New York Pizza [and Grilled Kabob!]

Situated on what once was a not-great corner of Florida Ave. and North Capitol, New York Pizza looks like a relic from the 80’s. I confess that I didn’t go inside since I figured I could get my food faster if they brought it to me at my house (or I’m just lazy). It was only recently that I noticed a sign advertising Indian and Pakistani food. This is DC–where the Chinese restaurants sell burgers and the pizza places sell kabobs. They even rebranded themselves!

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Their pizza has, to put it lightly, middling reviews, plus Bacio is three blocks away, so I never even thought to come here. You can’t tempt me with greaseball pizza, nor with their questionably named NY Fish. No, only the siren song of lamb tikka could pull me in.

 

Because their website’s menu is different from their Grubhub menu, I called. I’m glad I did. Besides the two curry dishes, the veggie samosas grabbed my attention. “Sorry ma’am, we’re all out.” Falafel? “We’re out of that too.” That’s okay. I stuck with the two entrees, and my bathroom scale would ultimately thank me.

The car pulled up not 30 minutes later carrying our own little slice of heaven.

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Lamb tikka. Great lamb flavor, pleasant spice, complimentary side salad, enough rice to make a dent in world hunger? Check, check, check, and check. The meat was slightly tough, but not overly chewy or fatty.

mvimg_20180805_182224.jpgThe chicken curry was less meat than it looked like due to the abundance of bones. On the other hand, the meat dropped off said bones with no effort and the sauce was rich while still packing a nice heat.

The sides that came with our meals were spinach and potatoes, and curry chickpeas. I enjoyed the spinach but it was more bitter and liquefied than your typical Indian palak, and the chickpeas were pleasantly earthy. They included an extra little container of rice, because I guess we didn’t have quite enough or something. And the bread…sweet baby Jesus. I have never had naan like this from anywhere. It was crustier and thickener than the typical naan, but also more flavorful, like a cross between naan and pizza dough. Come to think of it, it may have actually been the exact same thing as their pizza crust. Yeah…I’m pretty sure it was. Don’t care, it all sops up the sauce the same way. [Note: There were actually TWO huge pieces of pizza naan included] [Confession: I had to throw it in the trash can to stop myself from continuing to steal bites of it after dinner].

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Overall, this meal completely upended all my prejudices about New York Pizza. I feel like this place is that flamboyant kid in high school who joins the football team just to prove how not-gay he is when what he really wants to do is dance. Come out of the pizza-closet, guys! We see you in there and we love you for who you are! It’s way better than who you’re pretending to be!

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Price: $15 per person.

Bottom line: Prepare to be fairly impressed, and prepare for leftovers. PS I was not even a little sad about not having samosas or falafel because this was still way too much food.

Food Corner

Like any red-blooded American, I get all my best restaurant recommendations from Uber drivers. On this occasion, our driver overheard me talking to my husband about a friend taking a Pashto language class and ended up telling us his life story of coming to this country from Afghanistan at 20 years old. Naturally, my next question was: “What’s the best place to get Afghan food in DC?” Enter Food Corner…

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This unassuming carry-out near Howard kind of…looks like a place you shouldn’t eat. Unappetizing amateur photos of their food adorn the walls. There are straw wrappers strewn around the floor. The cashier stirred up a big dish of oily spinach sitting under a heat lamp. We were the only ones in the restaurant. It is, in a word, grody. I probably would have high-tailed it out of there were it not for that Uber driver.

I ordered the chicken breast kabob, my husband got the beef/seekh combo, and on a whim I ordered a plate of samosas. It was a test. I can’t lie; I was pretty nervous. Food Corner pretty much defines “hole in the wall.” There were probably literal holes in the walls. Seriously, they have put zero effort into general aesthetic upkeep.  However, the bathroom was equipped with a makeshift bidet (aka a pitcher of water), and that’s when I knew this place was legit.

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We got our samosas shortly after my bathroom jaunt and that’s when I discovered that it wasn’t just the bathroom that knew what was up. The samosas were crispy on the outside with fluffy potatoes inside, and had the spices exactly right, including the whole fennel seed. They were served with a thin raita.

When the cashier called me up to pick up the kabobs, he asked which side I’d like: spinach or chickpeas. I asked for half-and-half (gotta try ’em all!) and the guy heaped both sides on. Also, here’s my chicken platter and have you actually ever seen such an absurd amount of naan? I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in my picture (and I ate about a fourth of it).

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The chicken had a delicious tandoori spice and was cooked perfectly, with a nice char-grilled crust on the outside. The chickpeas were soupy and fragrant, but just a little bland. The spinach, on the other hand, was both creamy and bitter, and I had trouble putting it down, even as my stomach threatened to explode. Even the naan was super airy and soft.

My husband’s beef had the same delicious ratio of crispy exterior to tender, meaty interior, and had a strong steak flavor and no extraneous fatty or chewy bites. The seekh was very herbal and fragrant, with little bits of veggies and heaps of turmeric mixed in with the ground chicken.

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We basically had to roll home because we were so full. I keep telling myself that I’ll work it all off during my triathlon tomorrow, but we all know that’s a lie.

Price: $15 per person MAXIMUM.

Bottom line: Trust your Uber driver when it comes to international food and don’t be scared away by the fluorescent lighting and surly cashiers; Food Corner is the king of cheap, messy, no frills Pakistani food.

