Best South Asian Restaurant: Fierce flavors and a hellish color scheme
West Berkeley's Kabana opened its doors long before the Naan 'N Curry and Pakwan empires came to the East Bay to hawk their Pakistani curries and kebabs at rock-bottom prices, and long before Indus Village set up shop around the corner, eager to poach customers. Never a pretty place -- there's a reason most interior designers recommend against painting your walls red, hunter green, lavender, and white -- Kabana is showing as much wear as a sixty-year-old tanning-salon owner. But the restaurant's food still rocks our world. The marinade on the kebabs chars nicely in the tandoor, yet the meat (halal, naturally) comes out juicy as it should be. Indian-Pakistani standards like the palak paneer (spinach with cheese) and chana dal (lentils and chickpeas) brim with aromatics and spices, not buckets of clarified butter, a claim the chains can't always match. And then there's Kabana's karahi chicken and lamb, both of which set off every synapse in the flavor-sensing part of our brains. No one is slacking off in this kitchen.