Tuesday, October 19, 2010

nirala sweet house in sunrise

i love, love, looooooooooooove this restaurant. i'm pakistani and this is a hole in the wall pakistani joint which really means it is incredibly delicious and i always feel like i'm celebrating my birthday when i get to eat here. so when my second family a.k.a the wildest group of women i know informed me that we would be going to nirala for their infamous sunday brunch, i kinda cried with joy. i have a lot of foodie friends but mimi, zara and maliha are a whole other world of food eaters. some have described us as "beasts" and my favorite "garbage disposals." what's the harm in getting a tad bit excited about the food you eat?

so up we got on a sunday morning which was really up we got at two o'clock in the afternoon (we had a "small" get together the night before) and rushed to get ready as brunch ended at three o'clock. maliha was unable to make it because of work but we had a special guest joining us, bryan beasley - personal trainer and private chef to the stars. for our tight tango to allow a guy to join us in a feasting session is a big deal but bryan himself loves asian cuisine and can out-cook the three of us combined and we were excited for him to try some of the best south asian cuisine in south florida. we could tell he was skeptical but this challenge to prove to him a restaurant like this exists was good enough in itself.

nirala is located in sunrise on the corner of pine island and oakland park. it's not flashy in any sense and for some reason on the outside window have the words "indian" bigger than "pakistani" - i assume in order to draw more attention from customers not inclined to try pakistani cuisine. in my complete unbiased opinion, pakistani food kicks indian food's ass. 

we ran inside and asked if we missed brunch and luckily the owner recognized our faces and was happy to let us order the best meal in the world, halva puri. yup, i just bolded that to emphasize the greatness of this dish which is only served on the weekend at nirala. halva is a very sweet, dense grain-based dessert often made with honey, raisins and almonds. it's wonderful. puri is a deep fried flat bread that you have to enjoy for the sheer heaviness it is and throw out any sort of calorie counting. but this meal is the best because it is served with a "channa-aloo cholay" (a spicy chick pea and potato curry) and the idea is to take a piece of the puri and scoop up a little bit of halwa and then a little pit of the channa and God himself has given you the most scrumptious combination of food i've ever known. sometimes i think a little melted cheese on top might really seal the deal here but trust me, halva puri is the cat's meow.

something about the sweet and savory combo that i just can't get enough of. we ordered enough for us to moan and groan but also ordered some other crowd favorites such as 'gool gappa', 'aloo chole chat' and bryan's absolute new favorite 'bihari kebab.' he actually mumbled something about wanting to cry it was so good, so we ordered another round of it. just imagine a beef kebab that's infused in very strong spices and arrives to the table still sizzling. we asked for butter naan on the side and with a few good spicy dips to go along with it, we were having the time of our life (perhaps i was just feeling this way.)

this is why i love pakistani food. it's rich, heavy and the spices are so deeply integrated into every meat, vegetable and sauce that you are constantly tasting something different. we had to get dessert to end the meal and boy did we overdose on sugar. nirala is actually known for their desserts. many people order from them for weddings and any other celebratory function you can think of. zara, mimi and myself were just celebrating another great sunday together. we pretty much ordered one of everything - barfi, gulab jamun (my favorite dessert which is a milky dough deep fried and rested in a cardamom flavored syrup), ladoo and jalebi. just as rich as our main dishes were, the desserts really took it to the top. you can really only try a little bit of everything unless you're prepared for a deep comatose state. my mouth is watering thinking about them and i wish i had some in my house now.

i truly cherish spending time with mimi and zara, the quality and amount of food we eat has a little to do with it, but really because we enjoy the simple things in life and believe life is better enjoyed sharing them with the ones you love. we are constantly laughing at and with each other and constantly learning more and more about ourselves and what we all want out of life. not only was the food rich and delicious at nirala, so was the time spent with some of the most amazing people in my life.

if you're willing to try great food in an environment that's very low key, you must go. and definitely must go on the weekend so you can try halva puri and then call me to thank me for changing your life. you're welcome already.