April 14, 2016
By Tes Silverman
September 21, 2015
By Joan Reminick
Deceptively modest-looking, this little counter-service gem is a destination for well-executed Indian-Pakistani fare. Owner Farzana Sohail, born in Pakistan, provides the recipes; at the stove and tandoor is chef de cuisine Francis Calaco, from India. Not to be missed: Delicate little potato and pea samosas (fried turnovers), glistening smoky chicken tikka seekh (marinated tandoor-roasted chicken thighs), creamy saag paneer (spinach and house-made cheese) and flaky, pillowy breads. Biryani, a classic rice dish, is opulent, colorful, studded with moist pieces of poultry, vegetables and coriander, crowned with tiny fried onion curls.
Careful not to blink or you may find you've driven past one of Long Island's culinary jewels. The new Masalah Grill, situated across from Walt Whitman Shops, makes its home in a little box of a building with seating for fewer than 20. The trim counter-serve spot is big on takeout, but those who value flavor over frills owe it to themselves to eat on site. Allow time, for this is hardly fast food.
Recipes and spice mixtures are the work of owner Farzana Sohail, who hails from Pakistan; at the stove and tandoor is chef de cuisine Francis Calaco, who is from India. At the first bite of the delicate little fried turnovers called samosas, you know you're in the hands of pros. Both the potato-pea filling (the elements distinct and full-flavored) and the savory ground chicken filling work beautifully. Another appetizer, chicken tikka seekh, stars marinated tandoor-roasted chicken thighs -- smoky, crimson, glistening. Seekh kebab, spiced chicken sausages, are preferable to rather mushy ground beef kebabs.
The classic rice dish known as biryani rises to a level of opulence you might not expect at such a modest little suburban spot. The colorful rice mixture (each grain perfectly cooked and separate) is served in a metal pot, the rice studded with moist pieces of poultry, vegetables and coriander, crowned with tiny fried onion curls.
Chicken tikka masala, also called butter chicken on this menu, is a triumph of creamy richness. So, too, is the lush palak paneer, spinach laced with cubes of cheese. If you've never eaten goat before, Sohail's soulful goat curry is the place to start; just be careful of bones. No bones, though, in the velvety chicken curry. Or the lamb karahi, a Pakistani dish with a thick gravy and lots of appeal.
Breads are a must. And sometimes a meal. Such is the case with chicken keema naan, flaky layers sandwiching a spiced ground chicken mixture. Ideal for eating with your entree: onion naan, hot and fragrant. And simple whole wheat roti.
You could finish with kulfi (rosewater-scented Indian ice cream) or rasmalai (cottage cheese balls in sweetened milk). But mango lassi, the Indian version of a yogurt thick shake, is what you want to have in hand as you raise your glass to this welcome newcomer.
December 31, 2015
By Joan Reminick
Call Us: (631) 271-1700
If you're looking to eat out well and often without maxing out your credit card, this may be the year for you. In 2015, the "Cheap Eats" column awarded three stars for food to a record five restaurants; the other five on our Top 10 list received an impressive 2 1/2 stars.
While decor and service may vary from one place to the next, what's common to all these restaurants is the pride and passion of the people who are cooking. And they're cooking in many vernaculars. There's an Indian-Pakistani spot, two BBQ houses, a Dominican restaurant, three Chinese places, a small-plates restaurant and a gastropub. Here they are ranked in order.
Farzana Sohail has committed herself to providing diners of Masalah Grill in Huntington Station authentic Indian cuisine. The owner of the New York Avenue Pakistani/Indian restaurant that sits across from the Walt Whitman Shops, said she uses “the freshest ingredients, spices imported from India directly and original recipes passed down from generation to generation.”
The end goal, she added, is to make diners feel at home.
“I want our diners to experience that every dish they eat is homemade, and that we have done everything to make them feel at home,” she said.
Masalah Grill opened in March 2015, originally serving as a takeout restaurant. Since then, however, Sohail has transitioned to accommodate dine-in customers due to popularity.
Walk in and diners are greeted with colors of red and earth tones that provide a relaxed setting. Prominently placed is a take-out counter up front, serving steady streams of customers, but not interfering a dine-in area built to accommodate up to 18 diners.
To begin a journey packed with flavor, choices include Chicken Tikka Seekh ($9), Veggie Samosa ($2/each) and Chicken Samosa ($2.50/each).
The Chicken Tikka Seekh are tandoor-marinated chicken thighs that are tender enough to cut with a fork. Dip the chicken pieces in the mayonnaise and cream dip, and it cuts down the spicy kick, as well as highlighting the marinade.
The veggie and chicken samosas are fried turnovers that are flaky and delicate at the same time. The potato and pea veggie samosa, as well as the chicken samosa melt in your mouth along with the crust. In addition, homemade dips like tamarind and cilantro and mint enhances the flavor of the samosas.
As for entrees, some of the standouts include the Chicken Tikka Masala (butter chicken-$14), Baingan Ka Bharta (eggplant-$12) and Goat Biryani ($15/serves 2).
The chicken tikka masala is so tender that diners will not want to miss eating every last bite. The sauce is creamy but not heavy, perfect for sopping with a piece of Naan.
The Baingan Ka Bharta is roasted and mashed eggplant that is cooked with various spices, making it a complex flavored dish.
Finally, the goat biryani is a perfectly cooked rice dish that will make any rice lover happy. It’s also filled with generous portions of meat like chicken, beef, or goat, for those inclined to be adventurous, making it a very filling dish.
Vegetarians are also accommodated with selections like the Vegetarian Platter (onions, tomato, capsicum, and potatoes seasoned with spices over basmati rice), Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese), Gobi Aloo (cauliflower and potatoes) and Dal Saag (yellow lentil and spinach).
Of course, no Indian meal is complete without bread, and Masalah Grill’s offerings include the Garlic Naan ($3.99), which is served hot, so it’s perfectly flaky and big enough to share.
For a refreshment to go along with this sumptuous meal, diners can try the Mango Lassi ($4.99), a yogurt and mango shake that is delicious and refreshing.
For those with room for dessert, why not try the Ras Malai (soft, cheese balls soaked in sweetened milk, pistachios and cardamom-$5), and enjoy its distinctive texture and flavors.
1) Masalah Grill
2) Escorza's Mexican Restaurant
3) Chevere Modern Latin Kitchen
4) Smokin' Al's Famous BBQ Joint
5) Swingbelly's Beachside BBQ
6) Amerrickana Tapas & Bar
7) Chef Wang
8) Beijing House
9) Bluestone Tavern
10) Golden Dynasty