LONDON SIZZLER SIZZLES
(Contributed by George L. Rosenblatt, whose bio and introduction follow this review.)
My palate and my paunch have been savoring the many joys of LONDON SIZZLER nearly every weekend since February, thanks to an informal prescription by Houston Pain and Spine’s Dr. Asif Chaudhry.
While, sadly, I have not visited India, happily I have enjoyed outstanding Indian food in London, plus in such far-flung locales as Amsterdam, Singapore, and Mombasa — and for 35 years, in Houston.
Of my happy discoveries, LONDON SIZZLER is among my happiest.
Absent the buffet of its opening nine years ago, I sample LS specialties by grazing on the installment plan, although my curiosity is bigger than stomach and budget combined.
Here are my leading favorites as on the menu, with current prices and my reasonings.
The London Sizzler sampler is presented Sizzling
The London Sizzler ($42)
This mouth-boggling feast of six meats on a platter literally sizzles its way to the table. The superb six are tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, kebabs of ground chicken and of ground lamb, lamb chops and jeera wings – each redolent of its respective spicing and marination. If you normally enjoy lamb, you’ll swoon at London Sizzler’s. If, like me and, surprisingly, owner Ajay Patel himself, you dislike lamb’s inherent flavor, these chops and kebabs will pleasantly surprise you. Conspicuously muted, if not totally absent, is sheepmeat’s characteristic gaminess that I term “armpithian.” For tamer enthusiasts than I, each of the meats on the assortment is available as a separate entree.
Garlic Bullet Naan features chilis.
Four Naan versions are served. This is the best!
Jeera Wings ($13)
Along with the restaurant’s megameat namesake, this component sizzler was one of the first that Dr. Chaudhry specifically recommended to me. My first bite told me why he dreamily rolled his eyes in recollection. Marination in fresh garlic and green chili, then charcoal grilling in the intensely hot, jug-shaped tandoor, distinguishes its flavor clearly and deliciously. As expected, wings jeera rate a cheera among my LS favorites.
Goat Buna Masala
Goat Buna Masala ($15)
Marination, spicing, timing, plus the instincts and patience enabling them to work, hallmark the cuisines of India and those of neighboring Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Perhaps no other single dish supports this principle as flavorfully as does this one. Goat, like lamb, can have its own armpithianicity, but Indian restaurants in general — and London Sizzler in particular — know how to remove it. Piquantly exquisite, LS goat buna masala, bones in, combines the leg meat with tomato, bell pepper, and the restaurant’s own “fresh Bombay masala” (a blend of numerous spices in an honest garam masala, of which Western “curry powders” are corruptions). My biggest surprise: how rapidly and completely Goat Buna Masala butted to the top of my flavorites. A best-seller, it’s Patel’s own favorite, too.
Paneer Tikka ($12.50)
Also asizzle is this inspired version of the premises-made cheese (paneer), the focal ingredient of saag paneer, itself the other world of creamed spinach often a standard gauge of an Indian restaurant’s general quality. As the vegetarian paneer tikka, the ultra-mild, nutty, tofu-esque cheese cubes share the tandoori orange hue of the venerable boneless chunks of white meat chicken tikka. I first saw paneer tikka at a nearby table. Until tasting it, I couldn’t take my mind off it. Now I still can’t take my mind off it. Yum’s the word!
Garlic butter shrimp or masala orange roughy, both turbocharged with at least a dozen spices. Soupy tarka dal, studding piquant lentils with slivers of stir-fried garlic. Aloo gobi, swaddling potatoes and cauliflower in yet another spice blend. Raita, one of the best versions of the ubiquitous yogurt-cucumber-onion condimental salad I’ve tried anywhere. I could go on ad infinitum, but let Jack Tyler’s mouth-inundating photos from our recent London Sizzler lunch clarify the picture.
Patel is expanding the menu with weekly specials, excitingly focusing on India’s kaleidoscope of regional cuisines, spotlighting such as the vegetarian galaxy of Gujarat, the seafood spectrum of Kerala, and the meaty, Portuguese-influenced infinity of tiny Goa.
Patel’s own roots are in Gujarat, state of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. Unlike Patel, most Gujarati are vegetarian, their specialties showcasing a nearly unimaginable variety of vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs. Surekha, his mother, prepares the enchanting, souplike khadi and its accompanying porridgelike kitchri . While meatless in Gujarat’s strict tradition, such Gujarati goodies will surely tantalize even committed carnivores.
Just two more aspects I feel I must mention.
