Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Needoo Grill: A Tayyabs Alternative that Just Might Best the Original

Name Needoo Grill 
Address 87 New Road, E1 1HH
Phone 020 72470648
Web site
Main dish price range £5-15
Rating 5 Stars. Just as good as Tayyabs-- believe it. 
Recommended dishes Daighi Slow Cooked Dry Meat, Needoo's Peshwari Nan, Daal Baingun

Nick and I have recently gone to Paris for a couple weekends-- what London food lover can resist it?-- and while researching where to engorge ourselves on that side of the channel, I've been spending a lot of time on the Chowhound message boards. And that's, curiously, how I learned about the Needoo Grill. On the London section of Chow, Needoo Grill is enjoying something of a glory ride, with all sorts of foodies saying that this restaurant is better than New Tayyabs-- the famed, lines-out-the-door, addictive Punjabi kebabs house.  And it certainly has the credibility to make that believable: Needoo, which is around the corner in from Tayyabs' little kebab kingdom, was founded by a former Tayyabs chef.  Just walking past you catch a whiff of the same sort of meaty deliciousness.  (See our the blog's take on Tayyabs here.) 

Meat Lovers: A peak inside the kebab counter at Needoo Grill.
Nick and I clearly walked into Needoo with sky-high expectations.  And I'm thrilled to say, we were not disappointed. Needoo, with its spunky red walls and dining room lit by a skylight, is much smaller than Tayyabs, with just 80 seats. It takes reservations, a blissful luxury for anyone who's ever stood lurking between the tables at Tayyabs, waiting for one to open up or e-mailed that restaurant to see about a table, only to never hear back. And the food at Needoo remains amazingly cheap (by London standards, anyway) and sinfully delicious.  Every greatest hit from Tayyabs are also available here, with a few, Needoo-unique gems to boot. 

Can I eat this everyday?  Daighi Slow Cooked Dry Meat.

Needoo has a whole slew of kebabs, as well as the same, sizzling lamb chops beloved around the corner. (Here they're almost good as Tayyabs-- but a bit on the anemic side-- available 4 chops for £6). Seek Kebabs are on offer too, tender and juicy and only 90p each. Our favorite dish though is the Daighi Slow Cooked Dry Meat (£7 for small portion, £13.80 for large one). This entree, with a slightly different name, is also on the Tayyabs menu, but here it achieves the impossible, slightly besting the original version. To those unfamiliar with this curry dish, Punjabi chefs make it by first roasting spices (like chili, tumeric, garlic) and building up a thick paste in the pan. Then the meat is added in and cooked for hours, until each piece starts to break apart and the sauce becomes almost dry. At Needoo, the flavor was more powerful than at Tayyabs and the lamb was the cooked to tender, almost gooey perfection.  We sat at the table for a few minutes after eating it, dazed. 

I want Candy: The sweet Peshwari naan.
Another highlight of Needoo is that the vegetables and daals on offer and memorable and well thought out in their own right-- unlike the afterthought they sometimes feel like at Tayyabs. The restaurant boasts eight vegetarian entrees, which can make a nice addition to a table already loaded sky high with finger licking chops and meat-intensive curries.  A favorite of ours is the Daal Baingun (£5.20 for a small, £10 for a large), a yellow daal loaded with soft, gooey baby aubergines/eggplants. Another highlight is the transcendent Peshwari Naan  (£3 each), a pillowy, sweet naan drizzled with butter and filled with nuts, sugar, and anise seed-- a heavenly combination that really should be on more Indian menus, or better yet, just handed out on every street corner. The world would be a much happier place. 
Veggie heaven too? Last remaining schmear of our order of Daal Baingun.
And although they may be neck and neck in terms of the quality of their food, when it comes to service, you're in a whole other superior world at Needoo. I'm no Gloria Steinem, and I certainly understand that different cultures behave differently towards women, but I've always felt a bit miffed and disappointed by the dismissive way women are often treated by the Tayyabs staff. I've had several times when I've gestured for the waiter at that restaurant to come to my table and he's walked up, looked at Nick (avoiding eye contact with me all together) and said, "Sir, is there something your table will be needing?"  (Other lady friends of mine have similar grumbles.) Contrast that with my first experience at Needoo: When Nick and I debated whether we should add an order of lamb chops to the mountains of food already on our table, the waiter sensed that I was pushing for more food. (I'm always the glutton-- always.) When we ultimately passed up on the order, the waiter brought a single lamb chop over to our table anyway, and said to me with a smile, "A gift for the lady on the house!"  VIP treatment, indeed.   

Snack time: The fresh veg offered before the meat arrives. 
A few more random reflections for readers: Like Tayyabs, the restaurant is BYOB, always an obvious plus. The mix of raw veggies they give you while you wait for your food are surprisingly refreshing, and a nice way to prep and cleanse before the meat onslaught.  And although I always preach the idea of ordering off menu if it appears there are secret menu items ordered by regulars and locals, in this one case Nick and I felt disappointed. After seeing a couple big tables of South Asian customers eating whole, roast chicken, we asked for the same during one trip to Needoo and got one for just  £10.  It was good, but in a bland, unmemorable rotisserie chicken way; nothing like the spectacularly seasoned, unforgettable Needoo dishes we were used to. Our verdict was a definite pass. 

Lone offender: Bits of our whole roast chicken, plus a yummy seek kebab.
All that said, Nick and I have now pretty much stopped going to Tayyabs in favor of Needoo-- its nicer, friendlier, and-often-more-delicious cousin.  Now if only we could convince our friends, many of whom still want the original Coke to Needoo's Pepsi. We heard the hype. Now we believe it. 

Needoo Grill on Urbanspoon