Kabab House
8102 Greenwood Ave N, 782-3611. Tues-Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-10 pm.

Kabab House is not much to look at, and in a perverse way, that fact raises expectations--it is, after all, in the little hellhole restaurants where you often have the most sublime experiences. Kabab House is shoved between a teriyaki place and a convenience store, and there are only a few tables; if those tables happen to be pushed together for a large party, you're stuck at the counter, a tad high for gracious eating but from where you can watch a cook make naan.

And this is the reason that you're there. Kabab House might just edge out Taste of India as the purveyor of the best naan in town. The other night I ate a tandoori aloo-parak paratha ($3.95) that nearly transported me into another realm altogether: naan with a thin layer of potatoes and spinach, tender in the center and charred on the outside, dusted with a salty-spicy topping. The plain naan is nearly perfect, especially dipped in a cooling yogurt sauce. There is a single cook whose purview it is to form the naan over a kind of pillow and then leverage it in and out of the tandoori--a dignified and worthwhile job, if ever there was one.

I had been hearing about Kabab House for years--about the halibut masala and of course the bread--and then I heard the place had been sold and had since gone downhill. I can't speak to how it's changed, but I will say that almost nothing else I ate approached the naan, although the samosas (beef for $2.15--Kabab House is a Pakistani halal restaurant, which is Muslim, not Hindu, so beef is served--and a dense, flaky potato-pea variety for $1.75) were pretty good. I tried the lamb boti kabab ($9.95), cooked on big metal skewers that look like swords, and it was flavorful enough but neither particularly tender nor gristle-free; and a half chargha ($7.49), which is a marinated chicken that has been deep-fried hard, until the flesh has fused to the skin and it is nearly impossible to chew. I'm still wondering why I didn't order the halibut masala--one of life's great mysteries.

Well, the sublime always carries a risk, doesn't it? Isn't the sublime tied more to fear than to easy joy? And the naan--good naan makes a lot of bad things better, on most days.