Monday, August 31, 2015

Sayad Mediterranean Grill - Best Arab Restaurant in Houston So Far

Restaurant: Sayad Medierranean Grill
Address: 12225 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77077
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte:
Date of visit: 8/19/15



Photo Credit: http://s3-media1.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/2w-0mE9E6fbCfVPTmsl-rg/o.jpg


UPDATE 12/29/15:
I made a visit one day and tried their special dish called mandi. Mandi is a rice and lamb dish originally from Yemen. I used to really enjoy it when I used to live in Saudi. Here, the mandi was top notch. The lamb was very tender and tasty. The rice was cooked perfectly. It felt nice eating it after 10 years! The price is at least $16 (without tax)
One more thing, the mansaf special is only on Fridays and is the same price as the Mandi


Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be reviewing a pretty well known Arab restaurant in Houston: Sayad Mediterranean Grill. It is located right across from Adam's Supermarket. I have always wanted to try this place, but I never got the chance to. I tried many times to convince my dad to meet up there for lunch and tried to convince my family to eat there for dinner. None were successful. Now when we would eat outside food, we would for the most part either get food from Khan BBQ & Grill or Saravanaa Bhavan. I got to go here on my last day of my internship with a good friend of mine. We had planned a day earlier for this so that I could gather my money for the trip. The next day, I told my boss that I was going out for lunch, and then I drove there and met my friend up. 



Let the Experience Begin!
Out of all the halal restaurants that I have been to, Sayad's takes the title of the best interior look and best ambiance. Ever since coming from Saudi, I have never seen a restaurant look so nice on the inside. We were greeted at the front by a very nice waiter. He escorted us to the table. We were then given the menus.



Let's Eat!
My friend advised me to get the mixed shawarma plate, which I did. I trusted him since I know that he knows what the good items are in town. The mixed shawarma is basicaly shawarma meat with biryani rice (from taste it was bukhari rice), pita bread, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and a side of fries. My friend ordered the same thing but got the hummus as a side. To drink, I had a nice glass of Mexican Coke. My friend paid, as he also got takeout for his colleagues at work. The waiting time was not bad at all, as we both got our lunches under 20 minutes. After that, we went next door to Shipley's and had some tasty beignets.




A bit pricey for a Mediterranean place, but not as pricey as Fadi's. This was the main complaint that my parents had about this place believe it or not. Out of all the Mediterranean places I have been to in this blog, this has the most seafood options. They have the normal options like kababs, shawarmas, and hummus.



Mix Shawarma Platter


The Verdict:
The last time I had a mix shawarma platter was at Afrah's in Dallas back in May. It was actually very bad. But here, it was a complete 180. The biryani (aka Bukhari) rice, was absolutely amazing. The meat were perfectly cooked. The garlic sauce didn't leave a nasty odor or seem as if your tongue got pierced. It was perfect with the fries. The other white sauce tasted were very good, and so were the vegetables. My friend enjoyed his food like he did at the other times he visited the place. Overall, two thumbs up.
Service was great also. The waiter was really friendly.



Conclusion:
Move over Aladdin's, Sayad is now my top Mediterranean restaurant in Houston. I hope to go back and eat here on many occasions. From what I have heard, they serve Mansaf on Saturdays. I would definitely recommend this place for anyone visiting Houston. A nice change from the disappointing experience at Yaal Tiffins.



Grading:
Service: 9/10
Food: 10/10
Total: 19/20 = 95% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Sayad Medierranean Grill
12225 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77077
Phone: (281) 293-9090
Website: http://www.sayadgrill.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SayadMediterraneanGrill
Timings: Mon-Thu & Sun: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM
Caters: Yes
Gift Cards available for purchase

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, August 24, 2015

Yaal Tiffins: Finally got to try a new cuisine

Restaurant: Yaal Tiffins
Address: 10928 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77042
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/11/15



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review! Today I will be reviewing a restaurant that introduces a new halal cuisine to Houston. The restaurant is called Yaal Tiffins. I had first seen this restaurant on the Internet. I was trying to find a South Indian place that had a halal thali. Then this place turned up. When I went to their website, I saw that they said that they use halal meat. I also saw where they have their menu and saw two options: Sri Lankan, and Indo-Malaysian! At that time, they hadn't introduced the Indo-Malaysian food yet, so I had decided to try out the Sri Lankan food. For those who don't know, Sri Lanka is an island country located southeast of India. Like Indian food, the main components of Sri Lankan food are rice and curry. A lot of the Sri Lankan dishes are influenced by the cuisine of South India, which is much different that the well known Indian food that is popular in the world. One major difference is that Sri Lankan food is generally more hotter and spicier than South Indian food. As a South Indian myself (yes, Hyderabad is considered South India), I would be able to tell whether the food here is spicier and hotter than Hyderabadi and other South Indian food that I have tried. Indo-Malaysian food is it's own specialty as well. For centuries, Indian Muslims, mostly from South India, have migrated to Malaysia. When they migrated, they brought their food as well. Many had incorporated Malaysian favorites into their cooking, and Indo-Malaysian cuisine was born. Today, Indo-Malaysian food is enjoyed all over Malaysia (often sold in places called Mamak stalls). Anyone who knows better about Indo-Malaysian food can comment below. Now here in Houston, this place is actually the CLOSEST we would get to with authentic halal Malaysian food. The two well-known Malaysian restaurants in Houston, Banana Leaf and Mamak, don't serve halal meat. This is very ironic considering that Malaysia is nearly 2/3 Muslim. Many of my Muslim friends were surprised too. But because the Indo-Malaysian food wasn't there, I decided that I would try Sri Lankan food for the very first time. I got off early from work, so I decided to come and try the place. Situations at my house prevented me from trying it much earlier. It was a 10 minute drive to the strip mall, but I had a hard time finding it. It took me 5 minutes riding around the strip mall to find the place. To get to the restaurant, turn into the strip mall from Westheimer, then go all the way up, then make a right, and the restaurant is there.



