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WASHINGTON, DC - Indique May 17 2017

I hope you all had a great weekend and enjoying a great start to your Tuesday morning…

I wanted to share my experience at Indique in Cleveland Park. I had a business meeting and decided to go there. This location is one of the flagship Indian restaurants of Washington, DC and has stood the test of time for years. I heard that there has been a change in the chef, so I thought it would be a good idea to try the place.

The ambience at Indique and Indique Heights (now closed) has always been great. The artwork on the walls, their hospitality, and selection of wines has always been good. It was not my first time here, so I was pretty aware of what I was going into. The place is big and at 7 pm on a Wednesday night, there were about 12 people at the restaurant for the time we were there (until 830ish).

My first item – Mango Lassi. It was sweet and sour, it was good, but maybe the yogurt was not strained and that is why the whey made it sour?

The menu has changed a little bit in each section. I’ve noticed a new element on the menu called a 'FUSION' dish. It sounded interesting so we ordered one - Aachari Chicken Paratha Taco. Looked very much like a twist on a Kathi Roll, which I can appreciate. The flavors were okay but it was quite difficult to pick up and eat without making a mess. The paratha (or “taco shell” in this case) was very small for my liking but the highlight of this dish was the subtle hint of Indian pickle (which are spicy, oil and super salty – nothing like the American pickles for patrons who may not know).

We then ordered Garlic Naan, which was amazing! A nice big naan, perfectly rolled with a ton of garlic – YUM! Curries were ordered next, of course. We selected two distinct curries - Kerala Fish Curry and Butter Chicken.

Kerala Fish Curry was a bit bitter. There was a lot of red chili flavor and color, but more coconut would have cut the bitterness from the spices. Rice and puttu (coconut and rice preparation) accompanied the fish curry, which is a traditional breakfast item in Kerala. Not an easy dish to prepare so kudos to the chef for perfectly executing the puttu. While the curry was okay, the cod pieces were succulent.

I was more disappointed with Butter Chicken. All my life and in all my classes, I always make sure to stress to patrons that the key ingredient in Butter Chicken is not butter nor chicken, but it is dry fenugreek leaves. And I did not see that in this dish. It tasted decent, but it was not done right.

Overall, Indique is pricy with curries that are okay. Also, they charge for a chutney sampler. If I am paying $95 (with tip) for a two-person dinner, I would expect better curries. Feel free to learn more about Indique at indique.com


SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Taj Campton Place January 18 2016

Campton Place Restaurant is housed in the iconic Taj Campton Place Hotel located in the heart of Union Square. It is located at 340 Stockton Street, Located on the corner of Stockton & Sutter.

It is a Modern Indian meets Californian cuisine Michelin Star restaurant that received 2 Michelin starts for 2016. My friends and I decide to visit this restaurant and try out it's creation.

Cuisine: Modern Indian

Ambience: Formal Dining

 

As you would expect from a Michelin star restaurant, the service was exceptional. The staff attended us well and treated us with great care. Overall, this place is a must visit. The service is exceptional and so is the food.

I went for the Spice Route Pre-fix Menu. Before the meal, we were served with mini Naans and a series of appetizers. We had regular naan, and we had quinoa naan, which was quite unusal but very good. Naans were perfectly cooked, although something tells me that they do not have a charcoal fired tandoor to cook their naan.

For the the main course, we had a wonderful paani poori that was served in a small pot plant, with dry ice on the outside, extremely pretty presentation, and unique. Paani poori is a traditional Indian classic street food, and I had never seen such a presentation. The vegetable curries were all very good, and I  must say that the vegetarian spice route menu is far better than the ones with meat. Although the meats were perfectly cooked, there is something about Indian food, that it has to be served with a curry, and not using curry as a side on the dish. I highly recommend grilled mushrooms served in banana leaves with coconut rice. That was my favorite dish for the night.

After the palate cleanser, we were served with a mango sorbet, mandarin sorbet and chocolate ganache, and all of them were amazing. We were left full and delightful after our scrumptious meal, so thank you Taj Campton!

