An Indian Feast (Alhamra in SF)

Last Saturday, due to a stretch of sleep deprivation and excessive outings (see here), I barely survived my long run of 10 miles.  It was such a tough struggle that I decided that I’d better shape up for this week.  Thankfully, increased sleep and consistent running really helped me conquer the hills this morning – I even felt strong for a brief moment in time!  (That is, until the next set of hills popped up, at which point I began silently cursing again.)  I’m up to 12 miles now.  Yay!

Despite my best intentions, the entire afternoon was spent lying around recovering from the pain.  My body ached all over, my legs were sore, and I had no desire to stop my marathon session of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” (no pun intended, though that’s a marathon I can get behind any day).  After lying around for hours (one of the few times where I actually had a legitimate reason), I was finally motivated to vacate the semi-permanent indentation on my couch to grab some dinner.  AK and I decided that this would be an auspicious day to visit Alhamra in San Francisco, an Indian/Pakistani restaurant recently featured on an episode of the PBS/KQED show, “Check Please,” a constant source of new restaurant discoveries (see episode here).

It was just a short drive to the Mission District in San Francisco.  As an aside, I’m always a little bit torn about this area – of course there are just so many fabulous eateries in this small 2-square mile plot of land (Tartine Bakery, Delfina, Bi-Rite Creamery, Four Barrel Coffee, to name a few places where there is always a ridiculous line out the door), though I wonder about the effects of gentrification on the entire neighborhood (e.g., affordability for lower income people), while at the same time worry about my own safety when I end up parking on the wrong block of Mission Street and have to walk past unsavory characters and homeless people.  Very conflicting emotions.

In any event, when we finally arrived at the restaurant, it is very unassuming – definitely a hole in the wall.  (These pictures are from AK’s Droid phone – I forgot my camera (again) but thought these were decent enough to use.)

The inside is very sparse as well, although the open kitchen is very inviting, and you can see the chefs hard at work.  This layout reminds me a little of the delicious breakfast places in Taiwan.

Watch the Chef Poke a Stick Into the Tandoori Oven!

I’m usually not a huge fan of samosas, but since they are one of AK’s favorites, we ordered a small plate as appetizers.  They were actually super delicious!  The skin is very thin and crispy, unlike the much more doughy versions that I’ve had before, and each samosa is bursting with ground lamb stuffing.

I was especially impressed with the tandoori chicken, built out to be one of their specialties.  Typically, even at excellent Indian restaurants like Amber India, the tandoori chicken is too dry and not flavorful enough.  However, here at Alhamra, it was juicy and flavorful!  We wished we had ordered more than one drumstick!  (This photo is a little blurry and does not do it justice.)

The other dishes we ordered were the aloo saag (spinach and potatoes) and the chicken tikka masala.  I enjoyed the aloo saag, which was surprisingly spicy, but thought the chicken tikka masala was just average.  What truly blew me away was the naan bread!  It had an ever-so-slightly charred smoky flavor, with a thin, crunchy exterior and soft, chewy bread inside.  You can tell that the naan came from a tandoori oven, similar to how you always distinguish pizza that came from coal-fire ovens.  I would come back just to eat the naan.

Overall, it was a great meal and an enjoyable end to an otherwise strenuous day (well, morning).  I would highly recommend this restaurant if you find yourself in the city!  (Note:  Because we arrived before 7:00 p.m., there was no wait.  But the restaurant quickly filled up when we were there, and by the time we left it was packed!)

Alhamra Restaurant
3083 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-3420
(415) 621-3935
alhamrarestaurant.net‎

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