UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL

I don't know what the official name of this restaurant is. It's between 36th and 37th on 9th Ave. The awning says "Cuisine of Pakistan" but somebody took the trouble of bending some neon to say "Nice and Spicey". So I'm going to go with that.



I like the fact that they play up the spiciness of their food (in the tradition of "Spicy and Tasty", the great Sichuan restaurant in Flushing) and I can attest -- it's spicy all right, but not excessive. The food is what we know mostly as "Indian food" but really it's Pakistani, readily identifiable dishes to the Western eye like "chana", "biryani", and "saag". All of the meat is halal (you will see chicken and goat), and the naans are baked fresh to order. The setup is your basic steam table but if you get there right at 12 noon on a weekday, it's basically like stumbling into a large home-cooked family meal, with all of the dishes fresh off the stove. In the back there is a prayer area which gets full around 1pm with cab drivers, security guards and assorted vendors performing their zuhr (midday prayer).

What I love about this place is a) they don't hold back on the heat and b) they change up the entrees every day. Just about every time I've been there, there have been different meat and veggie specials. This particular day I got the Ground Chicken with Bitter Melon. Fabulous.




Damn fine cuisine.



Wall of Pakistani CDs and phonecards for sale.


The guys who make the magic happen. (Fresh naans made to order.)


You can expect to drop anywhere from $6 to $11 for lunch here, depending on the sides and the drinks. It's all good.


Nice & Spicey
bet. 36th and 37th St. on 9th Ave.


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5 comments

  • “The food is what we know mostly as “Indian food” but really it’s Pakistani, readily identifiable dishes to the Western eye like “chana”, “biryani”, and “saag”. "

    Huh? What does that even mean? We know it as “Indian food” but really it’s “Pakistani”? Would love to hear your explanation of the difference. I can’t imagine that you found anything there that’s not at an “Indian” restaurant.

    JN on

  • wow what a find!!! fresh naan to order? bitter melon? in the outskirts of Hell’s Kitchen??? awesome.

    kayoko on

  • Well, halal meat for one. Is “Indian food” halal? I’m sure there are other differences which I am admittedly ignorant of.

    But I think you’ll have to bring your question up with the owners of this restaurant, who took the trouble to put “Pakistani Cuisine” in huge letters on their awning. (The phone number, btw, is 212-736-7745.)

    But seriously, the reason I wrote that was because I didn’t want to lump all Indian food into a big huge bucket and subsume local cuisines that may have their own distinctive elements under that huge umbrella. I know, for instance, that there are big differences between South Indian and North Indian cuisines. It’s like saying “Italian food” or “Chinese food”.

    My gf (who is Japanese) went into a Jamaican patty place and the woman behind the counter asked her if she was Chinese. She was rather put off by this, I imagine, for the same reason a Pakistani would be bothered if someone called his cuisine “Indian food”.

    tmonkey on

  • the naan is microwaved to order, not made fresh to order

    Jamie S. on

  • Oh, yes, when you don’t get there at the right time (ie, when the food has been sitting out too long) they do resort to the microwave. That’s why you have to get there at certain times (I think around 12) before the lunch crowd hits and right when the food is piping hot and fresh.

    I’ve had naans that are microwaved, it’s true, but I’ve also had them made to order.

    tmonkey on

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