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JANUARY 11-17, 2017 | | |

Jeffrey Edalatpour



NAAN OF YOUR BUSINESS Zareen pushes the envelope to a taste bud explosion with its jalapeño cheese naan.

Zareen’s Teases the Senses


HE LINE AT Zareen’s new Palo Alto location stretches to the door. It’s raining, so all the tables inside are occupied with small talk and anxious glances toward the kitchen: “When are my kababs going to arrive?”

Again and again, a lone server hands out silver platters of a curry meal plate, a clear favorite. The place is bustling and just as stuffed as the jalapeño cheese naan. That’s right: a jalapeño cheese naan, described as “designer pizza meets desi naan.” Guests will also find that half of the “Between the Bread” options on the menu come with masala-spiced french fries. But these East-meets-West concoctions are really a supporting cast for a halal menu featuring Pakistani street food and traditional Indian dishes. A series of glass partitions, like a cafeteria, separate the ordering line from the kitchen’s clang and hubbub. The placement of butcher paper against the glass acts as an additional barrier and expansive blindfold that deliberately whets the appetite. You can’t see a thing while studying the menu—that is until you reach the register. Next to it a steely little alcove is filled with a dozen plastic containers of frothy mango lassis ($3.75), neon orange and irresistible. And just above them is a serving station lined with garlic naan ($2.99) fresh from the oven, bright green cilantro leaves baked into the puffy, crackling dough. One bite confirms that Zareen’s tender naans are made “Roghni-style”: they aren’t dried out from the heat of a clay oven bake. They’re also perfect vehicles to soak up the ingredients inside of a Kabab Naan Wrap ($9.25). Orders can vary between Chicken Boti or Chicken Shami, Beef Chapli or Beef Gola. Regardless, as long as it’s paired with a freshly baked naan and the spicy sweet green chutney, it’s a winning combination. In keeping with the theme of culinary fusion, the chef has devised a Chicken Tikka Burrito Wrap ($8.50). The flavors are similar to the Kabab Naan Wrap but the texture is not. It was a clever riff on a Mexican classic, but I missed the naan wrapping up those flavors. As a side for those satisfying sandwich wraps, stick with the Aloo Tikki ($6.25) instead of Masala Fries. These potato cutlets were served hot and golden, drizzled with lime, onions and a handful of rough-cut cilantro. With this second restaurant (the first is in Mountain View), Zareen Khan has expanded her empire. On a large chalkboard hanging above diners, three circles overlap to form a symbol. Each circle represents a key tenet of the owner’s intentions: “Authentic recipes, Humanely raised meats, Freshest ingredients.” The center spot simply states: “You are here.” —Jeffrey Edalatpour ZAREEN’S 365 S. California Avenue, Palo Alto. 650.600.8438

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December 11-17, 2017