Before I ate, I was already impressed with Kolachi, its bright decor and its articulate host, Sandy Ibrahim, who explained to me that Kolachi is the old name for Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. Ibrahim, it turns out, is a partner at the three-month-old restaurant, whose main owner is Billy Mayan.
He was so friendly that I asked him to suggest what I should order for dinner. “Lamb chops,” was the immediate answer. “Okay,” I said. “Would you like butter naan?” “GOOD.” “How about the dal tarka?” “GOOD.”
Dal refers to lentils, dry peas or beans cooked until soft. Tarka (also called tadka) is a seasoning method in which all the spices, such as cumin and mustard seeds, are roasted in ghee (butter), then aromatic melted butter is poured over the dal. This dal is made of small urad dal, gram seed which is completely black in color but yellow when skinned and split, like here. I couldn’t figure out what exactly the tarka was in but it gave the dish an unusual taste, warmth and depth.
A fine kitchen can inspire peanuts with greatness – remember, Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils – and Kolachi’s does the same with four lamb chops and accompanying basmati rice and naan. I just realized that this is no ordinary Pakistani / Indian restaurant.
When I called the owner Billy Mayan on the phone a few days later, he explained that his goal with Kolachi was to serve authentic Pakistani home cooking. “You see Indian and Pakistani places with these big menus – except for the roasts, it’s impossible to make them all from scratch to order,” he said.
The Kolachi menu features a lot of grilled meats – chicken, lamb, beef – whole, on skewers, ground into kofta and bread. Most of it is also found in sandwiches, along with burgers and falafel. (Maya’s parents emigrated from Afghanistan to Pakistan and Afghan influence can be seen in the kebabs.)
There are two classic curries: butter chicken and chicken karahi (a spicy, relatively dry curry, named after the pan in which it is cooked), plus chicken biryani and spaghetti kolachi keema, a kind of Bolognese-style home cooking. The three vegetable dishes are dal, okra curry and paneer [fresh cheese] karahi). The prices are very low: It doesn’t cost more than $ 16; most dishes cost under $ 10.
For the Mayans, Kolachi was the pinnacle of a career in the food business. He owns a number of fast food restaurants and fast food restaurants, including Halal-N-Out in New Hyde Park and several Texas Chicken & Burgers locations. But the food he serves at Kolachi is based on the food his family eats at home, and he is determined to share it with the public. “Even though the timing wasn’t right,” he said, “someone told me I had to do this.”
Kolachi offers take-out food and indoor dining. In late April, the Mayans planned to set up a tent dining area in the parking lot.
Kolachi is at 20 Meacham Ave., Elmont, 516-502-4288.