Ghar-E-Kabab Strikes Gold in Silver Spring, With Expert Blend of Indian, Nepalese Cuisine
One of the newest, and arguably one of the best, restaurants to open in the revitalized downtown Silver Spring area of Maryland, Ghar-E-Kabab isn’t located in the renovated central area, but sits in a small storefront space across the street on Wayne Avenue. Its unassuming appearance, echoed by a plain and simple interior, belies the very serious work inside.
The restaurant is the realization of a longtime dream by its three partners, Lok Tiwari, Chetnath Bhandari and Chandasar Ray. No strangers to the restaurant industry in Washington, D.C., Tiwari previously worked in the Marriott Renaissance, and Bhandari, after serving as chef to the Nepalese Embassy, worked at the renowned Bombay Club, where he met fellow chef Ray.
When Tiwari and his two chef partners set out to create Ghar-E-Kabab — which means House of Kebab — they wanted to give diners a chance to try Indian and Nepalese dishes as they would have been prepared at home, in small batches from scratch, with only the freshest produce, meats and spices. They have gone a step further in choosing to use only organic produce, locally sourced whenever possible.
Wanting to give diners a healthy yet delicious meal, the partners modified traditional recipes to reduce fat and cholesterol without sacrificing taste. Using only lean cuts, all of the meats are cooked in a tandoor oven, where they are suspended over an open fire to render out the fat before they are added to any dish. The chefs have also reduced the amount of butter in many dishes, replacing it with olive oil.
The partners have put together a diverse menu of classical Indian dishes featuring chicken, lamb, goat, seafood and vegetarian entrées. Some are fairly typical presentations, while others are more unusual. The vegetable pekora, for example, is made of finely chopped mixed vegetables and chickpea batter, with the round fritters arriving piping hot and slightly crisp.
As would be expected by the restaurant’s namesake, the kebab dishes are very well prepared. The sheekh kebab appetizer is perfect with its minced lamb blended in herbs and spices, shaped around a skewer and barbecued. Sealed on the outside, the interior is moist and bursting with flavor without being greasy.
Malai kebab — chunks of chicken breast marinated in yogurt, almonds, cashews and spices — is mild and delicious. The butter chicken is a superb version, rich and spicy with a distinct tomato taste that complements the barbequed flavor of the chicken while losing nothing in the reduction of the butter content. Though less rich than some preparations, the saag paneer too is excellent, as the coarsely chopped spinach lends substantial texture to the dish. Another excellent choice is the lamb rogan josh. Lean and tender chunks of lamb are simmered in a light yogurt-based sauce with faint overtones of mint. Again, this version is much less greasy than most.
Hailing from Nepal, Tiwari and Bhandari introduce American audiences to the less well-known cuisine of their homeland, which is an amalgam of cultural influences, notably Indian and Tibetan and indigenous Newari. Although Indian and Nepalese foods share many of the same ingredients, the effect is quite different. The sauces tend to be thinner, and because the spices are added later in the cooking process, the flavors develop differently.
The kukhura ko masu, a chicken curry dish, illustrates this difference well. Because of the harsh climate in Nepal’s mountainous region, vegetables are fermented and dried to preserve them during the non-growing season. Ghar-E-Kabab offers an interesting soup made of spinach prepared in this fashion.
Another traditional Nepalese offering is the aloo tama, a combination of black-eyed peas, bamboo shoots and potatoes. The unusual vegetarian dish is vinegary and a bit salty with very little oil. Likewise, momo — meat or vegetable dumplings made with white flour and water paste — are delicious and very unlike typical Indian appetizers, bearing a greater resemblance to Chinese dumplings.
But one of the best dishes on the menu is the catch of the day, prepared in a Nepalese style that is both unusual and interesting. Fillets of very fresh fish are cooked in a thin sauce of ground mustard seed and herbs to make for a mouth-warming and mouthwatering dish.
To sample a range of dishes from each part of the menu, the thalis are a good choice. Served on a large platter, these small dishes come from the appetizer, entrée and desserts sections of the menu, available in either meat or vegetarian varieties and in both the Indian and Nepalese style of cooking.
The desserts at Ghar-E-Kabab though are limited to a few well-done Indian classics: the khir (rice pudding), kulfi and rasmalai selections. The latter are cheese balls soaked in a light cream and flavored faintly with pistachio, saffron and a strong note of rose. An unusual dish for Western palates, it’s flowery, lightly sweet and refreshing. The kulfi, meanwhile, is rich and sweet, with homemade ice cream served in small icy cakes that melt quickly into the lacings of chocolate and caramel sauce adorning the plate. The mango variety is particularly delicious and is worth a trip all by itself.
Service at Ghar-E-Kebab is every bit as hospitable as you might experience at a friend’s home. Tiwari and Shanti Sharma, his wife, who also manages the restaurant, are in the front of the house explaining the dishes, offering suggestions, and making sure guests have everything they need. When the restaurant is crowed some dishes may take a bit of time, but they are well worth the wait.
The partners are not striving for haute cuisine, though they bring that level of skill and experience. Rather they are focused on offering straightforward, high-quality food, carefully prepared to bring out the best in flavor and nutrition, in a setting and price that make the restaurant a perfect neighborhood addition.
Ghar-E- 944 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, Md. Phone: (301) 587-4427 Web: www.gharekabab.com
Hours: Open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 – 10:30 p.m.
Appetizers: .99 – .99
Entrées: – .99
Desserts: – 6.99
Lunch buffet: Available daily; carry out and catering also available.
About the Author
Rachel Hunt is the restaurant reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.