I'd like to credit all my spectacular finds along Devon Avenue to Bhabi's Kitchen, more specifically Bhabi's hours of operation. Seems that every time I roll past the restaurant in need of some good Indian food, it's closed. But considering the bevy of delicious spots packed along the avenue, my heart never skips a beat.
Enter new kid on the block, Mazza Barbecue. Man, what a lucky find. This sunny, storefront is poised and ready for the budget-minded heat-lovers to pour through its doors and once the gals get a load of the adorable waiter (imagine an Indian Dean Martin), they won't be able to stay away. The cheap and excellent food is just the icing on the cutie-pie cake.
I wish I could tell you everything I managed to shove down, but when it comes to Indian food, simple is as simple does: I usually just order something with spinach, lentils or potatoes and call it a day.
The afternoon Lisa and I stumbled into Mazza, we found ourselves alone with the super-cute waiter and the happy-as-a-clam cook. After ordering a handful of veggie dishes and the obligatory chicken dish for meat-loving Lisa, we took a minute to gaze at the waiter and concoct reasons to get him to throw his blinding smile our way.
A short spell later, out rolled the first of our dishes. First up: a little iceberg and tomato salad that would have been uneventful if not for the creamy dressing. I was this close to drinking the muddy green concoction when my spinach and rice showed up. The dish's name? Not a frosty clue. Flavor? Spicy and earthy. Heat factor? My nose was running.
Lisa's spoon-soft chicken popped up next and my bright orange curry soon after. It wasn't long before we were swapping bowls of eye-popping juices to cover our fluffy piles of rice with all the flavors of India and Pakistan. Every few minutes, our boy returned with a fresh pitcher of ice water.
Then came the awkward point towards the end of the meal when Lisa giddily screamed at our waiter that he was beautiful, which left him nothing but stunned and confused (yet delighted, of course). He immediately demanded that we come back to visit soon, and we promptly laughed and ordered some sweets.
When I asked him to explain the options—they didn't appear on the menu—he hustled to the back fridge, grabbed a few plastic containers full of pure sugar and claimed, in broken English, that if we didn't like them, "No problem, I won't charge you". Seconds later, Lisa made like a starving king with an apricot jam-like flan while I greedily devoured a freezing cold batch of rice pudding with pistachios.
I gotta say, a week or so later, Lisa and I met at Bhabi's for a taste of the familiar, and after a hungry bite or two, we both agreed that Mazza is the new Bhabi. Sad to say, but Check, Please! can't be too far behind.
The Final Rave: Mazza claims to have food from Uzbekistan, but I saw nothing on the menu that lent to that effect. Could be the distracting boy factor, though.
Keep It Going:
Eat It: Shan Food & Restaurant
I never tire of the Indo/Pak food served at this tiny restaurant located in the back of a dusty grocery store.
Drink It: Marigold
Liquor abounds at this Uptown gem, where, I must admit, you'll find the best rice pudding in the city, bar none.
Do It: Wooden Spoon
Be on the look out for this class: A Moveable Feast: Indian Market Tour. After taking an informative trip down Devon Avenue to shop for goodies, you head back to home base to cook an amazing, Indian-inspired meal.
Get Crazy With It: Rasoi
For $180, you get a pack of five classes that promise to teach you the ins and outs of Indian homecooking. You'll become a semi-pro in no time.