Jump to content
DonRocks

Gharer Khabar - Bangladeshi and Bengali in the old La' Jawab Space in North Arlington

Recommended Posts

In the same shopping center as Caribbean Grill, Deshi Spice, and Saran, I noticed a sign yesterday for Gharer Khabar, and decided to stop by today to see what it was.

At noon, it was closed (or at least I sure thought it was when I looked in), so I went next door to Saran.

I figured it was a Bengali restaurant taking over the old La' Jawab space, but when I got home and searched, I could find nothing except a May 24th Yelp review here which raves about the Bangladeshi cooking, and goes on and on about how talented the chef Raja Bhai is. The same person reviewed Deshi Spice here, also on May 24th, and while it was a slightly positive review, it essentially put Deshi Spice "on alert" because of the great Gharer Khabar that's looming. I note also that this same "Elite Reviewer" completely trashed Fishnet here, saying they wouldn't even eat the sandwiches for free. Huh?!

So is Gharer Khabar open? And if so, has anyone been? I can't find so much as a phone number, anywhere. And that restaurant looked pretty dark and empty to me today although I didn't try the door.

Does this look even the remotest bit suspect to anyone?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Six months after the first review appeared on Yelp, Gharer Khabar appeared to be open yesterday when I drove by.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It has been a long time since I've been in a full-service restaurant as inexpensive as Gharer Khabar is. I phoned in an order (biryani, paratha, raita), and when I went to pick it up, the gentleman told me it was $9.

Huh?

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $10 and a $1, and handed the bills to him. He handed the $1 back, and said "It's $9." I didn't have any problem politely refusing the money.

This is a bizarre restaurant, with a chalkboard-only menu (they don't even have a carryout menu), and only one item priced over $7 (the goat biryani is $9).

My Chicken Biryani ($7) is a lot of food for the money, and is essentially a mound of rice - blissfully unoiled - some of it tinted yellow, and containing a drumstick and a back. That's all it is, save for a few green chilis. There's nothing complex or intriguing about it at all, and yet it's something that I would order again because it's clean.

The Paratha ($2, I assume) is very good, and also free of excessive oil (which is not always the case for this bread). The two dishes together were downright bland, but I have to emphasize that they're also very clean, with nothing about them that would make you feel guilty.

The Raita - which I'm assuming was gratis - was two little tubs of greenish yogurt, way too sweet for me. The gentleman told me he made it just for me (this is definitely not standard northern Indian fare).

Based on this one meal, I would highly recommended Gharer Khabar for a starving student that wants something more elevated and healthy than fast food. At this price, I'm a repeat customer. They're going to have to get carryout menus in order to survive (there's a fairly significant language barrier on the phone, enough so where I wasn't even sure I had reached the restaurant).

I'll be curious to hear other opinions about this restaurant - I don't think you'll regret giving it a try because there's so little to lose. Tyler Cowen's write-up is here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I ducked in before work to order the chicken biryani to go. While waiting, I had a samosa and the chotpoti. Enjoyed both, notably the chotpoti which was flavorful, had a nice heat, and good texture. The base is boiled chickpeas and potatoes contrasted with uncooked red onions and pieces of papadum (I think) for crunch. The biryani was as Don described it. Pretty simple, but thought it more flavorful than Gharer Khabar's predecessor, La' Jawab.

Having short term memory issues, I had trouble ordering since the only menu is on the chalkboard as you walk in. But the folks are friendly. When asked how I heard about them, I mentioned DR.com and TC; they seemed to recognized both. It was a rushed meal, so I'd like to go back and eat through more of their menu. And it is definitely silly cheap.

.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The biryani was as Don described it. Pretty simple, but thought it more flavorful than Gharer Khabar's predecessor, La' Jawab.

What makes that biryani worth ordering isn't just the lack of oil; it's the chicken itself which had clearly been long-baked, to the point where it's soft, moist, and falling off the bone. No sous-vide here! Other than that, it's really more of a "rice dish with chicken" than a "biryani," wouldn't you say? I understand that's sort of the same thing, but I don't think the two were cooked together until the very end.

