photo credit: Jakob Layman
Biriyani Kabob House
You can tell how close you are with a friend just by eating at their house. With someone new, it’s a more formal occasion - you pick up wine that costs twice as much as you’d normally spend on a bottle, eat at their kitchen table (even though you’d both rather be in front of the TV), and maybe even use a cloth napkin. With an old friend, those meals are way more relaxed: Just the two of you, wearing sweatpants, yelling at CNN or Jared Goff while you eat, like this is your second home.
A meal at Biriyani Kabob House, a strip mall spot on Third St. in Little Bangladesh, is like having dinner with a friend you’ve known since you were both in diapers. It feels like a second home from the moment you walk in and the owner tells you what to order, to the moment you’re ready to leave, when he drops a rice pudding on your table that you definitely didn’t order. But it’s not just the friendly, comfortable service that makes this place stand out in a neighborhood full of great spots - it’s the unique and consistently fantastic Pakistani and Bangladeshi food being served here.
Despite the name, Biriyani Kabob House actually specializes in Biriyani, kabobs, and curries, a fact the gregarious owner will explain to you several times while you order. That means there’s plenty on the menu, but we always start with one thing - the Hyderbadi lamb biriyani. This is a massive, mind-blowing plate of deeply aromatic basmati rice with spices, accompanied by a lamb shank that’s approximately the size of a football. The gaminess of the tender lamb is balanced by the coriander, cumin, and masala spices of the rice, making it the kind of dish that’ll have you coming back anytime you’ve got a friend in town who wants the best of the best things to eat in Los Angeles.
It’s going to take you multiple trips to work through all the curries, but you’re not going to mind in the slightest, since they’re all under $15 (and also excellent). Each comes with fluffy house-baked naan, which is especially great with some of the spicier dishes, like the deceptively hot nali nihari, a stewed-beef dish we crave any time the temperature in LA goes below 65, or the chicken karahi, which perfectly melds peppers, onions, a hint of ginger, and spicy chicken. The chicken tikka masala has the ideal cream-to-spice ratio, making it another one of our favorites. The best of all, though, is the lamb shank curry - a surprisingly straightforward dish topped with raw jalapeños and onions that cut through the oily meat and amp up the flavor of the relatively mild curry sauce. The only weak spot on the menu might be the kabobs, which don’t quite live up to the high standards of the biriyani. While we like our meat with a slight char, these all tend to come out overcooked, especially the stringy tandoori chicken and spongy bihari kabob.
No matter what you order, there’s a not-small chance that your first visit might last multiple hours, especially if the owner comes over and strikes up a conversation with you (which he will). Who knows? You might even get to yell at the TV in Biriyani’s dining room. That’s when you really know you’ve found a second home - all you need now are your sweatpants.
This dish - which is technically pulao, not biryiani, meaning the rice is more firm and slightly less seasoned - looks massive when it arrives. But you’ll realize when you finish it that if it were any smaller, you and your friends would fight over it like it was a fumble on the bottom of a scrum (which is fitting, since the lamb shank is about the size of a football). It’s the best dish on a menu full of standouts.
Lamb Shank Curry
The same lamb shank as in the biriyani, only covered in mild curry spices, it’s ideal for layering on top of the naan with the accompanying jalapeños and onions.
This fragrant curry stew is bolstered by copious amounts of cardamom and black pepper, which cut the richness of the heavy, tender beef chunks inside. Just make sure you order it spicy - the mild version doesn’t bring out the flavor of the curry as well.
This rich, buttery, turmeric- and ginger-heavy curry melds the flavors of the chicken, peppers, and onions together like a metalsmith making 22-karat gold.
You’ve had this dish 12 million times before, but this one is special. It’s both the spiciest and the most spinach-y version you’ll find in town, and there’s enough paneer in it that you’ll have a hunk of cheese in almost every bite.
Soft, pillowy, and perfectly charred in parts, this naan is so big that you’ll have trouble fitting anything else on your table (and yet, you’ll still somehow finish it).
The owner gives these out like they’re Halloween candy. They’re only a tiny bit sweet, creamy, and highlighted by heavy doses of vanilla and cinnamon, and after our first sample, they’re now a standard part of our order.