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Indian and Pakistani restaurants at a discount

A New Trend

It appears that San Francisco has become overloaded with Indian restaurants.
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As a result, they compete by offering two-for-ones (buy one entree, get the second free) and all-you-can-eat buffet lunches for as little as $5.99. One restaurant offers both lunch and dinner buffets at a low price.
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Not long ago, two Indian-Pakistani restaurants in the Mission District streamlined their operations, installed counter-service and no frills, at astonishingly low prices, e.g., tandoori curries at $3.99 (vegetarian), and $4.99 (meat dishes). They have now been joined by more than a half-dozen more just off the Tenderloin (three of which on Jones St. between Geary & O’Farrell alone), and two on Polk Street. They all serve Halal meats (the Islamic version of kosher, i.e., carefully supervised slaughtering under religious supervision).
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Most of these discount restaurants are of the bare bones type, very simple in decor, a bit sloppy and not well-kept. But 3–4 are definitely attractive, clean and well-kept, and one is of luxury standard. All serve large portions of standard Indian and Pakistani fare. Two serve goat and brains, ethnic favorites. Here is a short summary of these restaurants:

Naan ‘N’ Curry
178 O’Farrell St. (near Jones), 775-1349
12 noon to midnight, 7 days.
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This is one of a small chain of four restaurants with the same menu, three in the City, one in Berkelely. See your phone-book.
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Vegetable Curries, six at $3.99, three at $4.99 (with ginger and garlic); 10 chicken curries, 6 at $4.99, 4 at $5.99; 9 lamb curries, 5 at $4.99, 4 at $5.99; 4 seafood curries, all at $9.99; 6 tandoori dishes, chicken leg or breast $2.99, ground beef skewer $1.99, lamb dish $3.99, lamb dish $4.99, marinated roast lamb $7.99, lamb chops $8.99; 3 biryanis with fried rice, choice of lamb, chicken or vegetable $5.99.
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Plain rice $1, Naan bread $1–1.99, stuffed with ground beef $2.99.
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Beverages and desserts — Mango lassi (with yoghourt) $1.99, desserts $1.99, tea is free, Portions are substantial to large. Interior is on the sloppy side.

Chutney
511 Jones (at O’Farrell), 931-5541, 12pm–12 am.
40 seats, large, simple, clean. Large portions.
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Vegetable curries, $3.99 and $4.99; lamb and chicken curries $4.99 and $5.99, prawn curries $8.99 & $9.99.
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Tandoori BBQs — chicken $5.99, lamb $6.99, lamb chops $7.99, fish or prawns $8.99, ground beef skewers $1.99 each, chicken leg or breast $2.99; Biryani (with rice), lamb or veggie $5.99, prawn $8.99, rice pullao $1; naan $1.00 & $1.99, stuffed with ground meat $2.99.
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Wraps in soft naan (with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and chutney) $3.99 & $4.99 (lamb).
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Beverages, desserts — Mango lassi $2, desserts $2, tea free.

Shailmar
532 Jones (at O’Farrell), 928-0333
12 noon–3pm & 5;30–11;30, 7 days.
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This is one of a small chain, with two restaurants in San Francisco, one in Fremont, and one due to open in Santa Clara, The one on Jones St. is large, busy, very plain, on the unkempt side. Has reputation of having the best food of the discounts. Large portions.
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Weight-watcher diet — mixed green salad $2, chicken soup $2, raita (cucumber) $1; 6 curries, all $5.95, 5 vegetarian dishes $4.95, except spinach & cheese $5.95, Tandoori BBQs, chicken leg or breast $3.50, marinated, boneless beef simmered in butter $6.95, lamb chops $9.95, ground beef or chicken on skewer $2.50 each; naan bread $1 & $2, stuffed $2 & $2.50; beef or chicken burger rolls $3.95.
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Beverages, desserts — mango lassi $2, kashmiri tea $1, coffee or masala tea 50 cents, desserts $2 & $3.

The Little Deli Indian Cuisine
552 Jones St. (at Geary), 409-3354, open Tues-Sun 12 noon-10:30pm. Smallest restaurant on the block, clean, intimate.

Appetizers – mango pickle 50 cents, raita $1, vegetable fritters with chutney $2.50, stuffed pastry shells with spicy potatoes & chutney $2.50.
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13 vegetarian and curry dishes $5.50 & $5.99 (okra or eggplant); non-vegetarian dishes and curries $5.50-8.50; special lamb & shrimp dishes $8.99 & $9.99; chicken wrap $6.50; naan bread $1, garlic naan $2, plain rice $1, pulao rice with peas & potatoes $2.99, with peas & potatoes, raisins & almonds $4.99.
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Desserts, beverages. Mango lassi $1.99, Indian tea $1, desserts $1.50 & $2.

