Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hot Breads Bakery: A Place for Bite Size Food on Hillcroft

Restaurant: Hot Breads
Address: 5700A Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: A-la-carte
Date of visit: 5/26/16

Photo Credit: their website

Salam/hey guys! Welcome to my latest review! Today's review is of a popular snacking place called Hot Breads. Just letting you know, there is another Hot Breads on Westheimer, but it isn't affiliated with this one. They have been open since 2002. Ever since moving here, my parents would often get their cakes from here, and we all would enjoy them. I never got the chance to go inside and actually try the food. We went after my doctor's appointment on my mom's insistence.

Let The Experience Begin:
Hot Breads is located in the same strip mall as Busy Boy and Bismillah. The really nice lady greeted us, and also helped us on deciding what to get. There was a huge display of everything Hot Breads offered. We ordered as we ate.

Let's Eat!
Mom got some bread, water, and a chicken tikka croissant. I got Frooti Mango Juice (one of my all time favorite things to drink), goat keema pastry, and a chocolate puff. It was very affordable. Stuff is seen being made at the back. The croissant and pastry were heated up in the microwave and were promptly given. I was handed the pastry. You pay for everything at the end.

The pricing here is really good for the snack options. You can even get your birthday cake from here. It's mainly a fusion of East and West (examples include chicken tikka croissant and chicken tikka pizza)

Clockwise from top left: Chocolate pastry, goat keema puff, Frooti, and chicken tikka croissant

The Verdict:
The food was awesome! Everything was tasty. The goat keema was the best tasting thing. This was the first puff that I had enjoyed for a long time. Overall, two thumbs up!
The service was great too. The lady was very nice, and we conversed with her the entire time we were there.

Hot Breads is a great place to either grab a snack or grab dessert. The person is really nice and the food was tasty. Time for me to consider going here after eating at either Busy Boy or Bismillah. I would recommend that you guys should give this place a try. After all, excellent food and cheap prices are a winning combination.

Service: 9/10
Food: 9/10
Total: 18/20 = 90% (A)

Restaurant Information:

Hot Breads
5700A Hillcroft Avenue, Houston, Texas
Phone: (713) 785-1212
Website: http://www.houstonhotbreads.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HoustonHotBreads/?fref=ts
Timings: Mon-Sun: 9:30 AM - 7 PM
Caters: Yes

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

Zain Mohammed

Halal BBQ Cook Off and Festival: A Lookback

DISCLAIMER: This was the first time we had done this. If you are reading this and have attended the cook off before, please bear with us. We will definitely make an effort to make next year a more improved experience.

Salam/hey guys! So my masjid (Masjid al Mustafa on 17250 Coventry Park Drive, Houston, Texas() had hosted a BBQ Cook Off and carnival. This was the first time that there was ever a BBQ Cook Off with halal meat. And guess who came up with the rules and was inspired to start the idea? Me! So how did the idea come about?

Well, I was driving down on 290 one day near the I-10 exit, and I saw an advertisement for the BBQ Cook Off that was taking place at the rodeo. I knew that eating any food at the rodeo would be next to impossible because of the wide usage of pork and beer. I have been living in Houston for the past 10 years, and given that Texas is a major barbecue state, it was high time that we had our own halal version of it. Heck, there is even a Kosher chili cook off that occurs yearly too. The main objectives were to make the first one successful, make it a yearly thing, and also learn from past experiences running it. Before I came up with a plan and rule book that is similar to the one at the rodeo.

The rules were simple, but made complicated during the competition. All meat had to be zabiha halal, and that there would be 3 categories: Texan, Desi, and Arab. All halal meats could be used. The gas had to be turned off if leaving otherwise the team would be disqualified. They had to have 5 lb of meat (later changed to at least 5 lb) for the cook off. With communication with the competitors, the rules would change later, mainly because I had not mentioned it earlier. Finally, I picked the judges.
After getting the rules approved, it was time to start planning. We collaborated the carnival with the cook off, meaning that there would be rides and other food as well. We got Gyro King to come along, as well as get things such as a mechanical bull, moonwalk, and rock climbing. It was also time to get the competitors. The sign up rate was going well, with spots filling up. Everything went smoothly until I announced a competitor fee. Because of backlash, I stopped it. I take responsibility for not announcing earlier. Then, people started backing out. I mainly communicated by email, because I did not feel comfortable giving my phone number away to the public. By the end of the deadline, 13 out of 15.
As the time progressed on the day of the event, there were many bumps. Many were not showing up, and they never informed me that they were not going to compete. Some backed out a few HOURS before the competition was about to start (which honestly is disrespectful). One brisket person was setting up already, and the judges arrived. The judges were Hasan Gopalani, a good friend of mine and a BBQ fanatic, and Alison Cook, the food critic of the Houston Chronicle (main newspaper of Houston). At the end, 5 competitors showed up. Gyro King also provided food for the public. The food in the community was also being sold. They had tikka, samosas, burgers, cotton candy, nachos, and sodas for sale.
As judging progressed, the competition brewed up. Along with the brisket, there was mixed grill from team Lebanon with salad, hummus and garlic sauce (I have a lot to talk about this), chicken tikka, tikka teriyaki (interesting combo), naan, and raita from team Bengal Cajun, a skewer of chicken kabab made by Safa Marwah, and bihari kabab, seekh kabab, naan, and vegetables from team Shaaz Grill. The brisket team also made the remaiing brisket into brisket sliders, which I thought was a good idea.

