By Mark Bixby
Special to the Voice
Tonight Julie and I dined at Usmania Halal (Pakistani/Indian) Restaurant in Westminster after both of us independently discovered it on Yelp today.
It’s located in a scruffy part of town on the forlorn southeast corner of Westminster and Olive. Despite there being a large pole sign on the corner, Julie and I both drove right by it initially (we were driving separately because she was going to the OC Arts Center afterwards with her mom).
I had my doubts when I arrived first. The building hints at a failed fast food heritage, has a garish paint job and the parking lot has weeds growing through cracks in the asphalt. But as I was standing outside waiting for Julie to arrive, the enticing aromas emanating from within were making me hungry.
Julie arrived and we were seated. We were the only customers in the place for our entire meal. The interior ambiance is nil, the food was better than I expected in such a setting.
I started with the lentil soup, which was one of the thickest lentil soups I have ever had. And it came moderately spiced too, which is always a plus for my palate.
For my main entrée I had the vegetable korma. I don’t usually order kormas in Indian restaurants due to the heavy, bland cream sauce they normally come with, but this did not have that typical heavy sauce. It was a lighter sauce, “lighter” being relative since many dishes from that part of the world do tend to be a greasy/oily indulgence, and it had more of a tomato orientation than a cream orientation. There was a decent assortment of vegetables. I ordered it “medium” spicy and it turned out about right in the heat department, only producing a mildly runny nose.
Julie ordered the chicken tikka masala with “mild” spiciness. At mild it was on her upper level of tolerance, but she does not have the Bixby spice-loving genes that I was born with. I sampled some of her masala sauce and it had an intriguing smokey complexity to it.
We both shared an order of garlic naan bread. Size was generous, and it was assertively garlicky. I ordered a mango lassi to drink since so many Yelpers gave it good marks and I’d rate it pretty good too.
I mentioned that this is in a scruffy, forlorn part of town. While we were dining, a tall homeless guy shambled into the restaurant and briefly begged us for spare change before the staff shooed him out. That was a first for restaurant dining for us.
So to sum it up: food, better than expected; ambience, much to be desired.
Since on the pole sign “Halal” is in a bigger font than “Pakistani” or “Indian,” and since “Pakistani” is listed before “Indian,” this is probably mostly Pakistani cuisine. And, face it, who would have thought there would eve be a halal Pakistani joint adjacent to Huntington Beach?
If you’re looking for something new and out of the ordinary, give the Usami Pakistani/Indian Halal restaurant a try.
For more information, including photos of entrées, go to http://www.yelp.com/biz/usmania-halal-restaurant-westminster
For other reviews on this dining establishment, go to http://www.yelp.com/biz/usmania-halal-restaurant-westminster
Editor’s note: Mark Bixby is a member of the Huntington Beach Planning Commission as well as a computer nerd by profession and a community activist in his free time. He also writes occasional restaurant reviews.