Rupen


WASHINGTON, DC - Rasika West End (Sunday Brunch) April 21 2015

This past weekend, I went to Rasika in the West End, which is perhaps the number one Indian restaurant, not only in DC, but in the entire United States.

Sunday brunch is a concept that Rasika has recently added to their menu. It is a limited selection of curries and other items including Appetizers, Entrees, Breads, and Desserts, with Tea and Coffee. The array of options is clean and simple.

I ordered Crab Poha as my appetizer. Poha, a flat rice dish lightly spiced and made with potatoes, cauliflower, or green peas, depending on the region. It is light and dry, usually with some coconut. The one I had at Rasika was made with crab; I thought it was an excellent idea to pair crab with Poha. The dish was liquidy and served with a green chutney. The presentation was great, and even though I would have liked a garnish of cumin seeds and curry leaves in my Poha, the dish tasted really good.

I ordered the classic Coconut and Jaggery Pancakes for my entrée; however, the result was quite disappointing. I was presented with 3 regular cocnut pancakes, within which there was a layer of jaggery. It was garnished with caramel sauce and berries. I would not recommend this dish.

We ended the meal with some coffee at Rasika, which was simple and nice. The service is excellent, they take good care of their customers.

Thank you Rasika.


ANNAPOLIS, MD - Basmati April 21 2015

BASMATI INDIAN CUISINE

2444 SOLOMONS ISLAND ROAD

ANNAPOLIS, MD 21401

PHONE: 410.266.6355

http://www.basmatiofannapolis.com/

 

This past weekend, I went to Annapolis, MD. It was a mere one-hour drive from Washington, DC and surprisingly in the past 10 years, I had never been there before. I absolutely loved it! On my way back, I decided to try out this popular Indian restaurant called Basmati, which is the name of the highest quality rice grain that India produces.

The restaurant is located away from downtown Annapolis. The smell of curries reached the parking lot as I was trying to park my car. The ambiance was great; it seemed like a Punjabi family owned the place. Staff is very friendly and attentive as soon as you enter.

The restaurant was busy since it was Saturday night, that’s why it look a little longer than usual for them to bring out the dishes. The menu, to say the least, is elaborate. There are too many dishes that one has to quickly look over, the menu runs into 5 or 6 pages.

There is no thali (a steel plate that contains various dishes and bread, rice, and sweet), but they have a good option for half orders. I went for a half order of Chicken Vindaloo (medium spicy), Chicken Xacuti (medium spicy), Potato and Spinach (spicy), and Punjab Yogurt Kadhi (spicy). All the dishes were good, especially the Chicken Xacuti, which is a Goan dish, and for a Punjab restaurant owner to nail it was pretty awesome!

The breads were good too, we got Mint Paratha and Lachcha Paratha, they were both good, not overtly buttered, nice and flaky, warm and fresh. Loved it! For dessert, we got Gulab Jamun, which I think was made from a store-bough pre-mix and was absolutely disappointing, I would not recommend it here.

Overall, a good experience. B+ for ambiance and B+ for food.

Thank you Basmati!


VIENNA, VA - Turmeric Indian Dining March 24 2015

http://www.dineturmeric.com/

405 Maple Avenue East

Vienna, VA 22180

(703) 938 0100

 

This past weekend my friends and I tried out a little Indian place called Turmeric in Vienna, VA. The ambiance was nice; they had pleasant seating and quick service. The waiters and staff were very friendly.

The menu here is a pretty standard menu that one shall find at any average Indian restaurant, nothing special about it. We got Samosas and Grilled (Tawa) Shrimp for appetizers. The Samosa was good, not double fried, not greasy; however, the appetizer, though filling, was not flavorful and had almost no salt. The shrimp dish was bland, and somehow the sauce was not blending well with the cooked shrimp.

The entrees were 'mathematically' done, perhaps engineered in a way that you can order any meat or vegetable with any sauce. This, I certainly have a problem with. Each sauce is specially designed for a specific meat- by merely adding any cooked meat to any sauce, the result will be disappointing.