By the way, the Aloo Gobhi looked fantastic, and that's on my list to try next.

Thanks for your report - I'm really interested in reading what other people have to say.

Dirt cheap, huh?

---

Side note: I LOVE the members of this website. Such a hugely high percentage of people seem to really "get it." And by "it," I'm not even sure what I'm saying. But people here get it in a big way - I'm honored to be associated with such a fine, astute group of people - this transcends dining, and I'm so proud to be affiliated with the single biggest strength of donrockwell.com: its members.

Hell, even the people who don't yet "get it" have their "I Want To Learn And Contribute While I Do" caps on, and that's just perfect. I offer my guidance to anyone who wants it, but nobody really seems to need it. Yes! You, too, can learn to be a damned capable restaurant critic with just a few months of turning on, tuning in, and drshopping out. :)

We have the most intelligent group of amateur restaurant critics in the world here, most of whom could make a big name for themselves professionally, if that's what they chose to do. Anyone who does? I'll back you to the best of my ability. All I ask is that you please don't turn on me as some misguided people have in the past. I'm your friend, and I'll support you. Most decent people who've turned on me, have come back; others haven't, but that's because their problems are larger than I can help with, and have nothing to do with the world of restaurants or food.

I love teaching. I love guiding. God, I love it. May we produce 1,000 superstars - I could name names, but I'll leave it be, though one day I might surprise people with a list of our alumni. To those who left and haven't come back, you always have a welcoming home here, and I've been waiting for you, like my prodigal children. All criticism towards me has been forgiven (not forgotten; forgiven), and I eagerly await your return.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No sous-vide here! Other than that, it's really more of a "rice dish with chicken" than a "biryani," wouldn't you say? I understand that's sort of the same thing, but I don't think the two were cooked together until the very end.

What you're describing is classic Bengali-style biryani. DId your dish have a slow cooked potato? Most versions of Bengali biryani I've eaten have had potato in addition to the rice, which always struck me as excessively "carb-y" (though tasty).

The regional variations on biryani -- basically an umbrella term for a one-pot dish with meat, vegetables, and spice -- are huge, and the northern and Hyderabadi variations are the only ones I've seen in the U.S. I had a goat biryani in Kerala a few years ago that had pineapple, which was interesting. The Wikipedia article on Biryani is informative, and covers many variations I've never had the pleasure of trying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Chicken Biryani ($7) is a lot of food for the money, and is essentially a mound of rice - blissfully unoiled - some of it tinted yellow, and containing a drumstick and a back. That's all it is, save for a few green chilis. There's nothing complex or intriguing about it at all, and yet it's something that I would order again because it's clean.

The Paratha ($2, I assume) is very good, and also free of excessive oil (which is not always the case for this bread). The two dishes together were downright bland, but I have to emphasize that they're also very clean, with nothing about them that would make you feel guilty.

The Raita - which I'm assuming was gratis - was two little tubs of greenish yogurt, way too sweet for me. The gentleman told me he made it just for me (this is definitely not standard northern Indian fare).

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that all three of this dishes are typical northern Indian/Pakistani fare. Except maybe the raita wouldn't be sweet. That's just odd.

edited to add: an expert just beat me to it.

Side note: I LOVE the members of this website. Such a hugely high percentage of people seem to really "get it." And by "it," I'm not even sure what I'm saying.

It?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What you're describing is classic Bengali-style biryani. DId your dish have a slow cooked potato? Most versions of Bengali biryani I've eaten have had potato in addition to the rice, which always struck me as excessively "carb-y" (though tasty).

The regional variations on biryani -- basically an umbrella term for a one-pot dish with meat, vegetables, and spice -- are huge, and the northern and Hyderabadi variations are the only ones I've seen in the U.S. I had a goat biryani in Kerala a few years ago that had pineapple, which was interesting. The Wikipedia article on Biryani is informative, and covers many variations I've never had the pleasure of trying.

