Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shahnai Restaurant: Not A Great Place to Dine

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

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

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



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



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



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



The plate consisting of the buffet items


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



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



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



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

Dining Hall available

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Golden Grill: Yet another food truck!

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

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


Background:

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



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



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



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



The Buff Chick




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



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



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



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

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, October 6, 2014

CLOSED: Great Khan Mongolian Grill- A Prayer Answered

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



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

UPDATE 8/13/16: This place has closed down. Time to wait for the next place that will have a fully halal Mongolian Grill. Right now, your choices are Kublai Khan in Sugar Land and Humble.


============================== ORIGINAL POST ============================

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



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



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



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



The finished product




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



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



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



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


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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed