Where to find some of the finest pastichio, moussaka, and moi-moi in Austin
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 3, 2003
Bismillah Restaurant6829 Airport (northwest corner at Lamar), 420-8837
Bismillah used to be on East Anderson Lane in a tiny masonry building next to the railroad tracks. The crush of crowds clamoring for a table made eating there rather challenging. We're pleased to announce that they have moved to much nicer and much bigger digs in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Airport and Lamar. Chef Abdul Rashid and his son Salman run the operation, as they did at the original, putting out aromatically spiced, authentic Northern Indo-Paki-Bangladeshi delights. The restaurant is finished nicely in muted tones, with pleasant ethnic music surrounding you, and has plenty of room for even large parties.
When you enter at lunch, you are given tools to attack the daily buffet ($5.99, 11:30am to 3:30pm). The day we tried it, we feasted on a nice assortment of dishes, beginning with tikka chicken leg quarters marinated in yogurt, spices, and ginger, roasted in the tandoor oven ... melt-in-the-mouth good. Veggie options included a spicy daal with turmeric and a rich and piquant coconut curry, accompanied by rice with peas. A rich stew of (halal) beef pasadan is like a Pakistani version of robustly flavored carne guisada, while the chicken karahi is a luscious stew of boneless chicken with masala, tomatoes, and onion. A spartan salad bar contains a mix of green salad components with a robust raitalike dressing, assorted fruit, and a nice rice pudding with nuts and raisins. The hot, flaky tandoori naan bread is superb for mopping up the sauces.
Dinner found us trying a wide assortment of dishes. Vegetable Samosas ($1.99) are two pastries filled with moist spicy potatoes with peas. Okra Masala ($4.49) is a bowl of tomato and onion with okra stewed to a robust sauce. Chicken Boti ($5.99) is a large portion of chicken kebab cooked in the tandoor after bathing in a yogurt marinade with saffron. Seekh Kebab ($4.99) is two large ground-meat skewers, nicely flavored and moist -- perfect with a chile-spiced yogurt sauce and cukes and red onions (the ideal alternative to a pedestrian hamburger). Palak Gosht ($5.49) is a seductive blend of meltingly tender beef cubes swimming in a thick, perfectly spiced spinach stew. Chicken Biryani ($5.49) is a large plate of aromatic basmati rice with red and green chile, onions, spices, and pieces of heavenly bone-in chicken roasted in the middle. The crusty rice from the outside of the pan is an idyllic counterpoint to the moist interior rice.
Service is quietly efficient; the waitperson was helpful in describing the menu and rather insistent when you order too much. Portions are large for the price, making a meal at Bismillah quite the bargain. Abdul has a nice touch with his masala spice mixes: Although they often contain the same basic ingredients, a small difference in proportions yields a completely different flavor with each individual dish, and he's no stranger to the judicious use of chile and cayenne. All in all, we were very pleased with our outings at Bismillah, and recommend that you add them to your mix of ethnic destinations.
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