One of the dishes we ordered was Chicken Tikka Masala. The sauce did not stick to the meat, and the meat was not grilled enough. The sauce was too sweet and not creamy enough. The Cauliflower and Potatoes vegetarian dish was nice and spicy, although the onions could have been cooked a bit more.

We ordered Garlic Naan, which was yummy, and Tandoori Roti. The Tandoori Rotis were dry and too thin, they could have been a bit thicker. 

I give a B- for the food and B+ for ambiance.

Thank you Turmeric!


Washington, DC - INDIGO January 29 2015

https://www.facebook.com/indigo.dc.5

243 K Street, NE

Washington, District of Columbia

(202) 544-4777

Indigo DC is a small family run Indian restaurant near Union Station, DC. They do not have a website, only a Facebook page. The menu seems like it changes on a weekly basis. It is a great place to pick up lunch on a weekday. At least, that’s what I did!

The ambiance is Bohemian made Indian. It is cute, with a ton of graffiti on their walls, map of Jalandhar (the town where the family is from) and some other artsy stuff. Bollywood movies and music play on a couple of television sets as you enjoy the lunch.

 The food is good quality. They do not serve naan, instead they serve authentic parathas and rotis, with some creations like spinach parathas, my favorite!

The menu is hand-written on a blackboard using chalk, and the menu is rather confusing. Chicken Tikka is not the same dish as Chicken Tikka Masala; my coworker got confused and he was quite disappointed when he realized he had ordered the wrong dish.

Portion size is decent and it will fill you up with a bread, rice, and a couple of curries. The lunch is pretty expensive. Cheapest were $11- $12 dishes, without bread, so if you want bread and rice, you will end up spending $18 with tax, and maybe $20 with tip. This is pretty high for lunch.

The array of chutneys and Indian pickles are fresh and tasty, what a delight!

 Overall, a good place, but the menu needs to be simpler and the dishes need to be cheaper, for a lunchtime crowd that is. Afterall, the restaurant is in a corporate jungle.

B+ for the food, and B+ for the ambiance.

 

Thanks Indigo DC

Bethesda, MD - TANDOORI NIGHTS January 29 2015

Tandoori Nights - Bethesda

www.tandoorinightsmd.com

7236 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda MD 20814

301-656-4002

Tandoori Nights has various locations, I visited the Bethesda, MD restaurant with a few of my friends. The ambiance is good, however the exhaust and the ventilation in this restaurant is an issue. The restaurant smells of Indian food as soon as you enter, and if someone orders grilled chicken, brought on a sizzle plate, the entire restaurant starts smoking.

We ordered 5 appetizers, 4 entrees, the bread basket, and 2 desserts. The appetizers were average, at best. The potato pancakes were warm and nice, but overcooked. The other appetizers that all tasted the same were Bhel Puri, Raj Kachori (pretty bad job on the bread), and chaat. Save yourself some money and order only one of these, they taste quite alike. Chicken 65 tasted good, although there was a lot of food coloring used.

The entrees were highly disappointing. We ordered 3 vegetarian curries (Matar Paneer, Malai Kofta and Eggplant) and all 3 had the same sauce. The sauce was good, but having 3 entrees made in the same sauce was a little bland. The menu was highly disappointing in its diversity. We ordered a spinach and chicken dish that was creamy (no need). It had very few pieces of chicken and the spinach was not pureed/ cooked completely. Breads were all good, and rice accompanied the entrees.

For dessert we got Kulfi (the Indian ice-cream that is not churned), it had ice in it, suggesting that the milk was not cooked until the level where it should have been cooked. The gulab jamuns were good, those were well-made.

I give B for ambiance and C for food.

 

Thank you Tandoori Nights!


WBALTV - TV appearance December 15 2014

Recently, I was a guest on WBALTV network, here are the links to the show.

 

Butter Chicken

 

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/learn-how-to-make-butter-chicken/30239174

 

Kashmir Lamb Curry

 

http://www.wbaltv.com/entertainment/food/rupens-kashmir-lamb-curry/30200318

 

 

Enjoy!


