Gul-Naz means “lovely rose” in the Pashto language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but its real meaning for me is a new restaurant on the hit parade, a reliable choice for Pakistani food without driving to L.A., and an excellent choice for take-out as well. Gul-Naz Cuisine of Pakistan is the sort of place that, if it were in Los Angeles, hipsters would hit before clubbing. Here, it’s in Colton, real close to Fiesta Village and a Dollar Tree, but you don’t need to save it for after putting around on the miniature golf course or trying to find a cheap deal on ankle socks—Gul-Naz is worthy of a special trip in and of itself.
And that’s because of the food, baby, the food. Pakistani cuisine is more meat-based than Indian fare and the meat dishes I tried here are top-notch. The chicken tikka masala is sweet yet hot, with the fresh chunks of white chicken meat combining nicely with the spicy and aromatic spices, along with the cilantro and cream sauce. The lamb here is also excellent, cooked succulently and extremely tender and juicy; I almost drove back to get more the next day. Veggie options also rock. Bangan bharta—a spicy eggplant dish—went nicely with the sublime Pakistan basmati rice. Did I mention that I love Gul-Naz?
Simple is also done well here. Their Afghani salad—owner Shaista Ahmed hails from Afghanistan—defines what makes a salad wicked brilliant. Lime, cilantro, Roma tomatoes, pie-shaped wedges of cucumber and white onions are mixed to perfection, with nary a crouton, ranch dressing, or clump of bacon or any other meat to be seen. In the land of artisan-everything and buzz foods, it’s nice to see the simple done on something of a grand scale. The garlic naan here is also amazing. It’s a bit crispier than most versions and full of green garlic chunks. It also serves nicely to scoop up any spare curries or sauces on the plate. A bowlful of the naan at Gul-Naz along with some of their elegantly-refined yogurt is one of the true highlights of IE dining; unadorned deliciousness in all its subdued glory.
Gul-Naz Cuisine of Pakistan is a simple place. The décor is plain and unassuming. The television plays Pakistani music videos; think a slightly more chaste Bollywood, and the owners and staff are incredibly helpful and polite and educated about the food they are serving as well. And their lunch specials are cheap, filling, and designed to nourish the spirit.
Gul-Naz Cuisine of Pakistan, 1624 E. Washington St. Colton, (909) 370-0111; www.myspace.com/gul_naz. D, MC, V.