Little Bangladesh's restaurant row is growing. Yes, there is such a restaurant row. It runs along West 3rd Street between Western and Vermont Avenues and around the corner onto Vermont. The latest addition is Biriyani Kabob House in the first block west of Vermont. The restaurant is named for its signature dish biriyani, which is a mixed rice dish with roots in southern Asia.
Like the other restaurants — Bangla Bazar, Swadesh, Deshi and Aladin — it serves curries, biriyanis, breads and other dishes drawn from a mix of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani cuisines. Unlike the others, it does not double as a grocery. But it does have halal food, free Wifi and genuine home cooks — a Bangladeshi woman whose 90-year-old mother sometimes comes in to help.
For a small place, the Biriyani Kabob House has a long menu and more specialties on an electronic menu overhead. There are vegetarian options, but the menu is heavy on meat — chicken, lamb and beef. Beef is there because Islam has strongly influenced Bangladesh, which was formerly East Bengal and part of India, and beef is acceptable to Muslims. (The Islamic Center of Southern California is nearby on Vermont, which is why Bangladeshis congregate in this neighborhood.)
Beef appears in biriyani and curry and as kabobs, made with either chunks or minced meat. The signature biriyanis are Indian, from Hyderabad and Lucknow. Other Indian standards include chicken tikka masala, chicken tandoori, saag paneer and assorted naans and parathas. The dense, spicy curries are Bangladeshi. Coming soon are chicken pizza, halal BBQ and halal burgers.
Although Bangladeshis dote on fish, it appears only in a single curry. The fish, fried tilapia, is smothered in a thick, oily sauce.
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SHOW ME HOW
Service is do-it-yourself simple. You'll eat with a plastic fork and spoon, which means picking up bones with your fingers to get the meat off.
The usual Indian gulab jamun and rasmalai are on hand for dessert. If you want to end your meal Bengali-style, ask for cham-cham, which is a rich milk sweet soaked in syrup, or mishty doi, which is sweetened yogurt set in clay bowls as is the custom in Bangladesh and West Bengal.