Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Al Hamra Indian Cuisine

I've walked by Al Hamra a zillion times without taking a second glance.  If you've ever taken Bart to 16th & Mission, chances are that you have as well.  There is no real reason to take a second glance, as it looks like any other generic lower end indian restaurant in town.

So why did I stop in finally?  Easy.  They were offering free credit on LevelUp, and a few years ago, I thought it would be fun to use LevelUp to guide my discovery of new places, getting freebies along the way.  I started with just trying their simple naan, but, as you'll read more below, it turned out to be delicious, so I returned a few more times.

My wait was never long, and service was friendly enough.  I never saw any other diners inside, but they seemed to do a reasonable takeout business.  The most notable element is the large tandoor oven right near the front entrance, where each order of naan is cooked fresh to order.  I never tried the savory food, but the naan alone is worth returning for, some of the best naan I've had in San Francisco.
Garlic Naan.  $2.50.
I had some leftover indian food at home, but no naan to go with it, and I had LevelUp credits to use, so on my first visit I decided to just try out the naan.  Plain naan is only $1, but I wanted to make it more interesting and went for the garlic naan.

It was a great surprise.  It was cooked to order - I watched him roll out the dough, stuff it, and bake it while I waited.

Rather than being topped with bits of chopped garlic, the naan was stuffed with it.  There was tons of garlic. The aroma coming off of it was amazing.

It wasn't too buttery or oily, and was cooked pretty much perfectly, not soggy, not too crispy.  Really quite well done.

The freshness of this I think really made a huge difference, I'm so glad I tried a few bites before heading home with it.  I don't think I've ever had naan quite this fresh before.  $2.50 is a great price for a naan this size.
Chili Cheese Naan.  $2.50.
Since I loved the garlic naan so much, when I was cruising by on another occasion and just wanted a snack, I decided to try out the chili cheese naan, as I figured it could stand on its own as a snack.  Its basically a quesadilla, right?

It was even more amazing than the garlic naan!  Probably the best naan I have ever had in my life.  Again, it was made fresh to order.  Hot, fresh, perfectly crispy.  It was stuffed with cheese and little bits of chili, I think jalapeƱo.  The cheese was perfectly melted and gooey, and there was just the right amount.  It was clearly cheesy bread, but didn't feel too heavy, as it wasn't oily or greasy.  It had a nice kick to it from the chili.

It probably would have gone great with some curry, or dunked in raita, but it was perfectly enjoyable on its own.

It was huge, and a great value for $2.50.  Totally recommended as a snack if you are in the area.
Sweet Naan.  $2.
Since I enjoyed all of the other naan varieties, I decided to be very adventurous and try the sweet naan on another visit.  I've never had sweet naan before, but people described it as dessert-like.  And you know me and dessert ...

I sorta get where others were going by calling it dessert, as it was stuffed with sugar, coconut, and raisins, but I really can't imagine this as a dessert.  Yes, it was sweet, but in a way that would go great with curry, not on its own.  I had anticipated it being far more dessert-like, and had a cappuccino to pair it with, and it just did not work.  I had to return and get a rice pudding instead.

Like all of the other naan I tried, it was prepared fresh, it wasn't oily nor greasy, and was really just quite good.  I don't think I'd get this variety again though, but I'm glad I tried it.  And like the others, the large piece was only $2, a wonderful deal.
Kheer: Special rice cooked with milk and sugar, served cold with pistachios.  $2.00.
I'm somewhat obsessed with rice pudding, or, with pudding in general, so I had to try their dessert offering.

The rice pudding was already packaged in little containers, stored in the fridge.  If you ordered it to dine-in, I'm not sure if they had different serving vessels, or if they'd just give you a little plastic container like this ...

Anyway, the "special rice" was tiny little bits of rice, perhaps a very short grain rice, or grains that had been cut?  The bits of rice were tiny.  The pudding had a creamy, albeit watery, milk base, and tiny bits of pistachio in it.  Nothing very remarkable.

I added cinnamon, almonds, and blueberries to it when I got home, and enjoyed it much more.

The portion was tiny, but it was only $2, and it was nice to have a reasonable size portion.

The pudding seemed almost identical to the rice pudding from Lahore Karahi.  Even stranger, the description of the dish was word for word identical on their menus.  Perhaps the restaurants are related?  I know that Lahore Karahi was recently sold.  It also seemed really similar to the rice pudding from Darbar.  I'm starting to wonder if they all just get it from somewhere?

I wouldn't get it again, but at least it was much better than the rice pudding from India Palace.
Al Hamra on Urbanspoon
Related Posts with Thumbnails