Red Toque Kabob

After a busy day of doing nothing, it was time to do more nothing, aka eating curry in my underwear with a bottle of wine while watching basketball. Side note: if I ever write my memoir, I’m going to title it Eating Curry in my Underwear with a Bottle of Wine While Watching Basketball. This is a recurrent theme in my life.

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Red Toque Kabob has gone through several incarnations in the past few years, including the latest one which 100% looks like a money laundering operation. There isn’t even a bathroom for customers (that I could see). Hell, there wasn’t even a counter for ordering, just some dude in a shadowy corner of the restaurant with an iPad.

I had basically settled on chicken curry earlier this morning (I like to do my research), but my husband hadn’t yet decided. To my shock and dismay, he actually passed up the chicken tikka masala in favor of chicken vindaloo, for which he did not even read the description. This became evident later. We also got a side of spinach and an order of beef samosas. Although he’s not good at reading menu descriptions, my husband did have enough forethought to ask for his dish extra-spicy, which gave me the perfect segue to do so as well.

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I’ll start with the samosa. It was flaky, it was full, it was beefy. “I wish we’d gotten the veggie samosa,” said my husband. But that’s unfair. We ordered beef, we got beef. It was very flavorful. It came with a raita dip that was very loose. I like my raita a little thicker. Moving on…

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If you can tell the difference between the chicken vindaloo (top left) and the chicken curry (top right), then my hat’s off to you. In fact, it took several side-by-side tastings for us to positively identify these as different (hint:  I read the menu and remembered that the vindaloo contains potato). Fortunately for them, they were both more than adequately spicy. I also appreciate the addition of chickpeas to my rice, which makes me feel like I’m not paying $13 for 10 cents worth of rice. But for reals, both of these curries were great. The chicken was tender and plentiful, the sauce was flavorful and spicy. The vindaloo was slightly tangier, the curry was slightly richer? Maybe? If you’re trying to choose between one of these two, just flip a coin.

The spinach was also great. I thought it would have paneer in it, but it was just straight-up spinach with garlic and onions. It was a huge portion too, and it had the added benefit of making me feel healthy while I ate this.

Price: $17 per person.

Bottom line: Yeah, you could probably find better Indian/kabobs/curry/whatever somewhere in DC but if you can just walk to Red Toque and it’s Final Four weekend (and you may or may not have a cheap bottle of malbec). don’t bother.

City Kabob and Curry House

Although I usually spend my Sunday nights out and about–ok, fine, at Boundary Stone–there comes a time in all of our lives when we just have to spend the evening on the couch in our jammies. This was not the plan I had envisioned for my night tonight but whatever, I ain’t mad.

After a protracted debate about the type of cuisine we were comfortable ordering and perusing the limited options available from UberEats, we settled on kabobs, and City Kabob and Curry House was our place. Neither my husband nor I were particularly hungry, so ordering one entree and an appetizer to split seemed like the correct amount of food, right?

Wrong.

We ordered the chicken breast kabobs and samosa chaat. Here is the monstrosity of Foodzilla that showed up at my home 40 minutes later, chauffered by–no joke–a Lincoln Towncar:

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Other than sheer volume, however, I have few complaints. The naan was warm and fluffy. The chickpeas at the top of the photo were interesting; they were overwhelmingly cumin-y and served in a sauce that was pretty oily, but still delicious (or perhaps it was delicious entirely because of these things). The chicken on the right was well-seasoned, slightly smoky, slightly spicy, and only slightly dry. It definitely could have used some raita or chutney. Altneratively, I could have just thrown some plain yogurt from my fridge on top of it, but that would have required actually getting off my ass and what am I, a magician?

The star of this show was the samosa chaat in the middle of the photo. It was piled with so many toppings that I didn’t even ever see the actual samosa. I assume it was buried under there somewhere. The pastry skin was a little soggy from all that sauce but there is no such thing as a bad samosa, and I think this may have been an effect of the delivery. Where the chicken was lacking in delicious liquid toppings, the chaat shone. Chickpeas, tamarind chutney, raita, cucumbers…this thing had it all. It was smoky, it was sweet, it was savory, it was spicy.

This was $18 well spent.

Price: $10 per person

Bottom line: City Kabob makes it way too easy and cheap to be lazy, and UberEats totally classed it up with that Lincoln.

Shamshiry

Do you like driving to Tyson’s? Yeah, me neither. But sometimes going there is a sad necessity, and in these terrible times, you need to make the best of the situation. Shamshiry is how you do that. Shamshiry will cure all your Tyson’s-driving woes.

If you arrive after 7 or so, you can expect to wait a while. There’s a reason. Shamshiry specializes in Persian-style kabobs and rice dishes. Don’t be scared of the overly verbose menu, just choose a delicious-sounding protein and reap the rewards. I recommend the salmon, which was juicy and paired well with the yogurt sauce, and the lamb, which was flavorful and tender. The rice with orange rind is also unique and delicious, sweet and fruity. Shamshiry also features a ton of Persian desserts, including a baklava that is unlike any you’ve tried before; less flaky and flatter.

The downsides are that service can be a little slow and substitutions on the menu are extremely limited. You can swap rice for a fabulous salad (if you don’t do this, you risk being buried under the Mount Everest of rice), but don’t try to ask for other substitutions. The dessert menu is also extensive but they are sometimes out of one or more of the better ones.

The downsides will never outweigh the upsides, however. Shamshiry is a delight, a rare find in the land of chain restaurants, and worth a detour!

The bottom line: Great place if you happen to be in the area.

Price: About $25 per person