Brisket Sliders

Mix over Rice from Gyro King

Naan and raita from Bengal Cajun

Mix Grill, Hummus, and Garlic sauce from Team Lebanon

Tikka Teriyaki and Chicken Tikka from Team Bengal Cajun

All the judges really liked the dishes, and also had some constructive criticism to give. All three of us liked the brisket. I loved the bihari kabab from Shaaz Grill. Hasan loved Safa's chicken, and Alison loved the chicken dishes from Bengal Cajun. I found the garlic sauce from Team Lebanon to be ok, while Hasan found the texture of their food to be grainy. Overall, a good showing from all the competitors.

So the winner was the brisket after all the judges' scores were calculated. It was neck and neck. Below are the scores.

1) Mohammad Khan: 25/30
2) Team Lebanon: 23.5/30
3) Safa Marwah: 23/30
4) Shaaz Grill: 22.5/30
5) Bengal Cajun: 22/30

Alison and Hasan really enjoyed the food and loved the fact that it happened despite the major bumps we had. I personally felt that it could be better.

Now, there are two things I would like to tell you guys. Firstly, PLEASE understand that this was our first time doing this, so of course mistakes are bound to happen. These sort of things are part of a learning experience. If you expect everything to be perfect at the first time with everyone doing something like this for the first time ever, then I am sorry, you have extremely unrealistic expectations. You need to understand that it takes time for things to be perfect, and that every human makes mistakes. There will never be a perfect person with the exception of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The second thing is directed to the volunteers, organizers, and to the masjid board. The only way we will learn from the mistakes we made is to acknowledge the mistakes we made and rectifying them as a team instead of pointing fingers at people for specific faults or putting the blame on one specific person for screwing up the entire event. If we want to make this successful in the future, teamwork plays a major role. Telling stuff behind peoples' backs or stopping someone in a group from speaking up about something are major ways of making sure that the cook off will never occur again. and it would also lead a person to never want to visit a masjid again.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Larosh Grill- A halal Pakistani place in northern Katy

Restaurant: Larosh Grill
Address: 18855 West Little York Road, Katy, Texas 77449
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 4/27/2016

Salam/hey guys! After nearly a month of absence, I am back food blogging! The reasons for the long absence are: school and restriction from parents. School got really busy as finals were around the corner. I had to concentrate on that as I was really worried about not getting straight As (Alhamdulilah I ended up getting them). This was the last cash that I would have for a while, since I was discouraged from having it on me. Nevertheless, I was able to eat at some places, but not new ones because the new restaurants that opened up this year are really far away (i.e. Sugar Land, Southwest and Northeast Harris county). Very few openings occurred in Northern Harris County these past few months. Most of the reviews this year, with the exception of Nyam Nyam, Garbanzo, and Uyghur Bistro, have been of places that were open for at least 11 months. It is honestly hard to believe that I have tried nearly half of the halal restaurants in Houston for the past 3 years. There were a couple of Ls I took. The prime L I took was Torchy's Tacos having halal lamb for a limited period. I know for sure that there are some places that I have in mind to try either during Ramadan or after Ramadan. I also hope to try a few places in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas (unless we go to places that I've been to before), and Kansas City. Chicago, Dallas, and Austin are confirmed, and I hope the other cities would be confirmed as well.

Anyways, the last review before the hiatus was of Larosh Grill. Larosh is the newest Pakistani restaurant in Katy. Now why was I particular about trying this place? Well. it was to determine whether it would be worth convincing my parents to consider getting takeout here instead of Khan BBQ. For the past 7 years, Khan BBQ has been the only place that my parents would get takeout from. In fact, we gt it so often that my dad has experimented with different items. Long before I started this blog, my dad would get the chicken karahi (too oily and needed salt), daal (nothing compared to Al Markaz in Dallas), biryani (bland), and naan (one of two acceptable things). It used to be based on what my mom and sister wanted ONLY. We have even called them from as far as Hobby Airport, and also Brazos Bend State Park. There have been some really irritating moments that I can remember. I remember once at my mosque, I got a few boxes of biryani from another Pakistani place, but my dad got one box of biryani specifically from them (which made absolutely no sense at all). Another instance I remember was when my dad decided to "surprise" me with food, which turned out to be their mediocre biryani. He would often boast about their biryani, as if he was paid to advertise their food wherever he would go. When we had no food on Mondays, my mom fried eggs. I would just think "Instead of wasting your paycheck at that place, why not make fried eggs on other days as well". Finally, it turned out that they went there on my birthday while I was at D'Marcos enjoying delicious deep dish pizza. It pretty much tells about their preferences and further proves the fact that most of my trips are much better when I go by myself or with friends. This was cemented when they actually did not honor my request FOR MY BIRTHDAY DINNER to go to either Sayad or Mai Colachi (we had relatives over and some were very picky), a place that's actually suitable for special occasions. We ended up at Jamillah, which turned out that it was PLANNED TWO WEEKS BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY. To be fair, the same ordeal happened to my sister where she wanted Bonefish, yet ended up at Saravanaa Bhavan. The major difference is that Saravanaa Bhavan is one of her favorite places, while Jamillah was mediocre, enough for me to deduct their overall food score.

