Sure, Bushwick, Brooklyn and Lahore, Pakistan are only a mere, uh, 6,989 miles apart, but that commute can be a bit too long when you're craving authentic Pakistani flavors. Fortunately, there's BK JANI: home to the first-ever Pakistani burger in New York City and delicious home-cooked meats.
It's easy to see why. The chef and owner, Sibte Hassan, immigrated to NYC from Lahore, the capital and culinary hub of Pakistan, and his passion for cooking fresh, uncomplicated food with friends prompted him to open BK JANI. The focus on homestyle cuisine and hospitality is immediately evident upon entering the cozy restaurant on Knickerbocker Ave: The interior is covered with vibrant, stylized murals by local artists and hand written testimonials from previous customers.
The beauty of BK JANI lies not in its colorful décor or ambience, but the simplicity of the food. The focused menu offers just five dishes -- lamb chops, seekh kabab, beef tikka, chicken tikka, and the standout burger -- all of which are grilled to order. Don't overthink the burger: With a patty butchered by Pat LaFrieda (of Shake Shack and Minetta Tavern fame), made with a secret five-meat blend, it's best enjoyed medium-rare. No need for ketchup and mustard here, either; a generous application of salt, Hassan’s signature mint chutney, and raita -- a cumin and mint yogurt sauce -- strikes the perfect balance of citrus and spice, providing all the flavor you could possibly want.
Top it off with fresh-grilled tomato slices and gently charred sesame bun, and it's no wonder some diners will trek hours to Bushwick simply so that their Pakistani mothers can try the dish. Naturally, we wanted to see for ourselves, so we sent Lawrence Weibman, aka @nycfoodguy, to BK JANI to take a bite out of the legendary burger. Check out this week's edition of The Explorers to see the burger Brooklyn can't stop talking about.
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Don't be fooled by the paper plate: the halal dishes served at this Pakistani kitchen in Bushwick far exceed what's slung from the city's food carts. BK Jani chef and owner Sibte Hassan brings the cuisine of his native Lahore to Brooklynites the way they like it: in a graffiti-mural splattered, fast-casual space. Heed the hand-written signs on the wall urging you to "get the lamb chops!" and extolling the "damn fine burger," which is a juicy orb adorned with raita, cumin, mint, a grilled tomato and a chili-and-pomegranate chutney. Grilled meats, particularly the lamb, are show-stoppers: chop lollipops come out moist, herb-rubbed and eminently devour-able. It's fortunate that BK Jani lives on the corner of Maria Hernandez Park, because you'll need to walk this one off.