Anmol Restaurant, 711 W. Mitchell St., might not be much to look at from the outside -- there are no bright lights or neon signs announcing its existence, and even the front door is deeply recessed a good 10 feet from the sidewalk.
Once you're through the door, the Pakistani and Indian restaurant isn't much to look at from the inside, either. The lights are bright and the small dining room is relatively sparse and quiet.
But the smells -- the rich scents of curry and fresh cilantro wafting from the kitchen in the back -- are enough to make you sit down and pick up a menu.
Some Indian restaurants in Milwaukee, like Bombay Sweets, put a special emphasis on vegetarian fare, as Hindus value the cow as a sacred animal.
But Anmol is more a Pakistani place, which is why you'll find beef, mutton, goat, chicken, fish and even brain on the menu in various forms, but you won't find pork, which is a no-no in Muslim countries. The front of the menu clearly states the restaurant's strict use of Zabiha Halal meat, which has been hand-slaughtered by Muslims according to Islamic Shariah. The chickens it uses are organic and hand-fed by Amish.
Nevertheless, the menu begins with five meat-free entrees ($7.95-$9.95) -- a curry, two masalas, the palak paneer and a daal -- each of which is served with a platter of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion (though we weren't quite sure how to incorporate these vegetables into the meal).
The saalan, or curries, make up the bulk of the menu and none of the 24 options ($9.95-$12.95) is meat-free. Next up are the "from the grill" offerings, including beef kababs, grilled fish and even a catfish fry battered in special spices.
In accordance with Muslim tradition, there is no alcohol served at Anmol, so don't expect that fish fry to be beer-battered.
A real Anmol highlight is its biryani selections, which come with either chicken, mutton, shrimp, fish or vegetables. The dish is based in basmati rice and mixes meats or vegetables and spices and is made even better with the addition of the complimentary green yogurt chutney.
The portion sizes here are on the large side and if you order a round of naan, you are guaranteed to be stuffed, or going home with leftovers. Still, if its variety you crave, the vegetable pakora appetizer is one of the best you'll find anywhere in Milwaukee. For $4.50, you receive a full plate of battered and fried vegetables and spices that are soft rather than crunchy and perfectly coated in cilantro.
The samosas, on the other hand, are slightly less impressive. Available stuffed with vegetables or meat, the small crispy triangles are not what you might expect from a traditional restaurant. They've got a bit of a spicy kick, which is nice, but are small and seem unworthy of the $2.50 price.
Anmol has been in business for several years now and seems to be doing well. It's always a good sign when other Pakistanis frequent the restaurant and order in abundance via Anmol's catering service. And if you become inspired by the foods you eat and want to dabble in your own kitchen, Sasta Bazaar, a Pakistani grocery store and butcher, is right next door.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”