By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
When you read the words "Indian, Pakistani and Mexican" on Krazi Kebob's menu, you might think: fusion confusion. But to owner Naumaan "Nomie" Hamid, 25, it's not as crazy as it sounds.
"Indian, Mexican and Pakistani food use all the same spices, and you can wrap them," he says of the quirky concept.
The fact that it works is no accident. Hamid says he grew up looking over the shoulders of the cooks at Shaheen in Baltimore, the Indian restaurant owned by his Pakistani parents. He later studied hospitality and cooking at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., but says he still good-naturedly pesters those Shaheen cooks almost every day.
"That's how I learn," Hamid says. One cook there "thinks I'm making sure he's doing a good job. But really I'm just trying to pick up something new."
It's also no accident that both locations of Krazi Kebob are near college campuses, catering to a segment that generally appreciates massive amounts of tasty food at a good price. Hamid employs an assembly line approach based on Chipotle's: Choose a nan wrap, a nan quesadilla or nachos; choose a type of marinated halal meat kebab or paneer cheese; choose from a large assortment of vegetables and sauces to be piled high on the dish; and pay.
We liked the paneer wrap ($6.59) and the chicken tikka wrap ($6.59), each using nan fresh from the in-house tandoor, and the steak nachos ($7.49), a heaping mound of fixings atop warm, house-spiced tortilla chips that also are spritzed with lime. Of those proteins, the chicken tikka was the standout.
The lineup of toppings includes rice, chickpeas, corn, cheddar cheese, buttery tikka masala sauce and something Hamid concocted that he calls "spicy salad": a fresh mix of diced cucumber, jalapeno, onion and carrots.
Two dips are doled out liberally: a sweet tamarind sauce and a mint-cilantro yogurt concoction spiked with jalapeno.
We preferred the onion-stuffed nan ($3.49) over the crumbly, caraway-heavy paneer nan ($4.49). The spicy guacamole with tortilla chips ($2.49) and the newly added samosa (90 cents) are also worthy sidekicks.
The College Park location opened in October 2010; the Towson branch launched the following February. Always thinking of his next move, Hamid is looking to expand into Baltimore and the District.
And when great flavors are blended with a restaurant pedigree and ambition, the fusion is just crazy enough to work.