I was driving down a deserted stretch in Hicksville recently, and noted that, somehow, despite having covered Long Island for more than 20 years, this was my first time on New South Road.
Then I saw the multicolored pennants that signal a “grand opening” and an illuminated sign announcing “Pista House: World Famous Biryani * Kebab * Haleem.”
Sandwiched between Ultimate Class Limousines and American Universal Supply, Pista House could not have looked less like a world-famous restaurant, but I was intrigued by the promise of haleem which, unlike biryani and kebabs, is a rarity on Long Island.
Haleem is, essentially, a porridge made from meat, grains and pulses. It is a specialty of Hyderabad, the city where Pista House got its start. There are nine Pista Houses there, plus more around India, Dubai and the United States. The Hicksville location, a franchise, is New York’s first.
The haleem at Pista House has an unpromising brown color and disconcertingly gluey texture, but it packs a flavorful punch. Besides wheat, goat meat and ghee (clarified butter), it also contains basmati rice, black cumin seeds, coriander, rose petals, milk, nuts and much more. Green chillies bestow a spicy backbone, and a sprinkling of crisp fried onions adds crunch.
The bowl I ordered cost $13, but it was so rich I barely finished half. When the server brought me the rest to take home, it was packaged in a darling little branded “Pista House Haleem” container.
In addition to haleem, Pista House serves kebabs, biryani (baked rice dishes), curries and tandoori specialties, breads and desserts. Most items are in the $9 to $13 range.
Pista House is at 104 New South Rd., Hicksville, 516-465-5604, pistahousenewyork.com.