Let The Experience Begin!
There was a significant number of people eating in the restaurant. There was also a TV that had a local channel on. The waiter just got the menu and then followed me. I ordered my drink, which was water, from another waiter than was very nice. Then I was ready to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the Sri Lankan Thali s part of their weekday lunch special. I figured that I should try various Sri Lankan favorites. The Sri Lankan thali included chicken tikka, sambol (coconut curry dish), iddiyappam (4 string hoppers or 4 noodle type thingy), sothi (yellow curry with carrots and potatoes), chicken kulambu curry, a curry that is popular in Sri Lanka and South India, rice, and some yogurt dessert thing I don't know the name of.



Menu: http://yaaltiffins.com/menu.html
This place mainly concentrates on South Indian and Sri Lankan specialties. They have some North Indian food and they have biryani. On the weekends, they have a lunch buffet where the food is served to you on a banana leaf. I noticed that some of the menu items were cut from the website. In the Indo-Malaysian section, the fried rice and the fried noodles from my guessing are "Nasi Goreng" and "Mamak Mee Goreng", and they have vegetarian, chicken, and lamb options. At least they have Nasi Lemak!



Bottom: Iddiyappam. Above it: rice. Clockwise: sothi, dessert, sambol, chicken kulambu, and chicken tikka


The Verdict:
Overall, the food was decent. The best part was the sothi. You eat the iddiyappam with the curries, not separate. The rice was fresh. The kulambu was OK. I was expecting the Sri Lankan items to be more spicy, considering how South Indian and Sri Lankan food is significantly more spicier than other Indian/Pakistani food. The chicken tikka could've been much better. Food was drowned by a glass of water that was constantly refilled (which is a good thing). Overall, two side thumbs.
The service was okay except for one guy. He was very rude. No smiles, not even a single "hello" or "thank you". He had a major attitude problem. At least he didn't make any nasty remarks or take away my food while I was eating. The other people that helped me were very nice though.



Conclusion:
Yaal Tiffins is a nice addition to the ever-growing diverse halal food scene in Houston. I'll go back and try the Malaysian food, since this place is literally the only place in town with halal Malaysian, and the Kottu Roti, which is a popular food item in Sri Lanka. I just hope I don't have that waiter again though.



Grading: 
Service: 6/10
Food: 7/10
Total: 13/20 = 65% (D) (Tied lowest for the year)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Yaal Tiffins
10928 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77042
Phone: (713) 780-3096
Timings: Mon: closed; Lunch Timings: Tue-Fri: 11 AM - 2 PM and Sat-Sun: 12 PM - 3 PM. Dinner Timings: Tue-Thu & Sun: 5:30 PM - 9 PM; Fri-Sat: 5:30 PM - 10 PM
Caters: yes

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Thursday, August 20, 2015

NOT HALAL: KFC- Grilled Chicken deal

Restaurant: KFC
Address: 6420 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77057
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/5/15

UPDATE 11/12/16: This location no longer offers halal meat. Only the FM 529 location does now.

UPDATE 9/22/15: Despite the person saying on the phone saying that the gravy is halal, I found out that it's not, as it's shipped from the original site. Good thing I didn't eat from there lol. Anyways, you can still have the bone-in pieces.

Background:
Salam/hey guys. Welcome to my latest review. I will be reviewing KFC. There are halal KFCs all over Houston. They all have separate halal menus. The reason for me visiting is because it is very close to my work. I had a small budget, so I decided to go for the $5 lunch deal. So after spending only 7 minutes driving, I arrived at the restaurant.



Let The Experience Begin!
Well, there's no legit ambiance given that it's a fast food chain restaurant. It's like McDonalds, where you wait in line to order, pay, and then wait until you get the food. After asking whether there was halal option, the cashier replied with "yes", and gave me a cardboard paper.



Let's Eat!
I ordered two grilled chicken pieces (one thigh and one breast). With the deal, I got a cookie, biscuit, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a drink (I got Pepsi). I got the food very quickly, at 2 minutes and 35 seconds.



