I’ve been eating at Al Noor for over 20 years, so I’ll be the first to admit that I’m biased towards their flavor. I always felt that it was the most “authentic” Indian/Pakistani food that I’ve found in Los Angeles. In the past, I would encounter families of Pakistanis eating in a small dining room with those sepia tinted NatGeo style photos of the regions of Pakistan. Since the advent of Yelp, the space doubled and especially on the weekends, most of the clientele are non-Indians/Pakistanis.
One day, I spoke to the owner’s son, Musab, and he admitted to me that their food is somewhat Westernized, but when they have visitors from the mother country, they will adjust the flavors accordingly. If you don’t feel Al Noor is Pakistani enough, then mention this anecdote and be prepared! I eat very spicy, my favorite cuisine is Thai, although “medium” at Al Noor is pushing my spice comfort zone boundaries.
In terms of Al Watan, the clientele is definitely more “authentic” as you walk in and it’s all Pakistani guys with thick beards. I feel that the clientele demographic speaks a lot about how and for whom the food is prepared for. Al Watan has fantastic grilled kabobs and their Palak Paneer (spinach with cheese) is the best I’ve ever had. Otherwise, I prefer Al Noor.
@Bigmouth, what dishes do you prefer at either?
My favorite Al Noor dishes are Lamb Qorma, Chicken Karahi, Baigan Bharta (eggplant - absolute favorite!) and Bhindi Masala (okra).
In 1999, Jonathan Gold recommended Al Noor’s Nehari and brains curry. I tried those dishes and feel that they’re OK. But for the adventurous, sure, it’s good to experience it once.