"Fusion" used to be a word to avoid, one which translated to "lots on the menu, nothing done right." There's still a fair share of Chinese places serving terrible sushi, but more often than ever, "fusion" now means a legitimate combination of ingredients from different cultures that equals interesting, delicious things.
Dervish Table Top Grill in Stafford falls somewhere between the two categories, but succeeds nonetheless. The motley menu includes Indo-Pak curries and kebabs, yes, but also South Asian-accented "Chineese (sic) Cusine"; shrimp cocktail; fruit pasta salad; Middle Eastern eats like hummus, falafel, and kibbeh; and even Brazilian picanha. Dervish opened at the end of December, so it's still finding its legs. Likely, many of those dishes will eventually be shed in favor of what it does extremely well: Indo-Pak fun, fun, fun.
I started with Pani Puri Shots. Ever done a shotski? Imagine that, but with hollow fried dough puffs atop the glasses. Each crispy bite is filled with chickpeas and chopped onions and tomatoes. The tangy, cumin-scented shots are ready to be poured into the hole at the top of the chaat. It takes a deft hand (and mouth) to stay completely dry in the process, but that's just part of the amusement.
For a big appetite, the way to go is the Unlimited Grill, available only at dinner. The $24.99 deal includes a choice of Indian or Mediterranean appetizers, a curry, rice, and naan, alongside a choice of five all-you-can-eat proteins. The name of the restaurant suggests that guests cook the food at the table, Korean-barbecue-style. This isn't the case. The meat arrives from the kitchen already cooked, but the charcoal grills allow diners to keep the flesh warm and crisp it up a bit over the heat. I was entertained, but I am easily amused.
I did a smaller, modified version with three kebabs and a curry. For the latter, I chose the goat karahi, a stew of meltingly tender bone-in chevon in a rich, aromatic sauce. The chicken kebabs that I tried both used thigh meat, which benefited from the charcoal treatment. Of the two, I preferred the haryali boti, marinated in a combination of cilantro, mint and a collection of spices. But the beef balochi boti was my favorite—tender pieces of beef in an earthy "secret blend of spices."
It was cumin that responsible for my favorite bite at Dervish. Strangely, as much as I enjoyed the other items, the standout was the simple, buttery zeera rice, speckled with cilantro and toasted cumin seeds. I will return just for that rice. But that doesn't mean I don't also have big plans for an attempt at the Unlimited Grill.