Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.
When we walked into Persis Biryani Indian Grill, a small-chain strip mall Indian restaurant in Eagan, we weren’t sure if they were still a going concern. The AC was cranked to provide a walk-in fridge-like atmosphere (on a 68-degree day), there wasn’t a customer in sight, and the place was eerily silent save for the clanking of a server stocking the buffet with silverware.
We were shown to a booth where we waited, patiently, for a menu that would never arrive—“Buffet only, today,” we were eventually informed. Not a promising start.
Then we hit the buffet ($12), concentrating on the chicken biryani, which was the most intriguing of the numerous serviceable but unremarkable-looking dishes on offer.
Here’s the thing: It was great. Perhaps the best chicken biryani we’ve eaten. Lots of places serve their biryani off the bone and the chicken tends to dry out (particularly under buffet heat lamps). This stuff was bone-in and tender as can be, with a cumin-forward depth of spice that was savory and delicious, and a spicy heat that was aggressive but balanced. The rice was perfectly cooked, with some spice and textural fight left in it, without being undercooked or crunchy.
This isn’t a ready-for-grandma dish (unless grandma hails from North India or Pakistan). You need to carefully separate the meat from the bone and half-chew to make sure you haven’t missed any little bits of bone or gristle. But the tradeoff is some of the biggest flavor and most pleasing texture that we’ve bumped into in quite some time.
THE DISH: Chicken Biryani, $12 (as part of weekday buffet)
THE PLACE: Persis Biryani Grill, 1282A Town Centre Drive, Eagan, MN
THE REASON: Depth of spice, beautifully balanced heat, and a surprisingly challenging culinary experience in an unexpected setting