Thanksgiving Made Indian November 29 2014

This year, I had a 'Friendsgiving' in Columbus, IN. The plan was to prepare the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with an Indian twist. I had a great time, and all my friends helped, so cooking was easy and fun!

 

Menu:

 

APPETIZERS

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Brie Cheese, Apple and Cinnamon Goat Cheese

Crackers

 

MAINS

Coconut Green Beans

Pumpkin Raita

Tandoori Chicken

Rosemary Potatoes

Masala Rice with Cashew nuts

 

DESSERTS

Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pie with Vanilla Ice-cream

Masala Chai


Istanbul, Turkey - MUSAFIR INDIAN September 04 2014

Recip Pasa Caddessi No: 7

C Talimhane

Taksim

Istanbul, Turkey

  <br /><br />

http://www.musafirindian.com/en/

 <br /><br />

 

During my visit to Istanbul, Tukey, I had the opportunity to try out the newly opened 'Musafir', located in Taksim Square (a popular tourist destination in Istanbul). <br /><br />

 

Because I had been feasting on various Turkish specialties throughout my trip, I decided to go for a simple dinner at Musafir (Musafir in the Urdu language means 'guest') The restaurant owner is from Punjab, one of the northern states of India. <br /><br />

 

The ambience is like any other mid-range Indian restaurant in the US. Bollywood songs played in the background and the seating options included both indoors and outdoors tables. The restaurant seemed packed (even at 10 pm on Sunday night); however, Istanbul nightlife begins and ends late into the night! The restaurant owner knew a lot of the people who stopped by, adding a nice personalized touch. <br /><br />

 

I ordered a vegetarian dish with potatoes and spinach (aloo palak). I was pleasantly surprised that there was no cream in the aloo palak, which is a good indicator of an authentic recipe. The spinach was pureed perfectly and the portion size was good for one person. I ordered it to be spicy; it could have been a bit more spicier. I also ordered tandoor roti (grilled wheat bread) and garlic naan. The breads were good, I could detect the Turkish style of preparation. They were a bit bigger and flatter, but yummy!  <br /><br />

 

The service was excellent, and the owners were quite pleasant to talk to and took good care of their guests.
<br /><br />

 

B+ for ambience, A for service, A for food. <p></p>

 <br /><br />

Thank you Musafir Indian!

Toronto, ON - BINDIYA August 12 2014

Bindia Indian Bistro

www.bindia.ca

16 Market Street, Toronto, ON

(416) 863 0000

 

I spent my weekend in Toronto, Canada trying out the local cuisine. What better way to get taste of the culture than by sampling the food! My friend and I decided to try an Indian restaurant, so we looked up the reviews online and found Bindiya (which means a dot that Indian (Hindu) women wear on their forehead). This Indian Bistro is located in the historic Market Street area right in front of St. Lawrence Market.

To know if a place is hygienic, you can usually start with the bathroom. The bathrooms at this restaurant are beautiful, super clean, and hygienic. I got a good impression of this place.

The lunch menu is short and simple. We ordered Chana Masala (Spicy Chickpeas curry) with white basmati rice and mango chutney. We also ordered Butter Chicken with Naan and Raita.

We asked the meal to be medium hot, yet it was slightly spicier than medium hot, so be careful with that! Presentation of the meal was beautiful. Chickpeas and rice were just like mom's cooking at home. Talk about tasty! The mango chutney was store-bought, not a big fan of that. Butter Chicken was great, except that the chicken pieces were a bit too big and it was difficult to cut through in a curry. Naan was made well, but since they may not have a charcoal oven (Tandoor), the Naan lacked the smokey ethnic flavor.

For dessert, we ordered Gulab Jamun (Brown milk balls in sugar syrup), which, when served warm, are spongy and super flavorful and sweet. Perfect! Along with this dessert, we ordered Carrot Pudding; fondly, they call it Gajrela, which is a Punjabi name for Gaajar Halwa. It could have been sweeter. Both the desserts were served with a super good quality vanilla ice-cream, St. Claire's. The restaurant does not mention this on their menu, but they source their ingredients from the world famous historic St. Lawrence Market. They should probably make a note of this fun fact on their menu!

