decided to go to none other than M&M Grill. We decided to go there because Sameer had always heard from his Houston fans that he should try this place. He also noticed that it is a very popular place in Houston. Going inside, he promoted the festival. The management actually let him hang the poster on one of the windows. Sameer also left flyers so that the customers would pick it up. After the promotion was done, we both decided to order a loaded double cheeseburger.


The famous Loaded Double Burger from M&M Grill

As always, the burger was amazing. Sameer was actually surprised how loaded the burger really was xD. In fact, it was so loaded that he wasn't able to finish it. This was because he had eaten Fadi's before meeting me at Busy Boy.

It was fun hanging out with one of the biggest halal food fanatics in the country. I really hope that the Halal Food Festival turns out to be a huge success!


Zain Mohammed

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Third Coast Food Truck- My new go-to place on campus

Third Coast Food Truck
Various Locations across Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/21/13



Photo Credit: http://roaminghunger.com/img/trucks/original/52268fd1-8094-481c-889b-6cbc46204482.jpeg

Background:
Salam/hey guys! Another month, another new food truck! Instead of one, there are now TWO halal food trucks. The first one was Coreanos, which served a fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisine. This time, the food truck name is Third Coast Steak Sandwiches, which serves sandwiches. I was hungry and decided to take a break from studying for the Organic Chemistry exam. As I was walking down to Jimmy John's, I noticed there was a sign saying "Now serving halal chicken". I then immediately decided to come and try out this place and write this review up. 



Let The Experience Begin!
When they come to UH, Third Coast is located between the engineering building and Cemo hall. It runs a lot like Coreanos. Their locations vary between everyday, and the way to contact them is by social media. Thankfully the line was not long, so within 30 seconds I was ready to give my order.



Let's Eat!
I decided to make my own sandwich. I put chicken, provolone cheese, onions, and bell peppers. I did not get anything to drink as I had water with me. The price was somewhat higher than Coreanos: $8.50 (no tax). Once you do your order, they ask for you name so that when the food is ready, they would call you to get it. The waiting time was much quicker than Coreanos at 4 minutes and 5 seconds.



Menu (I apologize for the lack of quality of the pics):


Specialties and sides


The specials


At Third Coast, only the chicken is halal. The good part is that you can actually substitute any meat on the menu with the halal chicken. Bacon is also served, but the chicken is cooked separately. However, you can actually request them to not put the bacon in the sandwich. Unlike Coreanos, the halal chicken is served at every location that they are at. I asked the people about the halal beef, and they said that it was expensive for them. Like for their beef, they would have to charge the customers $11.50 for the sandwich. Kudos for their honesty. No alcohol is used in their cooking, so don't worry about the sauces that they put. The part where is said "Sold Out" is the cucumber salad.


My custom made sandwich


The verdict:
The reason the fork is there is because they served it as an open sandwich. Pretty interesting to be honest. You can even fold up the bread and eat it like a normal sandwich. Either way works because it was simply AMAZING! The chicken was very tender. I just love the ooze that the cheese displays on the bread. The onions and bell peppers made a perfect balance to the meat and cheese. It reminded me of the times I used to go and eat delicious chicken sandwiches in Saudi Arabia whenever I would go out with my parents. The bread was very crispy and flavorful, and when I made it into a sandwich, it didn't seem like I was just eating bread. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was also really good. Everything was done with a nice smile. They even engaged in conversations with the customers and they were really friendly. 



Conclusion:
Another halal place at UH, another delicious meal! I am sure to be a regular whenever they are on campus. I will definitely recommend it to anyone that goes to UH. I wonder what other halal options UH will have in the near future.



