Chilli Chicken at Mustafa
Mustafa Cuisine is an odd little restaurant. Its address is on Medical Drive, but it's hidden on the backside of a strip plaza that's actually the second story above shops that include Jasmin Thai.
It has an extensive menu of Pakistani and Indian dishes, ranging from the familiar (chicken fried rice, tandoori chicken) to the decidedly different. There are plenty of vegetarian offerings, as well as regional dishes from the north and south of India and Indochina.
Some of the food is heart-warming, as if you'd been invited into somebody's home kitchen and had been served the family's favorites. Others are so strange in how they don't work that it makes you wonder what got lost on its way to the table.
Strips of goat meat sizzle on a platter.
On my first visit, I was struck by the overpowering scent of mothballs in the air, an aroma not conducive to dining. Plus, the space was dark — and not in the way romantic dining rooms are meant to be. (Aged Bollywood music clips or news playing on TV at one end of the room don't help, either.) Yet I forgot all that while I enjoyed the Chilli Chicken appetizer, which was like a Chinese sweet-hot dish with small bites of lightly breaded meat tossed in a sauce that had plenty of zip. It was followed by strips of tender goat on a sizzling hot platter with plenty of green bell pepper and the tang of lemon juice.
On my second visit, my eye landed on three words that you don't often see on menus: "Brain Fry [Goat]." It was so outrageous that I had to try it. But in case I didn't like it, I ordered several other dishes to make sure I would be well fed.
Mustafa Restaurant and Grocery are next to each other.
I was right about the Dal Makhani, which featured plenty of ghee with soft black lentils, resulting in a creamy delight.
I wish I could say the same of the lamb biryani, but the meat was inedible. Seriously. I couldn't cut it with a knife and I couldn't bite any off the bone. It didn't even have all that good a flavor as I tried to tear a bite away with my teeth. The meat was likely butchered at the halal market next door, which is related to the restaurant; but its toughness was clearly not a good advertisement for either half of the business. The basmati rice that came with the lamb was fluffy and flavorful, which means you should try it with vegetables, shrimp or egg.
The Chicken 65 appetizer, which featured fried bites of chicken in a spicy sauce, was out of balance, too, with the sauce, filled with spices without being hot, swamping the flavor of the meat.
The jasmine rice in the biryani.
As for the goat brain, the meat was quite good, airy and delicate, though, once again, the sauce was a little too heavy-handed. But there was that home-cooking feel about the dish that made me want to try the meat again, albeit with a different sauce.
If you want to sample several of Mustafa's bounteous array of dishes, you may want to try the lunch buffet.
The Mustafa market next door has plenty of Middle Eastern and Asian foods, which made it well worth exploring, whether you need a mix for chicken shawerma or dried apricots or wild thyme tea.
4085 Medical Drive