Now regarding Khan BBQ, my sister also plays a major role into why we hardly get takeout from the other 280+ and 20 nearest halal places to my house. One mention of "chappli kabab" or "Chargha" and I would be told to get it. Yet, if I say "I want pizza" (i.e. Home Base, which actually has tasty food and is much closer to my house), they bring up the no-going-out card or "it's too fat card". One mention of grilled chicken teriyaki from Bonsai and I would be expecting a major yelling. Frankly, it is completely hypocritical to immediately reject my request for the reasons above yet let my sister get her choice. It is illogical to say no to shish tawook (which is LITERALLY grilled chicken Arab style), Jujeh (grilled chicken Persian style) or even boti (grilled chicken cubes Indian/Pakistani) from somewhere like Bundu Khan WHEN CHARGHA IS FREAKING DEEP FRIED AND NOT GRILLED. And they claim that chargha is healthy when it is much worse than grill chicken since it's deep fried.

Now Larosh opened in late 2015, replacing Tikka Boti (never tried it as I read somewhere that the owners made their 7 and 8 year old children work as waiters, and I refuse to give my business to anyone who make little children work). I had been eager to wanting to try that place. I did get one chance with their malai boti, and it was pretty good. Now hopefully after this second trip, I would try to go again and then make my case for changing the main takeout from Khan BBQ to Larosh.

Let The Experience Begin!
Larosh is located next to The Cave Hookah Lounge. Inside, the decorations were pretty nice, and the place was clean. It was however, completely dead inside. I was only one of two people inside, and I was the only one who was dining in. It was a really awkward feeling to be honest. The counter was in the front, and there were pamphlets which had lunch specials. And lo and behold, the curries had free stuff with them. This is something extremely rare, but it should be mandatory because not every single person would want to pay extra for naan or rice, not every single person wants to sample all the curries, and not every single person wants to eat a large amount of curry, biryani, or tikka. If Arab, Turkish, Persian, or even Chinese places give free rice with your entree, why can't Indian or Pakistani places start doing the same thing and making it fair for the customer? Anyways, after the gentleman placed his to-go order, I was ready to order.

Let's Eat!
I ordered chicken biryani. I figured that it would be one thing to try so that I could convince them to change their minds, since they're obsessed with Khan BBQ's version. The price? $7.57 (tax included)! So far so good. The waiting time was 12 minutes, much better than me having to wait for an hour for a few naans. I literally just sat on my phone the entire time.
One thing that threw me off was that at the table I sat in, one of the plates was dirty. There were some stains on the plates. I didn't want to take a pic because I was disgusted by it. But the plate next to me was clean.

Menu: http://laroshgrill.com/#menu

Besides the lunch specials, the Larosh menu is generic. You have popular generic items such as biryani, tikka, chicken karahi, and naan. They even have some items such as sandwiches and burgers, both Pakistani style and non-Pakistani style.

The Chicken Biryani

The Verdict:
The biryani came with raita and "salad" which turned out to be onions, bell peppers and carrots. Now the taste was very weird. It looked good when it came to the table. However, it seemed like lemon juice was added to the biryani, because the smell of lemon was dominating. This smell would likely indicate that this is chicken Sindhi Biryani, a type biryani that is said to be originated in the Pakistani province of Sindh. Taste-wise, it was just OK. Nothing to brag about really.
Service wasn't that bad either. The person was normal. Nothing to complain about.

The biryani was OK, but not enough for me to convince my parents to change their takeout preference. What a bummer. If you are looking for the best Pakistani food or biryani in town, then I suggest you look somewhere else as this lies in the middle of the huge list. The next time I would try this place is if it were to cater to another event, or if I decide to make another visit if I feel like trying to once again convince my parents to get takeout from here instead of Khan BBQ.

Service: 8/10
Food: 6.5/10
Total: 14.5/20 = 72.5% (C)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$

Restaurant Information:
Larosh Grill
18855 West Little York Road, Katy, Texas 77449
Phone: (281) 861-4612
Website: http://laroshgrill.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaroshGrill/

Tuesday: closed
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday: 11 AM - 9 PM
Friday and Saturday: 11 AM - 10 PM

Caters: yes

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

Zain Mohammed