Before I went to Punjab Kabab House I was expecting something pretty hole-in-the-wall-ey. Something like Pakwan or Lahore Karahi. So I was pretty surprised when I walked in to a large dining room with fancy chairs and pretty decorations.
I was also surprised after I’d eaten there to discover that this restaurant was featured on something called 7×7’s 2010 Big Eat SF list. I felt kind of embarrassed that here was this restaurant right in my neighborhood that I’d never even heard of and it had what one magazine deemed to be one of the 100 essential dishes in San Francisco. It’s the chicken curry lunch special, by the way, if you want to participate in the Big Eat SF scavenger hunt.
Let’s go back to the past, back when all I knew about Punjab Kabab House was that it was a little nerve-wracking to lock my bike up outside of it. Yeah, I admit it, this corner is a little sketch. I don’t know if it’s always as boisterous around there as it was that night, or if the street folk were especially rowdy because it was Super Bowl sunday. PKH has a tv mounted inside by the door that you can see from outside. I was sitting with my back to the window and kept getting freaked out because this guy
was banging on the window intermittently, I guess when something he liked or didn’t like happened in the game. There were also a group of two men and a lady who would pop their heads (and sometimes the rest of their bodies) in to ask what the score was. So, some added excitement to our meal.
When I got to PKH Steve was already there and had ordered this
It’s Super Beer y’all! I’d never seen or heard of this beer before (it was just a night of full of discoveries for me!), but I liked it, it was pretty malty so it made a good foil for the spicy stuff to come.
I pretty much left the ordering up to Steve except that I requested rice and raita. The raita move was fortuitous, I was just in the mood for it but I was very glad to have it later. In fact, I ended up getting another order halfway through. I’m a pretty big wimp when it comes to spicy stuff, but I know the difference between really spicy and kinda spicy. The food at PKH wasn’t super crazy spicy, but it was definitely hotter than the food at the average Indian place in San Francisco. So just what did we eat, besides yogurt?
We ate this lamb kabab, which tasted as gorgeous as it looks. It was crunchy on the outside with lovely charred bits of intense flavor and was moist on the inside, heavily spiced and yogurt-y sour throughout. It seemed like instead of just being marinated, the lamb had been covered with some sort of yogurt and spice paste before grilling, which created a crust of yumminess.
This is where things got really hot. Not the rice, that was just normal, delightful rice. I’m talking about the chicken kalahari. Kalahari is quickly becoming one of my favorite dishes. With big slices of peppers, onions and tomatoes, it could be the fixings for a super delish pizza. Yum. The vegetables all have some bite left to them after they’ve been cooked up with some (in this case pretty pungent) curry and chicken cubes. This was complemented perfectly by the roti
The roti I’m used to has a crisp crust and is light with big pockets of air and has been brushed with a little bit of ghee. This roti was dense, chewy and sweet. No ghee. It was also docked like a pizza dough, which I believe is done to prevent those big bubbles you usually see on naan. Similar to a pita, but denser. Good stuff.
And of course the raita
Good stuff, creamy and cooling.
Then, as if the evening hadn’t been exciting enough, what with the never before tasted beer and kabab and roti, and the homeless peeps and the window hitting, we saw a cat!
We watched this cute little guy walk around the ledges and fire escapes of the building across the street, climb into one window and emerge from another and then enter yet another. Seeing a cat in the “wild” in San Francisco is thrilling and terrifying, especially when you’re a cat owner. The thought of my cats getting outside is the stuff of nightmares, for me and for the cats I’m sure. This little guy seemed pretty chill though.
There are tons of Indian and Pakistani places within a few blocks of Punjab Kabab house, a few I’ve been to and several I haven’t visited yet, but after this dinner PKH shot to the top of my list of places to go when I’m craving some curry. Did I mention how nice the staff was? They won’t be all on top of you, but when you need something just go up to the counter and they will be soooo sweet helping you out with whatever.
Punjab Kabab House
101 Eddy St