I’ve been looking forward to this one quite a bit since I first found Tandoori Nights a couple months ago while driving around and updating my list. I’ve never had, or even considered for that matter, Pakistani cuisine. I kind of assumed it was related to Indian cuisine by the storefront signage and since the two countries are right next to each other, but I wasn’t sure how similar they were. I’ve enjoyed the Indian food I’ve had so far and figured this would prove to be good as well. I invited my good friend, Sid, out to join me. His family is from Pakistan and in addition to helping me choose some tasty items, I wanted to see what he thought of the place.
We arrived at around 7:30pm and there was table with a few people finishing up their dinner when we walked in. I was expecting a table service restaurant, however despite no visibly displayed menu it became apparent that you grab a menu up near the register and order there. The first thing Sid mentioned was how inexpensive it seemed to be, particularly compared to some Indian restaurants in Sacramento. I recognized a few items that I’ve either seen or tired at Swagat or Mehfil. Soon Sid was speaking to the server (possibly manager/owner?) in Urdu, asking about some items and getting his recommendations. I decided to let him do the ordering and told him I was up for whatever he thought sounded good. They went back and forth for a couple minutes and towards the end, as Sid told after we sat down, the server had asked how many were eating. When he found out it was just the two of us he said we had plenty of food, so that was pretty nice of him to stop us when I think a lot of places would likely just let you keep going.
I sat down and started to scan the menu (link is just above the map down below) and Sid grabbed us a carafe of water and cups of chai tea which are complimentary. He also got me a Mango Lassi (Mango pulp mixed with yogurt) from the self serve cooler. The very orange cup reminded me of Thai iced tea and I wondered if it was similar. I sipped the chai tea first, which was delicious and relaxing. We ended up getting another cup after we finished eating. The Mango Lassi was ridiculously smooth with a somewhat sharp initial mango flavor upfront and finishing off with a sweet creamy flavor. It was really good and I can totally see myself picking one up by itself sometime if I’m in the area, especially in the summer.
A pair of samosas were the first thing to arrive. These deep fried pastries are filled with a mixture of potato, peas, onions, green chilies and spices. They had a pretty good kick to them. I tried it with a couple chutneys, one sweet and one mint/chili based, as well as plain. It was pretty good each way. For just a few bucks this is a solid appetizer.
Next up a Seekh Kabab arrived. It is ground beef with green chilies mixed in. This was really spicy, so spicy that it overpowered what flavor was in it. Sid wasn’t really into it because of that. I ate what was left but I would agree that it was just too hot to really enjoy.
The next few plates started arriving rapidly. We had an order of plain and garlic nan, which were a good size and I think we only used about half of it. Sid mentioned that it looked really authentic and he wondered how they made it, which I’ll tell you about in a bit. The nan was good by itself, but it’s main purpose is to be used to pick up other food and to soak up some of the flavorful sauces, and there are a lot of those to soak up. Some rice arrived as well which also worked well to soak up the sauces.
The two main dishes that Sid ordered were Karahi Chicken (a traditional tomato base curry from north Pakistan delicately cooked in wok) and Nargisi Kofta (a special that is not on the menu but I’ve found described as ground beef or lamb [beef in this case] mixed with spices and onions and served with hard boiled eggs). Both of these dishes were very flavorful and the sauces they were served in were absolutely delicious. The Karahi chicken had a whole chicken in it cut into about 4 pieces. I struggled with this one at first until I got an idea of how it was cut up and figured out where the meat was. I’m not particularly good at dealing with bone-in foods, mostly because I’m always afraid I’ll miss one and impale myself on a shard while chewing. Despite the extra effort it was very good. Sid loved this one.
My favorite was the nargisi kofta, just over the chicken by a bit. It actually reminded me a lot of the Doro Wot I had at Taste of Ethiopia in Austin, TX last December, but that might just be due to the boiled egg. I really do need to go have Ethiopian food again soon. Each of these two dishes had just a little heat to them, nothing compared to the kabab or even the samosas though. The rich spiced sauces were a huge part of what made these dishes great, and if I wasn’t so stuffed I would have used the rest of the nan and scooped it all up.
Once we had finished and were up at the register to pay, Sid noticed they in fact had a traditional tandoor and pointed it out to me. They were kind enough to let me go behind the counter to get a closer look at how they made nan by sticking it to the inside wall of the tandoor and BBQed various meats in a second one. Super cool!
This was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be. We left Tandoori Nights full of delicious food, Sid seemed pretty impressed overall and I know for a fact I’ll be back sooner than later!
Plug time: You can see Sid’s excellent funk band, Funk.Defied, at Old Ironsides in Sacramento Friday the 20th and in Davis the next day for Picnic Day! I’ll almost certainly be at at least one of those shows. Check out their videos page where you can see what they’re all about, and a couple of those were shot by yours truly 😉
Menu: Click here. (They have the menu on their website, but this one that I scanned is a little bigger and easier to read)