Darbar
1412 Polk St. (California/Pine), 359-1236
11:30am–10pm, Fri–Sat to 11pm, open 7 days.
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Very clean, attractive small place.
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Appetizers include samosas (triangular pieces stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas), 2 pcs $1.99, lamb samosas $2.99, fresh green salad $1.99, kebab with spiced meat and lentils, 2 pcs $2.49, chicken soup with special spices $1.99.
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Curries, all $5.95, include 6 chicken curries, two marinated lamb curries, one spiced beef with garlic and ginger, one baby goat with pepper & spices.
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Tandoori dishes (in Pakistani-style 880-degree clay oven) include minced meat on skewers $2 each, ground chicken on skewers $2.45 each, leg or chicken breast $3.49-3.99, seasoned beef on skewers $6.95, fresh fish $9.99, marinated prawns $9.99, lamb chops $9.95.
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Vegetarian, 8 dishes include garden vegetables, cauliflower with ginger and garlic, cheese with peas, eggplant with potato & curry, lentils with cream sauce, all $4.95 except cheese and peas $5.95. Biryani rice dishes include vegetables $5.95, chicken or lamb with saffron and curry $6.95, basmati rice with cumin & saffron $1.49.
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Wraps, also to go, include chicken kebab wrapped with lettuce and chutney on fresh naan $3.95, burger with herbs & sauces, $3.95.
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Breads include naan 90 cents, garlic or onion with potatoes $1.99, stuffed with ground meat $2.99.
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Sweets include rice pudding with nuts $1.99, mango ice cream $1.99.
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Daily specials include prawns cooked in curry $6.95, fish curry $6.95, goat curry with lentils $5.95, lamb or goat brain cooked in spicy curry $5.95. Also, special 4-course lunch $6.99, 5-course dinner $7.99, and student special $3.95.

Sheesh Mahal
1117 Polk St. (Post/Sutter), 775-3888
11am–midnight, 11am–3am Fri–Sat.
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Name in Indian is “Palace of Mirrors." This low-cost restaurant belongs to Maharani, a very upscale next-door place with great food, and the dishes are all prepared in Maharani’s kitchen by Maharani cooks! Maharani prices are more than double those of Sheesh Mahal.
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Only, drinks are not available from Sheesh Mahal; they come from Maharani at Maharani prices, which are not high. Decor is very Indian, much like Maharani’s without the chic. Portions are good.
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Appetizers. Most are $3.75. They include lentil dumplings stuffed with yoghourt sauce and topped with chutney, crispy snacks stuffed with potatoes and peas.
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Tandoori dishes include chicken leg $3.50, lamb chops $5.50 (!), mint-infused chicken $5.50, boneless lamb & potatoes $5.50.
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Lamb specialties include lamb curry $5, lamb with lentils $5.50, lamb with okra $5.50. Chicken dishes include spicy chicken curry $4.50, chicken stuffed with egg $4.40, chicken with lentils or garbanzos $4.50.
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Seafood dishes include fish filets cooked in garlic & ginger $5.50, prawns cooked with garlic & cumin $5.50, prawns & chicken curry $5.50.
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Beverages & desserts include mango lassi $2.50, pistachio or saffron shake $3.50, soft drinks $1, Indian cheesecake $2.50. Wine, carafe $16, 1/2 carafe $8, corkage $10.(Maharani prices).

Mela (formerly Shalimar Garden)
417 O’Farrell, 447-4041
11:30am–2:30pm & 5:30–10.30pm
Mon–Fri. 1–11pm Sat, 1–9:30pm Sunday.
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This basement restaurant is the most elegant of the India-Pakistani places in this enclave, but many prices are within a dollar of the cheaper places. So, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Tandoori dishes include marinated chicken breast or leg $3.95, herbed & spiced ground beef on a skewer $2 each, marinated, boneless chicken skewers $8.95, marinated boneless beef basted in garlic butter $8.95, marinated lamb chops $10.95 (Chef’s best recommendation).
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Curries (cooked with spices in simmering broth of onions, ginger, garlic, & ripe tomatoes) include chicken with saffron, yoghourt, & spices $6.95, grass-fed lamb cooked in butter with garlic, spices, & ginger over a bed of onions $6.95, lamb with fresh spinach, herbs, & coriander $6.95.Vegetarian dishes, all $4.50, include chick peas cooked in butter, tamarind & coriander, spinach, greens, & young potatoes, lentils with cumin & coriander, eggplant with onions, spices, & tomatoes.
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Naan tandoori breads include naan $1, stuffed with onions & spicy cooked potatoes $2. Basmatic rice cooked in spices and onions with touch of saffron $3.
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Beverages and desserts include lassi $2, mango lassi $3, chai $1, desserts, e.g., rice custard cream & nuts with cardamon $2.

Reviewed 10/1/03 by Louis Madison


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