Kristy Alpert ‘paks’ in the flavors of the Middle East at Al Markaz Restaurant in Carrollton.
Overview: If you pull up to Al Markaz, see it’s a grocery store, and think you’ve arrived at the wrong place, don’t leave. Just peak through the windows and you’ll a small restaurant in the back area. Like some of the best hole-in-the-wall places, Al Markaz is set in an unassuming shopping center surrounded by corporate loading docks and hid in plain sight off a major highway. It’s an Indian grocery store, restaurant, and catering business all in one, with an amazing selection of meats and pastries just about everywhere you look; I walked in to a steaming tray of phyllo pastries just in time to beat the lunch crowd to the booths.
Menu: Their lunch special is what draws most people to this place … that and the amazingly accurate Pakistani/Indian dishes, of course. For $6.45, you can get three dishes with a side of naan and a salad. But their dinner entrees are incredibly authentic and, even more importantly, consistent. Their most popular dishes are their chicken briyani and seekh kabob, but judging from the looks on the other patron’s faces, they must not have many entrees that don’t delight.
What we ate: I’m still batting in the minors in my Indian-eating career, so a chance to try different flavors for the $6.45 lunch deal was too good to pass up. My friend and I both ordered our own renditions on the special, but with a strong recommendation from the front counter, we both started with the chicken boti, a boneless chicken seasoned with a spicy dry rub and cooked until tender. The first bite didn’t impress either of us right away, but I’m not sure what “seasonings” they put on that chicken because after bite two neither of us could move away from this delectable dish. It was seriously addicting. For her other two choices, my friend went with Karahi chicken (spicy chicken curry; which lived up to its name with a very nice, not-too-crazy amount of spice to it) and mixed vegetables (which neither of us would recommend; go rice or go home, I say). My two picks included an order of chicken masala, which was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had with tender chicken pieces and a consistently smooth and flavorful sauce, and an order of spinach and lentil dal palak: meh. To wash it all down, we split a mango lassi (basically an Indian smoothie), a delicious blended bevy with fresh sweet and salty mango, yogurt and milk.
Extras: The lunch special comes with an order of naan, but if you’re a glutton for greatness, go crazy and order two pieces. They make their naan from scratch daily, and it always comes out piping hot with gorgeous oven blisters gracing a few select bubbles. While I couldn’t even finish my one piece, I would have gladly skipped out on some of the other dishes here to save room for more naan.
Overall: Props, Al Markaz. Mad props.
1205 W. Trinity Mills Rd. Ste 112, Carrollton 75006