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This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Something Old, Something Aloo: Village Restaurant

Before we begin, a couple of quick restaurant notes regarding Anaheim's Little Arabia district: The Salaam Pickle Factory is now closed; Victory Bakery (home of wondrous Middle Eastern pastries and a lamb-brain sandwich that's just divine) recently moved from its old location on Euclid Avenue and Ball Road to a much bigger location on Brookhurst Avenue, just south of Orange Avenue. Now occupying Victory's old stomping grounds is another relocated eatery—Village Restaurant, one of the county's handful of Pakistani restaurants.

Village Restaurant used to stand on the corner of Euclid Street and Katella Avenue, and it's still settling into its new location, as evidenced by a recent lunchtime trip. Although the dining room is spacious and decorated with various Arabic inscriptions on one side, the other side continues to feature Victory's old menu. The service is slow, usually consisting of an older gentleman pointing to a buffet table free of labels and a younger man talking on a cell phone.

Forgive these oversights, though, and concentrate on the cuisine. The buffet changes daily, but you can count on a couple of standards, starting with a biryani, a rice pilaf cooked with meat and yogurt that enriches each grain with a creamy flavor. The house naan is fine; the mint chutney is spicy yet cooling and required on everything.

Also reliable are a couple of vegetable dishes—perhaps aloo palak, spinach mixed with rice, or lightly spiced lentils—but the meat dishes are better. Start with the nehari, a stew with tender beef chunks cooked so finely they turn into a paste that rests at the bottom of your plate. The nehari is like a Sloppy Joe turned nuclear: intense, spicy and great for naan scooping. Even better is another dish consisting of ground beef and slathered with a hot chili paste. It might be haleem (a famous Pakistani stew), or it might be a korma; regardless, spoon it onto your Styrofoam plate whenever you come across the meal.

If buffets don't excite you, visit Village Restaurant during dinner. The above dishes are available, along with entrťes more familiar to the American palate—kebabs, tandoori meats, crispy samosas, even fish and chips. But go for the bizarre. Enjoy the paya, a curry prepared with the tender meat of cow trotters. Cool off with a creamy shrimp masala. And hearken back to the days when white folks populated Anaheim with the bun kebab, which is really a hamburger livened up with a lamb patty and mucho spices. See, America? The Muslim takeover isn't that bad.

VILLAGE RESTAURANT, 951 S. EUCLID ST., ANAHEIM, (714) 635-7770.

 
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