The table troopers at London Sizzler are the best. Binu, Anup, Sarina, Sunita, Prakash, Rita, Oswaldo – all of them. They are diligent, genuinely friendly, incredibly patient in explaining the menu and amazingly, consistently pleasant. Nearly all are Nepali.
Next door, the owners have London Sweets.
As tails wag canines, explains Patel, today’s restaurant was originally intended to transplant a similar sweetery his family ran in London (hence the British-inspired nomenclature).
London Sweets custom assortment (mine!)
Even after I yield to post-prandial temptation by malai kulfi (a thick, creamy, caramelly, pistachio-dusted Indian ice cream) or mango lassi (a forkably thick, yogurt-based beverage) at London Sizzler, I waddle into London Sweets. There I challenge my three remaining sweet teeth from dazzlingly varied traditional Indian sweets and snacks. My loves: pinwheely kaju pista (as in cashew and pistachio) roll, fudgelike khoya burfi, and chewy, cookie-esque sweet sata. I discover more every time.
Manager Rajesh Patel (kin to Ajay) packs boxes to order. The sweets tend to be really sweet. Nearly all contain nuts, albeit often ground, crushed, slivered or pulverized.
Enjoy London Sizzler and its next-door sibling London Sweets half as much as I do, and you’ll love both.
6690 Southwest Freeway at Hillcroft
Tue.-Thu. 5-11 p.m., Fri.-Sun. 12-11 p.m., Closed Mon.
adjoins the restaurant
open Tue.-Sun, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Closed Mon.
An introduction and background of Houston’s newest Food Blogger:
George Rosenblatt and I have been close friends for the better part of 15 years, and, knowing him well, I invited him to guest post on my blog. I believe I have successfully convinced him to return from the world of the retired and start a new life as Houston’s newest (and possibly Houston’s most credentialed) food blogger. Before you say “HELL, that’s all we need! Another food blogger!” let me tell you a little about George’s qualifications.
We share a deeply rooted passion for food and restaurants, plus a compulsion to experience them, talk about them, write about them, and photograph them, often in a style that celebrated author and former chef Anthony Bourdain calls “food porn.”
His photo of an oyster Tequila shot near
Villahermosa, Mexico, begs the question
“Just what IS George’s interest?”
Long before we met, George was one of the Houston Business Journal‘s first anonymous HBJ Gourmet columnists. Before that, George was the Houston dining correspondent for the Continental Airlines in-flight magazine.
Later, over nearly 14 years as the Houston Chronicle‘s first full-time travel writer, he worked in about 60 countries and on all seven continents, whenever possible focusing on edibles. His writing, photography and editing won more than 50 awards, including two internationally prestigious Lowell Thomas Awards for an unusual photo of the Eiffel Tower and a personalized feature on Kenya.
Satay Club is fan club in Singapore
As China normalized relations with the United States, George was the first journalist from the Southwest to travel there on his own, producing among his features an interview with a chef who’d been roasting Beijing kaoya (Peking duck) since the year George was born.
In 1988, Texas Monthly ran a feature on George’s propensity to describe travel experiences and observations in terms of food. As a business writer before landing in Travel, he even found ways to explain petroleum refining in culinary terms.
A Hamburg eel skinner wields
a sharp blade.
He considers himself an “impurist” in matters of culinary technique, as long as integrity and ingredients produce a tasty desired result.
Hong Kong fish monger
walks on water for customers.
Everywhere he’s gone except Antarctica, which has no restaurants, he’s indulged his fascination with flavors, his appetite to experience them and his thirst for learning about the world’s universe of food-related aspects.
Even a Gar on the menu in Mexico
fails to escape George’s sense of food humor.
George has traveled with, worked with or photographed such culinary luminaries as Joel Robuchon, Patricia Wells, Alice Waters, Joan Nathan, and Paula Wolfert.
He also created, researched, wrote and photographed a popular column, Let’s Eat!, for the weekly West University Examiner.
George and I together developed and published GREATER HOUSTON RESTAURANT BUSINESS as the official magazine of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.Our common, positive approach to food and restaurant journalism relies on a genuine respect and affection for both. We consider readers friends to tell what we enjoy where, and why we feel they would, too.
Like me, George usually picks up his own tabs in restaurants (he’ll tell you when he doesn’t), and restaurateurs owe him nothing but their professional best, with honest answers to his questions and, perhaps, a soupcon of courtesy.
I introduce you to George via his review of London Sizzler and London Sweets in Houston’s Little India along Hillcroft, Harwin and the Southwest Freeway. He invited me to dine with him and I convinced him to write about the experience as I photographed it. You’ll like his photography far more.