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 10/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 29/30 = 96.7% (A)
Pricing: $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Third Coast Food Truck
Various Locations around Houston, Texas
Phone: (832) 589-7868
Website: None
Timings vary
Caters: No

Feel free to comment below

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Turquoise Grill- A small restaurant in the middle of a busy road

Restaurant- Turquoise Grill
3701 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77098
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/20/13


Photo Credit: http://s3-media1.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/F_hHp3yO5Xw8NkZoHV0kXA/l.jpg


Background:
Salam/hey guys! If any of you guys think that this is the surprise, WRONG! Just be patient! It's coming up. Anyways, today I decided too try another Turkish restaurant inside the loop. This time, it is Turquoise Grill. I did not take lunch from my house today because both my parents my sick. Yesterday's take out dinner from M&M Grill was finished, so there was no food in the house. Coreanos was not on campus today, and Tandoori Nite is not a good place to eat. So I decided to give this place a try. After my class was over, I set off to the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Now the address says that it is on Kirby Drive, but it is actually on a single lane road called Norfolk Drive. To park, there is a visitors parking garage directly in front of the entrance to the restaurant. Thankfully, parking is free. There are stickers on the windows, which said that the restaurant was featured on Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants of 2012. This is a big deal as Alison Cook is the food critic for the Houston Chronicle. There are a couple of tables outside the restaurant if anyone wishes to dine outside. The setting reminded me of Turkey. Right in front of the tables was the whole kitchen. I remember eating at a restaurant in Istanbul where the food was cooked right in front while the restaurant was packed! The waiter noticed me and told me to sit wherever I liked because I was by myself. He then gave me the menu and I decided to see what the restaurant offered. After around 5 minutes, I placed my order.


Let's Eat!
I decided to order the famous Turkish lentil soup as an appetizer and Iskender for the entree. Iskender is a very famous dish from Turkey. Iskender is gyro slices that are topped on sauteed bread, tomato sauce, and yogurt. It is served with Jasmine Rice. I also got free bread to try out with the soup. To drink, I got a nice, refreshing glass of water. Altogether, I paid $18.29 (tax included). The total waiting time was 15 minutes and 45 seconds.



Menu (PDF required): http://www.tghouston.com/kirby.pdf
The menu here is very similar to Pasha's (Full review of Pasha: http://zainshalalreviews.blogspot.com/2013/10/pasha-turkish-restaurant-petite.html). It has the same famous Turkish kebabs, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. There are some differences between both menus. The menu for Turquoise is served all day, and for the same prices. Pasha has more variety of other things like Turkish pizza, and vegetarian dishes. The prices are much cheaper at Turquoise than they are at Pasha. Turquoise has some American and Mexican dishes available, such as burgers and fajitas.



Turkish Lentil Soup


Bread


Iskender


The Verdict:
The food had its ups and downs. The lentil soup was just simply amazing! It was perfectly spiced and the taste really reminded me of the Turkey trip back in 2012. The iskender was decent. The gyro was flavorful, and the tomato sauce was also tasty. However, despite the yogurt being fresh, there was just too much of it. There should be a balance of the meat, the tomato, and the yogurt. One big spoon of yogurt would be more than enough. The only thing I didn't like was the bread. There was no taste in it. All I could taste were the sesame seeds. All of this was washed down with a nice, refreshing glass of water. Note that unlike Pasha, I did not receive Turkish Tea after finishing up paying the bill.
While eating the Iskender, I noticed one thing that they forgot to give me. Well according to the menu online, it came with rice. It is bad for a restaurant to mess up on the order by not including everything that was on the menu. A thumb down for that.
The service was very good. The waiter was smiling and asked around whether the food was good or not. A big plus as feedback can be used to determine their success as a whole.



Conclusion:
This or Pasha? Well it goes like this. If you want your tummy to be filled up? Then come here. If it is a special occassion? Pasha. If you are on a budget, here. Most importantly, if you want better tasting food, go to Pasha. Everything there is good and consistent.



Grading:
Service: 7/10
Food: 8/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Overall: 25/30 = 83.3% (B)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information
Turquoise Restaurant
3701 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098
Phone: (713) 526-3800
Timings: Mon-Fri: 9 AM - 9 PM; Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 4 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A big surprise

Salaam/hey guys!
There is a big surprise that is coming up this weekend! So stay tuned! Trust me, it is worth the wait.