This is interesting to me - my exposure to Bengali (eastern Indian) cuisine is token at best. My dish didn't have a slow-cooked potato, but I can *easily* envision one, peeled and all. Absent the chilis, this dish, with potatoes, and more juices from the chicken, is very close to something my Croatian-Italian mom who grew up on a Kempton, Maryland farm would have made for Sunday dinner (my mom *loved* Pho, but Indian cuisine is just something I could not get her turned on to - she liked mild, long-cooked food and just could not grow to enjoy Indian spices - but she would have liked this).

My beef with northern Indian biryanis is that they're often *so* oily - to the point where they're unhealthy and just not worth the calories; not the case with this, although yes, with potatoes, it's a carb-bomb. Where can I find a Hyderabadi version?

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that all three of this dishes are typical northern Indian/Pakistani fare. Except maybe the raita wouldn't be sweet. That's just odd.

Yes, in name for sure, but not in execution. This raita was closer to what I've seen at Woodlands' buffet next to the salad (Woodlands also has standard-issue raita).

To me, the mere fact that I've unwittingly been exposed to a new regional cuisine is interesting. The paratha was much thinner and less oily than I've ever seen before (except in frozen versions which this might well be).

The next time I call here, I'm going to try and ask the owner to make me two dishes of his choice, but with the language barrier, it might not be easy. I am studiously avoiding replying to porcupine's final comment. :)

I just cannot get over the chalkboard-only menu at this restaurant. It is so unlikely (if you go, you'll see what I mean).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I seem to recall a cab driver once told me the owner was his friend, who, like him is Pakistani. But this was awhile ago that I had this conversation. So, I'm not proof positive, other than I had to go try it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I seem to recall a cab driver once told me the owner was his friend, who, like him is Pakistani. But this was awhile ago that I had this conversation. So, I'm not proof positive, other than I had to go try it...

FWIW, and it may not be relevant, Bangladesh used to be called East Pakistan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went when it first opened (and actually had a small laminated menu) and went again last night with a local GOP operative. He'd grown up in the area, but has just more recently been exploring the ethnic options in town, and knowing that he loves Kabob Palace and Kohinoor Dhaba, I figured this was worth taking him to.

It was very quiet in there, a few carry out orders, a couple finishing up a meal. The youngish guy working there - his English was good enough to get some recommendations. We ordered the mowgla something (probably butchering it, but close), 2 samosas, a goat biryani, chicken curry, and a couple of sodas. He said that would be plenty enough food.

The mowgla dish came first with a brown (probably fig-based sauce). It was flaky crusted on top and bottom (sort of phyllo-ish, but not shiny) and had an scrambled egg mixture inside with spices, green chiles, and the option of beef (which I don't eat). It went great with the sauce. I've never had a dish like this before, and as a South Asian, I felt like I discovered something new (I'm Gujarati, and even though it is a vegetarian culture, egg stands are common there. They do what they called 'omelettes' which are similar (but not the same) as Western omellettes and boorjis - scrambled egg mixtures, and a few other configurations with delicious buttered buns and "sauce" - ketchup. It's a common thing to do at night, after 9 or 10pm). It was a little oily, but not overpoweringly so, and something I'm going to describe to my mom so she can make it for me next time I go home. The samosas came next, and I prefer a different type of crust, but frankly this isn't a Bangla specialty. I couldn't get him to get us more sauce, as he was back in the kitchen. It was good.

