Where have you been all my life?! These were the words that were screaming through my mind as I was chowing down on every perfect dish at Al Aseel Grill & Cafe on Richmond. I’d heard of it, I knew I needed to go, but alas, it was one of those places that was on my list but I hadn’t quite made it around to yet. That was my own misfortune because I was missing out on some of the most easily best food in Houston.
Upon walking into Al Aseel, you’ll notice the humble furniture, the ethnic décor, and the blasting music. I LOVE places like this. It’s like being transported into a completely different place outside of Houston….but that’s the best part of Houston, you can go ANYWHERE.
Thursday night, I traveled to Palestine.
We started off with the Hummus with Meat and the Tabouleh salad. Both unsuspecting dishes, but both made a statement. While the hummus itself was mild, nutty, and a little too simple for my full-flavored pleasure, the flavor and animal fat of the ground beef in the hummus added intrigue and richness, making for the perfect, balanced bite. Pair this with warm, crispy naan-like bread, a tiny scoop of hot pepper relish and a dollop of their garlic mayo (both of which come with your dishes), and you’ve got an extreme flavor explosion in your mouth. Nice creaminess from the hummus, the hot peppers cut through and add a little kick, and the sharpness of the garlic with the richness of mayo….it’s seriously the perfect bite. Make sure to steal a tiny piece of parsley from the Tabouleh to give it that tiny bit of bitterness that adds even more balance and elevates the bite even more.
Speaking of that Tabouleh…oh my god. I’m not a big fan of Tabouleh, or parsley even, but this Tabouleh was incredible!!! Perfectly seasoned, healthy amounts of Bulgur, and lemony!!!! This is what all Taboulehs aim to be. Never had I had a Tabouleh salad that actually tasted like something, and at that, something I liked!!! We had originally ordered this for the vegetable factor, but what I didn’t know was that I would be getting the biggest food surprise of this year yet. Tabouleh is often overlooked and deemed as a fresh, vegetable-y whatever, but Al Aseel finally gave it its time to shine.
Whole fried chicken has my whole heart
Next came the whole fried chicken. Y’all. Some of the best fried chicken in Houston! So perfectly flavored and peppery, a little heat, but PERFECT texture. The chicken was so crispy and juicy. The spice on it wasn’t overpowering- it still gave the meat a chance to come through, but was salty and spicy enough to be a full-flavored piece of bird. It came on a bed of wonderfully flavored yellow rice, and a simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley. I was so amazed by how delicious even the rice was. Could this place do no wrong? It really seemed like it, at this point.
Besides the hummus, the tabbouleh, and fried chicken, Al Aseel grill also offers the same whole or half chicken grilled, a great alternative if you’re not looking to get too wild, as well as other Palestinian specialities like Mussakhan chicken. I’m saving that one for the next trip.
This has easily shot up to my list of best places in Houston. It checks off all my boxes: Delicious, portrays Houston food culture, tells the history of Houston, great service (something that I don’t usually value as much as the other boxes, but is still important), makes me stop and think while eating, and is not just hyped. These are all important things to me, and Al Aseel exceeded the standard for each box. Oh, and extra points for being halal and for having hookah. If you're more into grabbing a crunchy chicken leg while binge-watching Netflix or your choice of TV (so into Planet Earth right now!), then call your order in to-go and get ready to nom down while watching Snow Leopards in Northern India catch their prey.
May the ice cream be ever in your flavor. NOMaste.