Zain

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bar BQ Village and Juice Bar- Nice, small place near the local mosque

Restaurant- Bar BQ Village and Juice Bar
17118 West Little York Road, Houston, Texas 77084
Buffet or a-la-carte? A-la-carte
Date of visit: 11/16/13



Photo Credit: http://s3-media2.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/YjmkzW7LrhpjD2KpLtrNxQ/l.jpg


Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be doing a takeout review. No difference in grading though. Same assessments on food, service, and waiting time. The only difference is that I am eating in my car rather than inside the restaurant, mainly because I am in a hurry having to go somewhere else. So on top of that, I am reviewing Bar BQ Village and Juice Bar. I was setting up an actual barbecue at the mosque just a few blocks down the road. This was for the youth that had showed up to play football, basketball, and also learn about the Quran. It really got frustrating as we didn't have a barbecue available for a long time! Time was ticking by and I got hungry as I had not eaten anything the whole day. I had to pick a couple of people up from their houses while going to the mosque from UH. I then had to pick up the chicken that was being marinated, then come to the mosque. It was so time consuming that I had no time to stop somewhere on the way and eat. When the barbecue actually came, it turned out that the food would be ready after sunset (i.e. dinner time)! Alas, enough was enough! i told the other guys that I didn't eat anything since morning, and I went off to the restaurant. After the 3 minute drive, I arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Bar BQ Village & Juice Bar is located on the intersection of West Little York and Queenston. It shares the same strip mall as Bismillah Grocers, and Pho Miss Saigon. Inside, there were tables, and there were paintings of what I assume to be the landscapes of the Alps in Europe. That's it. It seemed like the restaurant is popular with groups of people because the tables were big, like people would come here to drink some tea or juice and talk about things such as life in general. At the cashier's desk was a big man, who I assume to be the owner of the restaurant. After consulting the menu, I decided to order.



Let's Eat!
Because of the eventual barbecue, I decided to eat light. I decided to order a Beef Bihari Kabab Roll with naan bread. Kabab Rolls are a very popular form of street food in Pakistan. Bihari Kabab is kabab marinated in spices. It originated in the Indian state of Bihar, but it is widely popular in the whole world. I did not get anything to drink as I had purchased a Thums Up (Indian Coke) from Bismillah Grocers. I paid a total of $9.13, which is not bad. The waiting time to get the food was a good 5 minutes and 13 seconds.




The menu is actually very wide. They even have steak! Quite surprising for a Pakistani restaurant to be very honest. I also like that they have lunch specials for only $5! Very convenient for anyone who has a budget.


The roll unopened


The roll


The inside of the roll


The Verdict:
The roll was delightful! The naan and the kabab were very fresh. The vegetables inside were a perfect balance to the meat, and the sauce was also delightful. One problem was that it had started leaking, which is why I am holding the packet above after I took a bit of it. It really felt like that I was on the streets, picking up the food, and eating it while I was on the way to work. 
The service was normal as usual. Place order, pay food, wait for it, get food, and leave. Nothing big. 



Conclusion:
If you are looking for a quick bite around near FM 529, then this is a perfect place for you. The best part is that the prices are cheap, so you don't have to worry about how much money you will need to spend. I will come back and try new things, and I will hope that the quality of the food is the same as it was today.



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



Restaurant Information
Restaurant- Bar BQ Village and Juice Bar
17118 West Little York Road, Houston, Texas 77084
Phone: (832) 593-7252
Website: http://www.barbqvillage.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbqvillage1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/barbqvillage
Timings: Mon: Closed; Tue-Thu: 11:30 AM - 10 PM; Fri: 11:30 AM - 11 PM; Sat: 9:30 AM - 11 PM; Sun: 9:30 AM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes


Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jamillah Garden- So Far the Best Buffet in Houston

Jamillah Garden
15514 FM 529, Houston, Texas 77095
Buffet or a-la-carte? Buffet
Date of visit: 11/15/2013




