Last night, the sparkling new Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant in Jackson Heights was bustling with hungry diners breaking the daily Ramadan fast. Three young men avidly slurped falooda; a lone woman in a spangled brown chador downed a plate of goat biryani; children fidgeted in their seats, playing with toys, in a holiday mood.
We were attracted by the huge, colorful selection of mithai — South Asian sweets — but stayed for dinner, which turned out to be far better than your average steam-table place. It could be because Gourmet was so busy last night that we benefited from high turnover, but the dishes were extremely fresh-tasting, seasoned and cooked with skill and care.
Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant is an expansion from the original Gourmet Sweets on Coney Island Avenue, a mitai and snack shop. The new Jackson Heights branch offers a much larger menu, including haleem, beef nehari, cow paya, roast goat, Lahori-style channa, various biryanis and pulaos, and myriad kabobs, chaats, and freshly baked flatbreads. The food is mainly Pakistani, with some Northern Indian and Bangadeshi influences.
The goat curry ($10, shown above) is particularly good, cooked on the bone for such a long time that the meat goes limpid and utterly tender, almost like pulled goat. You can easily pull the green-chile-spiced flesh off the bones with a bit of warm whole-wheat roti. Then suck the marrow out of the bones.
Normally, the free salad that comes with a meal at an austere restaurant like this is composed of a bit of iceberg lettuce, a few slices of sad tomato, and cucumber. But at Gourmet, you get a full plate of what is basically salad chaat: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, chickpeas, boiled potatoes, and chickpea-flour dumplings, dressed in a sweet-tart chutney dressing and topped with a flurry of deliciously sulfurous chaat masala.
Chicken keema ($8) — spiced ground meat — is made here with mung beans and tomatoes, a wholesome, flavorful dish.
And we couldn’t leave without a box of mithai ($6 per pound). There are dozens and dozens of varieties, from chum chum, to various burfis, to ladoos and jalebi. With such a large selection, there are bound to be some clunkers, but again, the high turnover ensures that the sweets are fresh and pliable, not dried out. The carrot burfi, studded with almonds, and the fluffy, moist milk cake were the best in our assorted box.
Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant
72-08 Broadway, Jackson Heights
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 1, 2010