Mashallah is an Arabic phrase used to express gratitude, joy, and praise, or thankfulness for an event or person — a perfect name for my favorite 24-hour Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi buffet-style restaurant on Coney Island Avenue.
On the outside, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Mashallah’s neon signs, orange paint, and crowds of diners shouting their orders over the counter. When you first walk in, there’s a visual feast of curry trays and piles of fried samosas and pakoras that never seem to match the listed items on the oversize menu.
Rather than trying to order from the menu, the easiest way to go is simply picking from the colorful buffet line. I’ve noticed a few additions since Ramadan began, including Haleem (a thick, slow cooked curry with meat, barley, and lentils) and fried peppers. But my two favorite dishes are the butter chicken and lamb curry, with a steaming puffy slab of garlic naan (the naan comes out a bit after the curry, fresh from the kitchen).
The butter chicken’s slow-cooked dark meat is soft and flavorful, drenched in a rich, mild tomato based sauce. Sometimes there are husks of cinnamon buried in the rice, which adds a subtle flavor that seeps into the curry.
The side of vegetables over rice are crunchy and spicy, and add a nice textural balance to the soft chicken. Pile it all over spiced, long-grain rice, and it’s a meal that could easily satisfy two people. Also be sure to order a potato-filled samosa with red pepper flakes — they’re not too greasy and pack a spicy kick.
Mashallah is perfect for a hearty lunch, a late dinner, or a sticky-sweet desert. I’ve found that the spice level depends on what time of day you go — the lunch version is usually more mild than the late-night curry. The only downside is the pile of styrofoam dishware left over after you’ve devoured the meal. And no matter how much I order, I can never seem to spend more than $10 per person (the entire dinner for two people, with three curries, rice, garlic naan, and a side salad came to only $15).
Mashallah is located at 663 Coney Island Avenue, at the corner of Avenue C. You can call them at 718-287-0090.