Photo Credit: http://a3.urbancdn.com/w/s/Rs/GwKyQF0o8BWh2J.jpg


UPDATE 12/29/15:
Since the ownership change, Jamillah Garden has gone through a significant change. They now have chai in their beverages options, and they have added various things such as chicken manchurian, chicken meatballs, mac and cheese, and even paratha to their buffet. They even had biryani, chicken karahi, samosa, and even daal just for Ramadan. Never did I expect a place which says "Chinese Islamic Restaurant" to offer Indian/Pakistani food, regardless of what time of the year it was. The food still isn't that bad to be honest, but the quality has taken a significant hit. In my last visit on 12/23, I found the egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken to be cold. I was also told in the last visit from my dad that the owner is planning on putting more Desi (Indian/Pakistani) items on their buffet to appeal to the elder customers. I guess it's time to change the signage at the front to "Indo-Chinese Islamic Restaurant" or "Indo-Pak and Chinese Restaurat". I would give the current food 6.5/10


Background:
Salam/hey guys! After many weeks of trying places near UH, I am finally trying out a restaurant that is near my house! This time, it is Jamillah Garden! Jamillah Garden is an authentic Chinese restaurant like Halal Wok. It opened its doors in 2008 and has enjoyed success. I would often pass this place, and this place would be packed with families eating their buffet. The time came to try when I was out with my friends. We were not hanging out, we were actually doing work. I just joined a youth group called Muslim Youth of Bear Creek, which aims to provide for the youth at the local mosque. They host events such as Quranic lessons, barbecues, basketball tournaments, volunteering, and learning about Islamic History. The goal is to get the younger people involved in the mosque. They want to help the youth establish the mosque as their second home. This is a wonderful initiative that is taken, as more and more younger Muslims are abandoning the mosque because they feel unwelcome and judged by their elder peers. I was providing chicken for the barbecue tomorrow and I had to drop it off at my friend's friend place to do the marinating. As dinner time approached, we all became hungry. Another challenge that came was that my other friend had to be home by 10 pm. So Jamillah Garden was the only option as it was very closed to home. It was also cheap. So after dropping the chicken off, we came.



Let The Experience Begin!
Jamillah Garden is located just after the intersection of Highway 6 and FM 529. It can be clearly seen from the turning into the strip mall. Inside was full of table and booths, and the cashier was there as well. There was a drinks section set up with a cooler and a table. There were two buffet stands, one for appetizers and one for entrees. The waitress noticed us, asked us how many people were together, and told us to sit wherever we liked. The lighting was pretty nice, and it made it feel like you were eating in an actual restaurant.



Let's Eat!
All of us decided to eat at the buffet. To drink, both friends got Cokes and I got a Pepsi (I don't like Coke). I noticed that whenever the new food comes out of the kitchen, it is really hot. This means that everything is cooked fresh and not reheated! This is crucial, as it can affect the taste and quality of the food. Each of us roughly paid $11 for the buffet (tax included) which is normal.



Menu (if I miss anything out, I apologize. I couldn't take a pic of some of the buffet items as my phone died :( )
Most of the items on the menu are the same. Only a few are changed between the meals. 
Dinner buffet:
Appetizers: Chicken wings, fries, cheese puffs, chicken corn soup, corn soup, sweet and sour chicken, egg rolls, sesame balls, fried fish, and sweet and sour sauce
Entrees: Spicy and non-spicy fried rice and chow mein, kung pao chicken, grilled chicken, chicken in chilly sauce, Mongolian beef, orange chicken, beef with bell peppers, sesame chicken, and chicken with vegetables.
Lunch Buffet:
Appetizers: Same
Entrees: Same as lunch. Includes Kung Pao three flavor
If you come between 3 PM and 6 PM, or takeout, refer to this (must click link to view)