Then the mains came. The goat biryani was bi-colored rice, yellow and white. It tasted of clove, cardamom, and other spices. There was potato pieces in there (the color was like a sweet potato, but it just tasted like a regular potato). The dish was very fragrant and unique. Some of the goat pieces were tender and meaty, and others were more textured and cartilagey. There was a good amount of meat, but the rice really stands out, and as mentioned before, is not oily. We both ate the green chilis during the meal, and they are no joke. They really burn and for quite a while. In terms of biryani being oily at other restaurants - I think that reflects on northern Indian restaurants in the US more than the cuisine itself. My parents make a very good biryani, and it is by no means oily - it's light, flavorful, and delicious. The Indian restaurants in the metro Detroit area where I grew up also make fantastic Hyderabadi and traditional (standard Northern Indian) biryanis that are not heavy and oil laden. The chicken curry was an afterthought. It just wasn't a focal point. It almost likes like a supplement to the biryani, in terms of size and presentation. Very few meaty pieces (I guess for the price, not unreasonable), lot of bone/cartilage. It was flavorful, but didn't do much for me, and probably wouldn't order it again.

The service was very attentive. He constantly checked on us and made sure we were enjoying what we were having. This was a youngish guy, mid 30s. I asked if he was the owner or chef, and he was neither. He said it was a woman. Handed us a card, and it's in my bedroom so I can't remember their names. Raja and Rampa? They also seem to cater.

This place is amazing. It is very cheap ($25 for the two of us). It is tasty. Friendly service. Ambience sort of sucks, reminds me of an old office building or something. I hope everyone tells their friends about this place and supports it. Their margins must be very slim with the low cost of food and high-ish rent in the region. I'd imagine they will increase their prices soon. But, please everybody tell everybody about it. I hope it survives!

Finally, the GOP operative has gotten to try some of these great places with me, and he always says, "Man, I would have never heard of this place if you didn't take me," and I always tell him, "I wouldn't have heard of these places if Don Rockwell didn't have a website." So, thanks everyone!

S

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very similar to my first visit a couple of months ago, simulparikh -- except that I, uh, didn't go with a GOP operative, local or otherwise. The chilis in the biryani and elsewhere are very, very deceptive -- the food is generally not very spicy; just a nice, low-level buzz -- but if you bite into the wrong thing . . . man, it's several minutes of serious burn.

Most importantly, I'm a Detroit native, too, and would love to know where the great Hyderabadi/Biryani can be found there!

I went when it first opened (and actually had a small laminated menu) and went again last night with a local GOP operative. He'd grown up in the area, but has just more recently been exploring the ethnic options in town, and knowing that he loves Kabob Palace and Kohinoor Dhaba, I figured this was worth taking him to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Menupages has a menu for this place here. Those prices are something else. Menupages gives the location as "(Btwn Crofton Pl & Idylwood Rd)" which is wildly incorrect, although they do list the correct street address. I'm rarely in that part of the world, but maybe next time I take my dog to the vet (Northside in Cherrydale) I might swing by and sample their inexpensive wares.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The mowgla dish came first with a brown (probably fig-based sauce). It was flaky crusted on top and bottom (sort of phyllo-ish, but not shiny) and had an scrambled egg mixture inside with spices, green chiles, and the option of beef (which I don't eat). It went great with the sauce. I've never had a dish like this before, and as a South Asian, I felt like I discovered something new

Mughlai Paratha! (or "Moghlai Paratha," I guess, transliteration is weird.) One of my favorite Bengali foods and not something I've ever seen on a menu in the U.S. The sauce was likely tamarind based. Basically, it's fried bread stuffed burrito-style with a vegetarian or non-vegetarian mixture. I've usually had it with ground lamb or goat ("keema.")

Bengali food is usually not inherently spicy but is then kicked up with small, raw chilies very close to Thai bird peppers. Growing up, my mother thought plain rice with butter and raw chilis made for a perfectly acceptable lunch.

Timing kept us from Gharer Khabar today. I'm now resolute on getting there, and getting there soon. Preferably with my parents. Can't wait!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Timing kept us from Gharer Khabar today. I'm now resolute on getting there, and getting there soon. Preferably with my parents. Can't wait!

Honestly, Kanishka, I wouldn't get your hopes up *that* much. One thing's for sure: you won't overpay.

Your middle paragraph about the plain rice with raw chilis pretty much nails my chicken biryani. Someone upstream said something to the effect of, "One errant bite, and you're doomed," and it's true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×