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Bismillah Cafe: Let's Chaat

Bismillah Cafe specializes in spicy fusion-Pakistani food, going as hot as you dare to go.

The ten-spice is lilting and delicate, crackling across your tongue like pinpricks followed by a surprising rush of sweetness. I sometimes swear that I can detect the citrusy flavor of ghost peppers in there alongside the sweet smoke of paprika. Moghul says his ten chicken sandwich is a best-seller, and it's easy to see why: You can experiment with the firecracker sauce in a smaller dose, which is tempered with a wheat bun, cooling lettuce and tomatoes, and a thick slice of Swiss cheese.

Diners who aren't heat-seekers can find other reasons to love Bismillah Cafe, including several iterations of hamburgers. My favorite is the jalapeño burger, about which Moghul demurs: "It's just got a jalapeño cream sauce on it," as if this creation were no big deal at all. The chargrilled patties on all of Bismillah's burgers have that lovely, fatty smack of salt and grease from a well-seasoned grill, and in this case the patty is enhanced with the subtle heat from that jalapeño sauce. To the burger, Moghul adds two kinds of cucumbers — the American dill pickle version and the South Asian raw version — and the standard Bismillah accompaniments of lettuce, tomato and Swiss cheese.

I'm an equally big fan of Bismillah's ruggedly seasoned "Slide n Cruz" sliders, small, hand-formed beef patties (halal, naturally, like all of the meat served here) liberally topped with caramelized onions. To this duo of mini-burgers, I like to add another one of the cafe's claims to fame: the so-called animal-style fries better than those at In-N-Out Burger, where french fries topped with special sauce, cheese and onions are known as one of the California-based burger chain's signature dishes. Yes, better.

You can go the traditional chaat route with dahi puri or branch out with ten-spice chicken wings.
Troy Fields
You can go the traditional chaat route with dahi puri or branch out with ten-spice chicken wings.

Details

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Beef samosa: $0.79
Aloo samosa: $1
Bun kebab: $3.99
Dahi puri: $3.99
Ten chicken sandwich: $6.99
Jalapeño burger: $6.99
Ten chicken wings: $7.99
Mango lassi: $3.99



View More

BLOG: Animal-Style Fries at Bismillah Chaat: California Meets Pakistan
SLIDESHOW: Chaat and Chicken Wings at Bismillah Cafe



Bismillah Cafe

5696 Hillcroft, 713-587-9300.

The problem with In-N-Out's animal-style fries is how quickly the cheese on top congeals, rendering the entire basket of fries a Gordian knot of potatoes and unpleasantness. Leave it to a Pakistani restaurant in Houston — a city with nary an In-N-Out Burger of its own — to improve upon the original.

Here the fries are covered with a "special sauce" that tastes like Moghul's garlic mayonnaise with a bit of Pakistani ketchup added for color, juicy handfuls of caramelized onions, melted Swiss cheese and the slightest dusting of powdered ten-spice. The animal-style fries are almost too rich to eat on your own; I suggest sharing them with a friend, as chaat is best enjoyed.

Moghul has more than just sliders and animal-style fries up his sleeve, though. He reminds me a bit of a young Kaiser Lashkari, the garrulous Pakistani owner of Himalaya Restaurant just up the street. Curt and businesslike at first, both men become downright chatty when you ask about their food — especially new items they've been fine-tuning in the kitchen.

"I have stuff right now that's not even on the menu," Moghul told me as he rang up my order last week. The second-generation restaurateur has been slowly adding these Pakistani-American mashups over the last five years but has only recently been gaining recognition from fans surprised to find Pakistani pizza in their neighborhood chaat house.

"I've got a donut burger I'm working on," Moghul grinned as he showed off a scrap of paper filled with sketches for ideas, "and a Hawaiian burger with pineapple." They're not on the menu yet, he warned, but will be soon.

"You'll have to come back for those."

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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6 comments
Rajesh H. Patel
Rajesh H. Patel

Great food! Highly recommend people to try this restaurant if they are looking for South Asian cuisine!

Samreen Syed
Samreen Syed

Great review!! Spicy fast food Highly recommend the bun kabab and mixed chaat!

Ismael Garza
Ismael Garza

My partner and I ate there about 3 months ago. We really enjoyed the food and the proprietor was super friendly. Looking forward to our next visit.

djscoop75
djscoop75

I can vouch for this entire article about their food, since i been going there everyday since discovered, except for Mondays thats when they're closed, but yea food is Unbelievable there. 

pankaj
pankaj

@kwag25 It's called 'dahi puri' a spicy snack served with curd and one of the favorites of every Indian. It is similar to 'paani puri' where latter is served with spicy water rather than curd.

 
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