Most of my Silver Spoon eating experiences have been during lunch, at its small but potent buffet: Pakistan summed up in six or so trays. Mutton seekh kabob, juicy and gamy, almost always occupies one. Bowls of raw red onions and chutney sit, ready to decorate the fluffy biryani of the day. Nuclear pickles. Nihari so potent you'll drink through at least one of the two pitchers of water on the table on which there are plastic cups. Expertly curried chicken. You can order off the encyclopedic menu of Pakistani and northern Indian favorites, but with a buffet selection that changes daily, it's as alluring as a slot machine—except you'll always strike triple 7s.
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That doesn't mean you should ignore the menu, of course. Silver Spoon (located inside Irvine Halal Meat) doesn't look like it's much of a kitchen, given it occupies half of a claustrophobic grocery store stacked with subcontinental produce. What passes as the restaurant is really just a couple of tables separated from the rest of the store by curtains. Your waitress is your cashier and the owner, and the menu is next to the door, near the taped advertisements for the Ramadan goat haleem special and calling-card ads. But in this unassuming atmosphere exists spectacular food, mostly Pakistani, but also Indian with spices dialed up to 11 in the Pakistani tradition. All the curries shine, but the one to try is bitter melon, a specialty of—of all places—the southern Indian state of Kerala, an impolite take that seizes your senses with an unforgiving zap. The Silver Spoon chefs tastefully mitigate its brawn, but this is a dish probably best left for the natives—but since you gentle readers are done with the umpteenth chicken curry, order this dish as you would a breakfast burrito.
And speaking of the cylindrical god, there is a burrito—the Silver Spoon burrito, a paratha or naan wrapped around the meat of your choice, so large it makes a Chipotle monster seem as tiny as a taquito. The thick, flaky greasiness of the paratha easily soaks up the raita and chutney inside, while the dessicated splendor of the tandoor-cooked meats is reminiscent of the best al pastor. This Paki-Mexi amalgamation is as deserving of a spot in our Hall of MultiCulti Food Fame as the pastrami burrito and the Korean taco—and in Irvine? What a wonderful new reality we live in!
Silver Spoon At Irvine Halal Meat, www.silverspoon-irvinehalal.com.
This column appeared in print as "A Silver Spoon In Your Mouth."