One of the problems with enjoying the tasty specialties of far-off places is that memory is unforgiving. When you get a hankering for a taste that doesn't exist in your city, it can be most inconvenient to scratch that itch.
In New York City, one of the standard street-food specialties is "chicken and rice," usually offered in lamb as well. Its epicenter is 53rd and 6th Ave. in Manhattan, where it started on the southeast corner, and has been so successful that copycat operations have set up shop on other corners.
The dish is deceptively simple. Marinated meat is cooked on a griddle, chopped into pieces and served over rice. A white sauce, often made with mayonnaise and garlic, is applied to everything. Then there's hot sauce, usually custom-made, to add a warming touch.
After hearing about Madina from a co-worker, I headed over to check it out. The restaurant, 125 Mills St. (752-6311), looks like it was once a corner tavern, and it's a couple blocks from R & L Lounge, one of the irreplaceable old-school Buffalo taverns. It's beat up, but I wasn't there for the decor.
Owner Ala Baksha is from Bangladesh, and his halal offerings and fried fish kept a steady procession of taxi drivers and others stopping by to pick up food. If you want to eat there, there's a table in the back. I sat under an old pressed-tin ceiling, where I imagined the pool table once was.
The chicken and rice ($6.50, photo at top) was worth the trip. It wasn't as emphatically spiced as my favorite Manhattan versions, but the chicken plentiful and tender. The basmati rice was fluffy and fragrant with spices. The white sauce added to the party without drowning it out. The hot sauce was Frank's, which is fine but a letdown after some of the wild versions I've met in Midtown.
The lamb version ($6.99) was even more likable, with a deeper meat flavor.
Chicken seekh kabab ($6), chopped chicken with spices and chiles, was tasty enough, and moist inside, but its dry surface made me wonder if it was reheated.
Beef-filled fried turnovers called samosas ($1.50) were tasty too, but chewier than I would like.
The beef curry ($7.99) hit the spot, oily but delivering with an intriguing blend of spices and plenty of gravy and chewy meat. I spooned some out on the accompanying rice and dug in.
Madina's chicken and rice is close enough to Manhattan's to bring me back.
Here's the menu: