Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Akbar Restaurant

My boycott of Akbar Restaurant is over. Why boycott it, you ask? Well, a few years ago (2005-ish) I had some extremely poor service. But it was the lunch buffet, you say! What kind of poor service can you get at a lunch buffet? The kind where some jerk tries to run you over with a table that he's dragging across the room while you are actually at the buffet - first - and then almost knocking you out of your chair fifteen minutes later doing more or less the same thing. I was pissed enough to consciously leave a 10¢ tip on a $9 meal.

My, I do hold a grudge.

Today I figured enough time had passed to go back and re-sample the fare. And why not? Said guy has probably run over one too many feet with those tables. He's probably not there anymore anyway.

Akbar is a Mount Vernon institution, and is celebrating its silver jubilee. I had some free time for lunch and was in the area. I figured, "Why not?"

Since it was close to the end of the lunch rush, I did hurry. This time I was served almost immediately, and the staff were definitely polite. As for the food, I helped myself to a little bit of everything.

Some of the food was sitting out for a while, and yes, it is the tail end of the lunch buffet, so I understand some of the food will be fresher than the rest. A few of the things that I did like:

  • The channa chaat, a tangy chickpea concoction that wasn't the ordinary channa chaat. This extra tangy one not only had potato along with the chickpea (making it more of an aloo channa chaat), but was coated in a delicious tamarind sauce. The best thing I ate there before dessert, which I will get to.
  • The saag was rich and flavorful - some very good spinach
  • The chicken tikka masala was in a very nice, buttery sauce (almost like a murgh makhani sauce), even if the chicken itself was a tad dry.
  • The pea and paneer masala also had a lovely sauce, even though the paneer tasted slightly burnt.
One dish was mostly an afterthought:
  • it was the dal. Flavorful but I sort of forgot it was there, and ended up dipping my tandoori chicken in it.
A few things that could've been better - but I reiterate, they probably were better earlier in the day:
  • The basmati rice was a little dry and clumpy.
  • The chicken tandoori and tikka were a little dry.
  • Again, the slight burnt taste of the paneer. It's easy to burn - I know: I've done it. And the slightest burn, the cheese just tastes very strongly burnt. Not easy to avoid.
  • The naan was a little dry, though perfectly fine by the time it had absorbed the and masala sauces and coriander and tamarind chutneys.
And then came the best part of the meal: the biggest gulab jamun I have ever seen in my entire life. It was soft without being doughy. It was moist without being soggy. It was warm without being hot. It was sweet without being drenched in syrup. And it was big. I mean big. As big as one of my mother's big, big meatballs. I could have eaten five of them but I would never have finished them. The kheer was tasty but were this a Next Food Network Star competition, oh it's no contest: Richie or Steph would've won with their gulab jamun, leaving Spike or Lisa to wander off, acting pissy again, while Kelsey would've just been all perky and annoying about it. Oh wait, I mixed NFNS4 with Top Chef 4. Now THAT would be a funny show!

The total was $9.50. This time I left $1.50 tip. Much better service this time around, even if the food was uneven. But again, except for the paneer I blame that mostly on the time of day.

Akbar on Urbanspoon


Kitt said...

It's nice when a place can redeem itself like that. (I'm still nursing a grudge over a place that ruined my birthday two years ago.)

Never heard of gulab jamun before! I will look for it next time I eat Indian.

roopa said...

I totally boycotted that place, too. Unlike you, though, I will never return! (I'm so spoiled by good Indian food; I just can't eat there!)

John said...

Roopa: So maybe the food WOULDN'T have been better had I eaten there earlier? That's disappointing :(

Kitt: Gulab jamun is wonderful. Think fried balls of dough, plus rose water, in syrup. I've had some heavy, gooey gulab jamun before and it wasn't good at all.