Menu: http://www.kfc.com/menu/chicken
I only posted this because the only halal chicken pieces are the fried and grilled pieces with bone. Sides are also halal as long as they have no meat. That's it. I did confirm that it's cooked separately. The halal meat is certified by the Islamic Society of Washington Area. They are the same organization that announced that the Butterball turkey was halal and also announced that they were no longer halal as well. They were the same people that hadRegarding the sides, I didn't eat the mashed potatoes with gravy, but I called up and asked, and they said that the gravy was indeed halal (oops).



Leg, Breast, mashed potatoes, biscuit


The Verdict:
The food was pretty good for fast food. The chicken was nicely grilled, and the biscuit was nice and fluffy. Good value for the buck. The food was washed down with Pepsi.
The service was also good for fast food. The cashier was very friendly and always had a smile.



Conclusion:
Since it's close to my work, I wouldn't mind coming here to eat, even though it's KFC. Thankfully, the KFC near my house (FM 529 and Fry Road) is also halal. so I can get a whole bunch of fried chicken if necessary. Nevertheless, I'll one day try to convince my boss to get the halal KFC from this location lol.



Grading: 
Service: 9/10
Food: 8/10
Total: 17/20 = 85% (B)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
KFC
6420 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77057
Phone: (713) 489-5990
Website: www.kfc.com
Facebook: since there's no local one, I'll not post it



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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed

Monday, August 10, 2015

Russo's New York Pizzeria- Another Halal Italian Place in Town!

Restaurant: Russo's New York Pizzeria
Address: 8236 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/1/15



Photo Credit: http://nypizzeria.com/wp-content/themes/nypizzeriatheme/images/russo-new-york-pizzeria-logo-big.png



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review. Today I am reviewing a place that has halal options. Russo's New York Pizzeria. I first heard about this place from a friend of mine. His friend actually owns this place and that there are halal options in it as well. Russo's is a chain of restaurants that are over the US, with new locations opening up in the UAE. This is the only location in the US that has halal options. Pretty cool isn't it?! I got to try it before I had to attend a meeting for a competition that I was gonna take part of.



Let The Experience Begin!
Russo's is literally located next to NRG Stadium on Kirby Drive. It is located in the same strip mall as the Kirby Drive location of Dimassi's, a Subway, and a Fiesta Mart. Before reviewing this place, I thought of this place to be like other higher end restaurant chains like PF Chang's or Olive Garden. Instead, it was a really nice and casual place. It's like the New York Pizza Co. store next to AMC Willowbrook. In it was tables, the menu, and the I was helped to a table and was given the menu. I asked for the halal options, and they gave that to me as well.



Let's Eat!
I was originally planning on getting a Neapolitan pizza, but for one person, it was too much according to the people working. I then tried to get a Neapolitan pizza by the slice, but they didn't do that. So I ended up getting a medium pizza with halal beef pepperoni, halal beef sausage, and halal beef meatballs. Overall, I paid $20.95 (tax included). The waiting time was 17 minutes and 24 seconds. They also give free bread with olive oil. While waiting, I was eating that and watching Tom and Jerry.



Menu: https://nypizzeria.hungerrush.com/Order/Menu/25#Pasta

I had posted the online ordering link to the Pasta because they actually list the prices for the Kirby location. After clicking the link, click "Carryout" and then click "Continue as Guest". Now the thing is that on the actual website of the Russo's, many of the pastas use a Chianti-based meat sauce. Chianti is a wine from Tuscany, Italy. Now the thing is that one of the halal menu items is the spaghetti with halal beef meatballs. From the actual website, it says that it has the Chianti based meat sauce. I will update you on whether all the pastas at this location only use that sauce or whether you can actually substitute the sauce. The other halal pasta items are perfectly alright to order. Nevertheless it is nice to see another Italian place that has halal pasta and pizza items. A noted difference is that the chicken parmesan is not halal unlike Crespo. The pizzas are perfectly fine to order with the halal items. For any of the pizzas, even the Neapolitan ones, you can ask them to put the halal items in it. You can also ask them to not put the Prosciutto in the pizzas for the ones in the menu.



Photo Credit: my Snapchat (halalreviewer)


The Pizza

The Verdict: 
Well, the pizza was pretty good after all. Everything was nice and fresh. The meats were really flavorful. Only issue was that it was greasy. It is nearly at the level of Crespo pizza. The food was washed down with some refreshing water. Good job Russo!
The service was also really good. Unlike Milano's, the people had the decency to actually provide a list of halal items available at the restaurant. The people were also really nice.



Conclusion: 
Well, I could've ordered a large single slice, which was much cheaper. Nevertheless, I got the remaining pizza to go and gave some slices to my friends. I would definitely give this place another shot, and hope to try their Neapolitan pizza and other halal items. I'll ask them whether they use the Chianti meat sauce in the lasagna with halal meatballs.



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



Restaurant Information: 
Russo's New York Pizzeria
Address: 8236 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054
Phone: (713) 667-8888
Website: http://nypizzeria.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RussosRestaurants (national)
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 10PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 11 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes
Delivery also available

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

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed