Ala-din Indian & Pakistani Kitchen (阿拉丁) is in the middle of the crowded Raohe Street night market, and if your stomach is growling it might be hard to resist the temptation to sate yourself on the rows and rows of finger food and fried desserts you pass as you wend your way to the restaurant. But if you hold out long enough, Ala-din’s roti rolls will satisfy your hungry belly and its spicy curries will have your forehead beading with sweat.
The restaurant’s grill is out in front to entice browsers with kebabs and vegetables cooking on skewers; a plain and narrow but neat dining room stretches behind. With the exception of a famous oamisua shop at 49 Raohe St (饒河街49號), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better snack (or light meal) in this night market than Ala-din’s roti rolls (NT$80): the chapatti is made right before your eyes from dough that’s twirled then heated on a dry tava, and the portions of meat and vegetables come hot off the grill and are not to be scoffed at.
Because of their extensive menu and customizable set meals, Ala-din’s ordering system for sit-down diners might seem somewhat Byzantine — but, to be honest, the only reason the process was complicated was the two waitresses who hovered around our table and recited a list of options several times despite our insistence that we wanted to take our time with the menu. Perhaps the staff is used to dealing with customers who lack basic familiarity with South Asian cuisine, in which case such over-attentive service might be a plus.
In the end, we picked a beef masala set meal (牛肉濃汁瑪沙拉, NT$650) for two, as well as a plate of beef kebab (牛肉巴比Q, NT$260). Another order for channa masala, or chickpeas cooked in curry, was never delivered, but that ended up being a good thing because of the amount of food in the set meal: the beef masala, a bountiful heap of basmati rice, naan, a plate of vegetables, bowls of tomato and vegetable soup, Indian tea and lemon honey juice.
Address: 101 Raohe St, Taipei City (台北市饒河街101號)
Telephone: (02) 2765-9991
Open: Daily from 5pm to 1am
Average meal: NT$350 for sit-down dining; NT$80 for roti rolls from the grill
Details: English and Chinese menu; credit cards not accepted
Diners have the options of having their curries prepared slightly spicy, medium spicy or very spicy. Our beef masala was slightly spicy, but still hotter than curries at other popular Indian and Pakistani restaurants in Taipei, while the chunks of beef were reasonably tender. The vegetables, however, which included squash, peas and cabbage, were a tad overcooked and soggy and both drinks were forgettable, but the basmati rice, soup and naan were delicious. The latter, a flatbread baked in a tandoori oven, was particularly good: chewy and dense enough to scoop up plenty of curry with. The extra order of beef kebab outshone the beef masala. It was tender, savory and moist.