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Jamaica pan-Indian eatery big on freshness

Faziey Lohani (l. to r.), manager of Tikka Garden, poses with the establishment's cooks, Roy, Edris, Eddie, Roman and Ugtin. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
By Howard Koplowitz

Freshness is what drives Tikka Garden, a new establishment specializing in Bengali, Indian, Pakistani and Afghani cuisine in Jamaica.

“A lot of restaurants where you go to eat, they don’t have fresh food,” said Faziey Lohani, manager of Tikka Garden at 168-37 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica. “At the end of the shift, we dump the food, no matter what.”

The food served at Tikka Garden is halal, meaning it is kosher for Muslim customers.

Lohani said Tikka Garden has “three of the best chefs from the Indian community,” including the head chef, who has 28 years of experience, most recently working in Kuwait.

Tikka Garden opened 1 1/2 months ago.

“Since opening, we’ve had a lot of response because we’ve gotten compliments that our food is very tasty,” Lohani said.

Tikka Garden has a takeout area, two party hall spaces and outside garden seating that is scheduled to open in April.

Lohani said a majority of Tikka Garden’s customers — 70 percent — come from Long Island. The rest come from Jamaica.

“The Long Island people come on the weekend because we have a fine dining place over here and we have two dining halls,” Lohani explained.

The “tikka” in Tikka Garden comes from the type of oven used to cook food at the restaurant.

A typical full meal costs between $10 and $12, which includes two pieces of nan (bread), chicken tikka masala and a drink.

Lohani said Tikka Garden’s owner, Jiman Mahabub, owns electronics businesses in Jamaica and decided to open up Tikka Garden because of a lack of fresh food in the neighborhood.

“He’s very frustrated eating at all the restaurants, trying to find fresh food,” Lohani said.

Tikka Garden features 10 types of appetizers — six vegetarian and four non-vegetarian.

Seven of the 10 appetizers cost only $1, including aloo chop (deep-fried mash potatoes) and chicken samosa (deep-fried patties stuffed with ground chicken).

The restaurant also has 10 kinds of bread, eight kinds of kabobs and three types of curry: goat, beef and chicken.

Tikka Garden has 10 varieties of desert, nine of which cost $5. Jilapi, a kind of sweet, is $6 a pound.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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