You could have knocked Chow, Baby over with a bay leaf when its server at Biriyani House (1309 S. Cooper St., Arlington) mentioned that this little Indian hole-in-the-wall near UTA opened more than two years ago.
Come on, they’re committing the classic newbie mistake: huge portions at ridiculously low prices! Most entrées are $3.99 to $6.99, tapas-level pricing that tricked Chow, Baby into extreme over-ordering – an intended dinner for two yielded leftovers-lunches for days. Chow, Baby was nearly full after just the spicy potato-pea samosas and crispy-fried chicken pakora (appetizers $1.99 each), but managed to find room for tasty pureed-tomato Madras soup ($1.99). A huge plate of mild, creamy chicken korma ($5.99) had the requisite hint of almonds, and shrimp biriyani ($6.99) was a mound of clove-fragrant rice studded with more large, perfectly grilled shrimp than a cost manager would have allowed. The sizzling mixed grill, the priciest dish on the menu at $8.50, was also underpriced, considering all the pieces of tandoori chicken, marinated beef chunks, ground-lamb kebabs, and grilled onions that packed the plate. And all this came with a pretty salad plus fresh-baked crackly naan for scooping. This just doesn’t make fiscal sense. Perhaps Biriyani House is balancing the books with the lunch buffet, marking up the previous day’s leftovers? No. Several days later, when the leftovers finally ran out, Chow, Baby joined a crowd of mostly UTA students for fresh-made meat and vegetable dishes, tingly cucumber-flecked raita, and cardamom-y rice pudding, all you can eat for $5.99. (And people were eating a lot; for once, Chow, Baby’s plate was not the highest-piled one in the room.) How do they do it? Well, they’re not spending a lot on décor or napkins, and rent in this run-down strip mall can’t be much, and the cooks don’t even attempt gourmet. But for an Indian-food lover on a budget, Biriyani House is home. An “S” for Consisstency The best thing about Bellissimo (201 N. Main St., Keller) is that unlike its sister restaurant, Bellisimo in Colleyville, this one spells its name Italian-correctly. The second-best thing is that most of the problems on Chow, Baby’s recent visit to the two-s restaurant were service-related – the personable waitress had been thrown into the job just days before, without any instruction in table setup, menu details, course pacing, water-glass refilling, or common English phrases – and thus temporary. Chow, Baby, in a rare good mood, was willing to let all that slide. But then came the stuffed mushrooms ($5.95). Cold sauce and bland stuffing were disappointing enough, but … raw mushrooms? Raw? Was this a kitchen mistake or just Bellissimo’s attempt at iconoclasm? The waitress didn’t know (of course). Fine, whatever; Chow, Baby turned to its lobster ravioli ($14.95), which had arrived 30 seconds after the appetizer (of course). The “pink vodka sauce” might as well have been flour, water, and food coloring; the undercooked ravioli were damp cardboard; and try as Chow, Baby might, it couldn’t taste any lobster. Chow, Baby was tempted to order tiramisu just to see how bad it would be, but decided to hold out – maybe a three-s Bellisssimo is in the works. Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.