Pandemic Takeout 68: Original Mediterranean Grill (New Brighton, MN)

Despite the name of the restaurant this is actually a review of a Pakistani restaurant.

At the end of my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, posted late last year, I’d said that in 2021 I would try to finally get up to the Pakistani restaurants in the North Metro I’d heard tell of. Original Mediterranean Grill is one of them. It is one of a few (several?) Pakistani restaurants in the area that trade on Mediterranean, which is to say Mediterranean Arab branding. This may be a kind of allegory for Pakistani food in most of the US: usually elided by the relentless focus on Indian food but not able yet to proclaim its own name as a marketable category. And so in the Twin Cities—at least—it can be found in a few restaurants whose main hustle is a cuisine the mainstream market can recognize: gyros, shawarma, hummus, falafel etc. Elsewhere on the menu are some Pakistani dishes for those who know to look for them. So it is at Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton.

New Brighton, by the way, is a northern suburb of the Twin Cities whose existence I was not aware of until I headed out to pick up our order from Original Mediterranean Grill. It lies just north of Roseville, right off 35W. Original Mediterranean Grill occupies a decent-sized space in an unprepossessing corner of it. The restaurant is run by a couple—he’s Algerian and runs the front of the house; she’s Pakistani and oversees the kitchen. The menu is divided into two sections with some overlaps. Chicken tikka shows up in the “Plates” section that otherwise has the usual Mediterranean dishes and naan and samosas show up in the “Extras” section. But it’s the separate “Desi Dhaba” section where you will find an edited list of Pakistani dishes.

I had a nice chat in Urdu/Hindi with the chef and asked her why she didn’t put more Pakistani dishes on the menu—it currently has no dals, for example, or any vegetable dishes. She said she prefers to keep the menu compact and make sure everything is cooked fresh and with great care. Well, I can tell you after our takeout meal that everything is indeed cooked with great care. I brought most of that Pakistani menu back home to eat on our deck with friends and we all thought all of it was very tasty and that some dishes were rather good indeed. It really left me wishing that they’d put even more on that section of the menu. Though, of course, they are in business not for me but for a market they’ve probably gauged well.

What did we get?

For the kids we got several grilled meats: a gyros plate, the aforementioned chicken tikka (served as far smaller pieces than I was expecting), and the grilled marinated chicken plate. All were served with pita/naan atop basmati rice with salad and tzatziki on the side. The kids enjoyed all of these, the chicken tikka most of all.

The adults started with veg samosas. Four to an order, these are mildly spiced but very tasty. We also got two orders of the halwa puri. This is a classic—and decadent—breakfast/brunch item which comprises flaky puris served with a combination of sweet besan (chickpea flour) halwa and spicy chhole. Though we ate it in far from optimal conditions—for dinner, the puris reheated in a toaster oven—this was dynamite. I cannot wait to go back and eat it in person at the restaurant, brought fresh from the kitchen along with a cup of hot tea. The rest was not too shabby either. These included chicken chapli kabab—a flattened, mildly spiced patty of ground chicken, served here atop naan; bun kabab—a large shami kabab served in a burger bun with greens; chicken korma—on the bone, served atop basmati rice; nihari—boneless beef slow-cooked with spices; and goat biryani.

For sweets we got two order of the rasmalai and two orders of the halwa. The menu lists gajar/carrot halwa and I was under the impression that was what I was getting but it turned out to be more of the besan halwa served with the puri. But as it was quite good I had no complaints.

For a look at the food and the restaurant launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for price, overall thoughts and to see what’s coming next.

As I said, the food was all very tasty. I would be very happy to eat it again and again wish there were more Pakistani dishes on it. I do also wish that at least some of the dishes were spiced a little hotter—but again they probably have the pulse of their primary clientele. But beyond the lack of heat I had no complaints about the flavour of any of the dishes.

The total price with tax and tip came to just above $200. There was enough food to feed 8-9 adults. I will say that given the absence of dals and veg dishes on the menu I had cooked chholar dal and some saag to go with the rest. And one of our friends brought half a tart from Martha’s Treats in Dundas to round out the dessert selection.

On the whole, I recommend Original Mediterranean Grill highly, especially for the Pakistani dishes. You can’t go there in the hope of finding the North Indian curry house classics—no chicken tikka masala, dal makhani, palak paneer etc.—but what they do serve is very good indeed, and it’s served by warm and friendly people. Give them a go—you won’t regret it. And perhaps if enough people go and order the Pakistani dishes they’ll eventually be persuaded to expand that side of the menu a bit.

(By the way, I was told their new website was going to go live this week but I can’t seem to find it. I will add the link here when I have it. For now you can check out the menu in the slideshow above.)



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