Outside

Entrees on left, appetizers on right


Appetizers: Cheese puff, egg rolls, chicken wings, fries


Chicken Corn Soup


Spicy Fried rice, spicy chow mein, pung pao chicken, Chicken in chilly sauce, Mongolian beef, orange chicken, grilled chicken, beef with bell peppers, sesame chicken, chicken with vegetables

The Verdict:
Finally after trips of disappointment, I seem to have found out the best buffet restaurant as of now. The food was great! The appetizers were very tasty, especially the chicken corn soup. The entrees were also good. The only things I would criticize are the beef with bell peppers and the chicken with vegetables. The beef in that was very chunky, and the chicken with vegetables did not taste good. The friends also liked their food, and they would go for more. My food was drained by a nice can of Pepsi. Overall, one thumb up.



Conclusion:
I seriously think other buffet restaurants should take note of this. DO NOT REHEAT THE FOOD IN THE BUFFET! It made a huge difference in the taste and quality of the food. The food tasted much better when it was freshly cooked. Jamillah Garden is one of very few that does this practice. All they need to do is to make the beef less chunky when making it with the bell peppers and make the chicken with vegetables taste better than it is now. I would recommend this restaurant if you are looking to eat as much as you want for a cheap price, and food that is actually fresh.



Grading:
Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10
Waiting Time: N/A
Total: 16.5/20 = 82.5% (B)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information
Jamillah Garden
15514 FM 529, Houston, Texas 77095
Phone: (281) 855-4818
Website: None
Facebook: None
Timings: Lunch Buffet: Mon-Fri: 11 AM - 3:30 PM and Sat-Sun: 12 PM - 4 PM; Dinner Buffet: Mon-Thu: 6 PM - 10 PM, Fri: 6 PM - 10:30 PM and Sat-Sun: 6 PM - 11 PM; Ordering from menu: Everyday: 3 PM - 6 PM
Caters: Yes


Feel free to comment below!
Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Saturday, November 9, 2013

RELOCATED- Bawarchi Biryani Point- A step up from its competitors


Bawarchi Biryani Point
6439 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77057
Buffet or A-la-carte: A-la-Carte
Date of visit: 11/9/13

Photo Credit (http://s3-media1.ak.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/xq2RJMq6EwNwj_PB5OfY5Q/l.jpg)

UPDATE 11/3/14: The new address is 2922 Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas 77057


UPDATE 4/4/14: This restaurant is relocating to a new location in Houston. It has been replaced with another restaurant.

Background:
Salam/hello guys! Today I will be reviewing the last of the three Biryani restaurants in Houston: Bawarchi Biryani Point/ Bawarchi opened its doors July 25th, joining Biryani Pot and Paradise Biryani pointe as the Biryani restaurants in Houston. It has other branches in the Carrollton, Denton, Irving, Plano, and Frisco in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and San Antonio. It plans on opening up branches in Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington state. Texas locations to open soon include Arlington, Flower Mound, Murphy, and South Lake in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and Woodlands, Katy and Sugar Land in the Houston Area. It seems like they are taking on Paradise Biryani Pointe for supremacy in a growing industry. Biryani is gaining popularity across the US, and these chain restaurants are coming up to help these people satisfy their cravings for this majestic dish. Like every Saturday, I came after my chemistry lab finished.



