Lamb on the lam

By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Kababeque solid fare

Indian food tastes best with Indian music, the way I'm sure snails taste best when there's a small orchestra playing nearby.

Now, I had this Hindu Indian friend my freshman year, but he was a vegetarian and never told me about lamb kebabs. I wish I had known sooner.

To the right of the entrance of Kababeque, 845 E. University Blvd., was a wall posted with famous faces of Indian cinema.

I didn't recognize anyone and made a mental note to beef up my Indian foreign film repertoire.

I was the only customer in the restaurant. I sat in one of three booths, which were semi-circular, black and backdropped with white curtains. I thought this was a nice touch.

The only other seating inside Kababeque was a high-rise table surrounded by 14 chairs. (There were also a few tables outside along the University Boulevard sidewalk.)

Soft, violet light, the plush booth and a light-green cement floor had me thinking cool, easy thoughts. Indian music wafted down from above.

Grades: Overall décor, including music, green cement floor, booths, poster wall - A.

I ordered the "Lamb Boti Kabab," a single "Haryali Kabab Roll" and "Masali Chai" because their names seemed exotic.

I suggest asking the cashier for both the correct pronunciation of menu options and a picturesque description of what the plate will look like.

The reason for this is that a "kabab" does not refer to the skewered produce and meat combos associated with Americanized cookout-type kebabs.

The meat at Kababeque is prepared by piercing it with metal skewers and lowering it into a clay oven in an ancient form of barbequing called the "tandoori" method, which seals in the natural juices and flavors of the meat.

When the food is served, it is on a plate, minus the skewer.

The plate kept tipping over when I tried to stab a leaf or lamb boti with my plastic fork.

The meat made me happy I'm not a vegetarian and the yogurt sauce on the lettuce tasted like some an amazing salad dressing.

Grades: Lamb boti kabab - A. Metal triangle plate - C. Yogurt dressing - A-.

I then made for my single haryali kabab roll ($2.99 or $5.49 double), which consists of cubed chicken marinated in herbs and spices, tandoori grilled, then wrapped in a flat bread with seasoned onions and green chilis.

I swear the flat paratha bread looked exactly like a tortilla.

I smugly thought the roll was just an Indian equivalent to a burrito so I started to eat it like one when both my shirtfront and I realized the roll had two open ends.

Grades: Haryali kabab roll - A-. Tide detergent - A+.

Last to enter my corporeal temple was a small masali chai ($1.99 or $2.99 for a large), which is tea mixed with milk, water, cardamom, cloves and other spices.

The drink is served hot from a thermos next to the register. Beverages get free refills at Kababeque.

They have soda and other exotic drinks as well.

The chai was satisfying and reminded me of a magical spiced coffee, except that it was tea. It was cheaper than Starbucks, too.

Grade: Masali chai - "B".

I'm not just a patronizing fool. The food is really good at Kababeque and the prices are reasonable.

Kababeque offers a unique and convenient alternative to culinary options on University.