When you’re hankering for some Pakistani cuisine, there’s no better place to head than Brooklyn’s own “Little Pakistan.” And on a recent trek to Coney Island Avenue for the spicy fare, I couldn’t have had a better culinary tour guide: the mayor of Little Pakistan himself, Asghar Choudhri, president of the Pakistani American Federation of New York.
I’ve eaten plenty of tikka, aloo tikki and naan at Indian restaurants (in my lustier days as a starving musician, I actually cooked at an Indian restaurant). Pakistani food shares many of the stylings of its Hindi neighbor — the palate of spices is generally the same, as are some curries and naan bread. The chief difference is the wide use of meat in dishes. From kebabs and plow (bits of meat in rice) to goat curry and chicken tikka, animal flesh is pervasive — and delicious.
Like a good mayor, Choudhri was hesitant to pick favorites among the eight or nine Pakistani restaurants in the area, which is bounded by Avenues C and H along Coney Island Avenue and is home to some 125,000 Pakistanis, said Choudhri, who immigrated more than 30 years ago himself from Lahore, Pakistan. But he was up to the task.
The first stop on the quest for the best Pakistani in Brooklyn, though, was clear — Bukhari, between Glenwood Road and Coney Island Avenue, where Choudri assured me I would find top-notch appetizers.
“The samosas are very good and tasty,” he said of the vegetable-, potato-, or meat-filled specialty.
We split some samosas and aloo tikki with a yogurt sauce and a sweet tamarind chutney. The samosa was amazing: lightly fried shell stuffed with savory mashed potato and pea with cumin seed. The aloo tikki, a fried potato pancake with spices, was also good, but lacked the pleasing consistency of the samosa. At $2.25 for three samosas and $2 for the tikki, though, I couldn’t complain. I was already full by the time we left.
Bukhari [1095 Coney Island Ave. between Glenwood Road and Avenue H in Flatbush, (718) 859-8044]
The tour continued a few doors down to Gourmet Sweets, where the display cases were bursting with a polychromatic panoply of palatable desserts. But Choudhri brought me there for the chicken briyani.
“Biryani is very popular and very much liked by Muslims and Pakistanis,” Choudhri said.
I could see why. This dish had the most succulent chicken I’ve ever tasted; it literally fell off the bone when you picked it out of the huge bowl of rice. At $6 for a large bowl, this could easily feed two people.
Gourmet Sweets [1107 Coney Island Ave. between Glenwood Road and Avenue H in Flatbush, (718) 421-4100]
We ended the crawl with a Brobdingnagian banquet at Pakiza near Parkside Avenue. The full spread included chicken kebab, chicken tikka, goat with lentils, roti (kind of like the Pakistani version of matzoh), naan and vegetables — all for $21.
The kebab was my favorite: ground chicken mixed with spices, cooked over open flame on a spit. The chicken tikka — grilled, marinated chicken on the bone — was also delicious and had a decent kick. The goat was a miss for me because it tasted exactly like lamb, which I never have been able to eat. But if you’re a fan of lamb, the meat itself is succulent and savory. So the next time I’m craving samosas, biryani or chicken tikka, you’ll know where to find me.
Pakiza Restaurant [1032 Coney Island Ave. at Parkside Avenue in Flatbush, (718) 434-5596].