Let The Experience Begin!
Bawarchi Biryani Point is located at the same strip mall as House of Kabob. Thankfully, parking wasn't as bad as it was when I tried out House of Kabob. Inside was bustling. There were people, both families and college students, chatting and eating. There was a TV that was playing a program showing popular Indian songs. There was the cashier counter with available sodas and bottled water available. There was also a display of Indian snacks next to the counter. When I got my phone out and tried to take the picture of the menu that was on the wall, the cashier noticed it. This is normally not a good thing. However, this time he helped me out by telling me that there was also a paper menu available. Kudos to him for helping! There have been many times in which food photographers or bloggers taking pictures of the food for their respective blog had been asked to leave the restaurant because of the unwritten policy of no pictures. Heck, some restaurants ban taking pictures. I don't get the point of banning photography in restaurants. There are people out there like me who enjoy eating out and would like to take pictures of what they eat and write about it. Chefs often complain about it because flash photography "disturbs other diners" (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/restaurants-placing-informal-ban-food-flash-photography/story?id=18302662). Here is the thing, photos can be taken WITHOUT FLASH! Instead of banning photography outright, can you just say "No flash photography"? We love our food. Anyways after taking the picture, I was asked to sit down at a table and decide what to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered their Chicken Dum Biryani. To drink, I had a can of Thums Up (Indian Coke). Like most Indian restaurants, it doesn't come in an individual plate. You get a whole dish of it. The biryani comes with mirchi ka salan (curried chili peppers) and raita (cucumber and yogurt curry), just like most Indian restaurants. It also came with a few pieces of chicken 65. A nice touch there. I paid a grand total of $12.20 (tax included). The waiting time was 10 miuntes and 7 seconds, which was not bad. 



Menu:
Well, the menu is nearly the same as Paradise and Biryani Pot. both places, Bawarchi has a lunch special EXACTLY like it with the exact prices (Paradise recently introduced it). There are many curry options as well if you decide to not eat biryani. One curry that is not available here at Bawarchi is Vindaloo, which is a Goan dish with potatoes and very spicy. One thing that Bawarchi stands out for is that the curries actually come with either rice or naan, while the others do not. The prices are also very similar to each other. This is like the competition the German cars have. For example, Audi's version of the BMW 5 series is the A6 and Mercedes's version is the E class. They have the same engines available (V6, V8), the same top speeds (250 km/h or 155 mph), and the same luxury seats (leather). The only difference between them is the gadgets. Audi has the MMI, while the BMW has the iDrive, and the Mercedes has the Command APS. They all have different functions. Likewise in here, all three places have the biryani at very similar prices. They have nearly the same curries available, and their biryanis look identical. The only difference between them is the composition of the biryani. Paradise Biryani has half a boiled egg, Biryani Pot is like every other Biryani, and Bawarchi has pieces of Chicken 65. The competition seems to be fierce between these three establishments.
Now if you go to any Indian restaurant, their menus will say "Veg" or "Non-veg". This is because many people from India are vegetarian. So if you know any vegetarians out there, take them to these places!


Outside


Menu Cover

Bawarchi Express, Kids Menu, Soups, and South Indian Specialties


Dosas


Uthappams (Lentil Pizza), North Indian Specialties, and Appetizers (Veg and Non Veg)


Non Vegetarian Entrees


Indian Wok Specialties and Lunch Combo


Biryanis, Weekend Specialties, Breads, Beverages, and Desserts


Thums Up


The Spread


Biryani in the plate


The Verdict:
To be very honest, I think this is the clear victor among the three Biryani restaurants. Unlike Biryani Pot, the chicken 65 was very scrumptious and flavorful. Unlike Paradise, the biryani was tasty! It was a close call between the biryani from here and the biryani from biryani pot. I remember saying that the Biryani pot version was close to an Indian wedding, but this one was closer because there was more flavor. The raita was the perfect condiment to the biryani. My only complaint was that the mirchi ka salan was not spicy at all. The food was accompanied by a nice can of Thumbs up.


Conclusion:
So there you have it. After visiting all three biryani restaurants, here are my rankings.
1) Bawarchi - great food and quality. Also, good service
2) Biryani Pot- Some hits and misses
3) Paradise Biryani Pointe- Very mediocre

One thing in common: avoid the mirchi ka salan, and if you are by yourself, get the lunch combos (weekdays only)
One thing all can do: Provide lunch combos for weekends also




Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 9/10
Waiting Time: 10/10
Total: 28/30 = 93.3% (A) (First A for an Indian restaurant)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Bawarchi Biryani Pot
6439 Westheimer road, Houston, Texas 77057
Phone: (713) 714-8197
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri: 11 AM - 10:30 PM; Sat: 9:30 AM - 10:30 PM; Sun: 9:30 AM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed