When I only knew food courts in mall settings, I thought of them as destinations—but recently, I've started to consider them in the context of events: one day they'll have something amazing, and the next day it will all be gone.
I noticed some activity in a previously failed food court on Oak Tree Road in Iselin last week. Suddenly, the whitewash was gone, bright orange and green in its place; the garish flourecent lighting was turned up two notches and several of the stands were replaced.
The vegetarian side, called Idly's, did a great job of cooking up dosas on what appeared to be a couple of acres of perfectly seasoned grills.Indeed, there is no better place on Oak Tree Road to watch dosa making than this. Even the Thali plate, something that's normally nothing more than multicolored hot cereal, resonated with garlic and spices. And I thoroughly enjoyed a Onion Chilli Rava Dosa, with the kaleidoscope of flavors that you might expect from such a dish.
Across the room is Biryani Corner, with meat and fish; when I saw "Bheja Fry" on the menu, I almost started to cry from the thrill of it all. Hyderabadi-style Spicy Goat Brains! (I started to fantasize about Anthony Bourdian sharing a plate with me on camera...) But when I ordered, there were no brains in the kitchen. We went for a fish curry and some egg biriyani instead. Not quite as exciting, but really delicious. Somehow, Biryani Corner even made that vegetable standby Palak Paneer taste good. (The secret is simple—butter and salt—but plenty of restaurants don't seem to understand that.) On the less exotic end are vegetarian and chicken platters and a very enjoyable mutton platter. (Platters are around $8; dishes are in the $9 to $10 range.)
Here's the catch: places like this pop up all the time and almost never last; people complain about the high prices, the food declines, they try to tighten up some other way, and finally the doors close. So if you want to eat this food, move quickly—and don't forget the brains.
1317 Oak Tree Road, Iselin NJ 08830 (map) 732-283-0407