Timid palates beware. At Samosa Hut & Grill, the food is spicy. Don't get me wrong; I like my vindaloo as fiery as the next girl, but after a couple of bites at the Irving Indian-fusion restaurant, I was reaching for the water.
After 25 years in the restaurant business, including a stint as an owner of a Thai place in Dallas, Ash Shariff and his business partner, Ubaid Mirza, opened Samosa Hut two years ago, eager to cook the food of their youth. Shariff is of Indian descent but grew up in Eastern Africa, so he ate a wide variety of cuisines. The menu here accesses his memory vault well, with such dishes as beef mishkaki (cubed beef marinated in East African spices), deep-fried peri peri Cornish hen and masala fish and chips. And as the restaurant's name implies, there are plenty of samosas, the Indian savory pastry.
We recently stopped in during a Cowboys game and found the BYOB restaurant nearly empty. Either Samosa Hut's customers are rabid football fans, or we were here at an off-hour. Probably a little of both. According to Shariff, the restaurant draws a good lunch crowd from the nearby Irving Arts Center, as well as from drive-by traffic along busy MacArthur Boulevard.
The dining room is small, and service is casual. You place your order at the counter, and Shariff and his staff helpfully deliver the food tableside. We ordered the mixed vegetable samosas (three for $2.97), the Chilli Gohbi ($6.99), the masala fish and chips ($8.99) and the chicken vindaloo ($8.99). For good measure, we added an order of cheese pizza samosas to the bill. It was a football Sunday, after all.
Not surprisingly, the samosas stole the show. Shariff eschews the traditional filling -- potato, which he says is "boring" -- and in the mixed vegetable samosa, includes large pieces of veggies, like green beans. The result makes for a filling that is satisfying in texture and stands up to the crispy, buttery pastry exterior. The cheese pizza samosa has gooey cheese and tomato sauce. The filling and the nearly sweet pastry are disparate in tastes, so it's not quite as successful as the mixed veggie samosa.
But it's refreshing to see such creativity on a menu. The fish and chips are like chili-laden explosives; broiled cod bathed in a creamy red sauce and french fries, spiced within an inch of their lives. Shariff allows that his food is spicy, but says it's "balanced." Agreed. Once you get over the initial heat, the layers of flavor are apparent, especially in the Chilli Gohbi, a heaping plate of sauteed cauliflower, onions and peppers. The vindaloo is also well-executed, which here is a dense stew of potato and chicken.
The entrees come with rice and naan, which we gladly inhale to assuage the flames.
Make no mistake, Samosa Hut & Grill is not for the faint of heart(burn). But it's an original (and tasty) concept amid a slew of other near-identical Indian restaurants in the area. Here's to originality. Now pass the water, please.