This was no ordinary shopping center. No Target, Best Buy or Subway was within miles (OK, like two miles), and a women's clothing store, though not your average Forever 21, stood to my left.
Wanting an Indian-food experience other than standbys like Roti Grill and Chennai, I'd asked some Indian and Pakistani friends, people whose home-cooked meals I've been sampling since high school, where I should eat. The cry went out: Al Markaz in Carrollton.
Located in a small Indo-Pak shopping center off of George Bush and Trinity Mills, one could easily mistake Al Markaz for a grocery store, as a host of frozen foods, fresh produce and Indian beauty supplies span the right side of the building, while beets and dates line the dessert.
I veered left and came upon the restaurant, with expansive seating and a private banquet area. It was around 6:45, and the server told me that due to Ramadan the crowd wouldn't show up until around 8. There were some Indian-American familes in the dining section, though, and by 7:45 the line was quickly growing. Bhangra, traditional Indian music, sang from overhead.
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I'm used to an Indian buffet, where I can stack as many pieces of food as possible on to one plate at one time, so picking and choosing items was a challenge. There were also no TVs blasting the 80s music like the aforementioned Indian-food franchises, and the tables are long, designed for family-style eating.
The restaurant, while Pakistani-owned, serves both Indian and Pakistani cuisines, though the dishes have a Pakistani bent, as most of the entrees come sans vegetables. (Vegetables are only reserved as side dishes). The best part of the meal (and what one of the waitresses said Al-Markaz was known for) was the naan bread, which I plunked into the raida sauce pictured above.
I also had the Frontier Chicken, a spicier version of the Chicken Masala, and got solid explanations from the wait staff about everything. This was supposed to be an "experience" rather than transactional, they told me, I'd say they succeeded.