Cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey once pointed out that India is a country made up of at least five major faiths, 15 major languages and thousands of minor languages and dialects. Her point was to illustrate the vast cultural differences that influence this country’s varied cuisines.
Most of us think of Indian food as vegetarian, because of Hindu, Buddhist, and more specifically Jain dietary restrictions, and because of our experience with Indian food in the restaurants we frequent. These are mostly Punjabi (which can be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian). A large number of Indians are Muslim, and other than pork, they eat meat, including beef. Persian influence on Indian cuisine shows up in the cream and yogurts, raisins and other dried fruits and marinated meats spread across the Indian table, as well as the influence of the tandoor oven on breads and meats.
But a Muslim-Indian restaurant that serves beef in Atlanta is a rarity. Our restaurants, as elsewhere, are mostly Punjabi, offering varied tandoor-style meats and breads and lots of masala-style vegetarian dishes. So when a friend who has been to India called to tell me he’s found an Indian restaurant in Norcross that serves Muslim – Halal – meats, I got in the car and met him there pronto.
Lazeez Tava Fry’s menu gets even more confusing when you realize that many of the dishes – and indeed the restaurant’s name — come from a style of stir fry from Ahmadabad, a large city in the state of Gujarat (which is largely vegetarian). The owners, Nasir Momin and his partner-nephew Tauvkir Momin are from Ahmadabad and are Muslim. Dishes such as bheja fry – goat or lamb brain with pepper and tomatoes – and beef nihari in a “spicy red sauce” and lots of ginger, are Tava Fry specialties.
Complicated? Not really. You don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the food at this tidy restaurant. Its tables are dressed dramatically with linen napkins and plastic flowers, its ceiling draped with fuchsia-colored sheers. If you love (like I do) Atlanta’s many Indian restaurants, you’ll find some things on Lazeez’s menu that may surprise and delight you. If you’re unfamiliar with the landscape of Atlanta’s Indian cuisine, Lazeez is as good a place to begin as any.
Gosht, a Persian word that means meat or flesh, is a weekend specialty. Tender goat meat, still on the bone, is blanketed in green masala, rich gravy with aromatic spices hinting of coriander, cinnamon and cardamom, with a creamy backdrop. Shami kabob, an appetizer, consists of ground meat (mostly goat) spiced with chilies, cilantro and mildly head-hammering spicy masala.
Lazeez Tava Fry has many Punjabi-style favorites, too, such as tender, stewed okra with tomatoes and heady spices found in bhindi masala; or an aloo masala of potatoes, here mixed with cauliflower and spices. Bread like naan, roti and paratha are all here, as well as an array of beloved Indian sweets like gulab jamun, the sweet, fried dough balls laced with cardamom in rose-scented sugar syrup; and a Goan-influenced egg custard.
Lazeez Tava Fry’s melting pot of culinary influences proves to be one stirred with lots of flavor and love. Nasir Momin’s hospitality runs deep, and an evening here will prove as delicious as it is enlightening.
Lazeez Tava Fry, 4650 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Suite 133A, 770-939-1221
Service: Hospitality abounds
Price range: $ - $$
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
Hours of operation: Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday dinner from 5 to 11p.m.
Best dishes: Green gosht, shami kabob, bhindi masala, beef nihari
Vegetarian selections: Many Punjabi-style vegetarian dishes
Parking: Adjacent lot
Reservations: Yes, but not likely needed
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise level: Low
Web site: www.lazeeztavafry.com
Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less. The price code represents a typical full-course meal for one excluding drinks.
Key to AJC ratings
Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.
One of the best in the Atlanta area.
Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.
A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.
Food is more miss than hit.
Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.
You can write your own review here .
About the Author
Credit: Channel 2 Action News