 

Thank you Bindiya!

 

Rupen

 


Fairfax, VA - BOMBAY CAFE July 24 2014

Bombay Cafe
Fairfax, VA
11213 Lee Hwy, Fairfax, VA 22030

(703) 352-8282

www.aaoji.com



July 12th, 2014 was the South Asian queer group's (KhushDC) 20th anniversary Gala event in Washington, DC. I was participating in this event selling my books and the food at this even was catered by Bombay Cafe, Fairfax, VA.

For appetizers we had green cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney, both of them were good. We had tandoori chicken tikkas, skewered chicken kebabs, fish fry, and chaat. I liked the chutneys, they were fresh and not spicy. The appetizers were all amazing, loved the smokiness in chicken tikkas and the saltiness in skewered chicken kebabs. The fish fry was perhaps the best dish of the night, perfectly seasoned, the fish pieces were melting in my mouth.

For dinner, we had lentils (dal), paneer butter masala and chicken tikka masala, cauliflower subzi, some rice and naan bread. The paneer butter masala was good, but every other dish was average. Cauliflower was greasy, and rice was lumpy. Naan was not good at all, which was quite dissappointing. Naan felt like it was bought from a store and not made in the restaurant itself.

Finally, for dessert, we had gulab jamuns. Point to note here is that gulab jamuns are difficult to make, and they did an amazing job with gulab jamuns. The balls were perfectly shaped and fried and the dense and utterly sweet sugar syrup was perfectly made.

Overall, great appetizers and great dessert. The entrees were not impressive at all.

Thank you Bombay Cafe!



Rupen


Pittsburgh, PA - ALL INDIA June 21 2014

Recently, I was in Pittsburgh, PA for a friend's wedding. We after the festivities, we decided to order in some Indian food from All India Restaurant.

We ordered a vegetarian meal (usually in Hindu weddings, meal is entirely vegetarian) consisting of samosas and chutneys for appetizers. The Samosas were good, flakey and not very greasy. The potato stuffing inside was flavorful and not too spicy, which was good. The tamarind chutney was just average; however, their green chutney was fresh, and I really liked it. It had cilantro and mango, as well, for a bit of flavor. The mango flavor was quite unique.

For the main course, we ordered Chickpeas curry, Okra with onions and bell peppers, Matar Paneer (Green Peas and Paneer in a creamy tomato sweet sauce), Vegetable Biryani, and Raita. The Okra dish was tasty but greasy- they could have done with less oil. The Vegetable Biryani was good, but since the restaurant used ground spices, none of the flavor stood out in the dish. Raita (yogurt sauce) with the Biryani was good. The chickpeas dish was the highlight of the meal, and it tasted delicious! Spicy, tart, and flavorful, it was done pretty well. The Matar Paneer had no Paneer that I could find, but the sauce and petite green peas made it flavorful.

The Naan was disappointing, I mean, really disappointing. So was the dessert - Gulab Jamun. Gulab Jamuns (brown milk balls dunked in super sweet sugar syrup) are not easy to make. When I ate a couple of them, the syrup had not permeated the thick milk balls, making for a dry bite.

Overall, a very average meal.

Thank you All India!

Philadelphia, PA - TASHAN April 12 2014

Tashan

777 S. Broad Street

Philadelphia, PA - 19147

www.mytashan.com

 

Tashan is a fine dining Indian restaurant in Philadelphia, PA. While visiting a friend recently, I decided to check out this acclaimed restaurant.

The ambience here is the perfect blend of what modern India looks and feels like. The décor is impeccable, and even the bathroom is beautiful. Since it is fine dining, I would suggest business casual attire or eveningwear at this restaurant.

The menu offers a variety of popular dishes, as well as a good number of exotic dishes. It is interesting that each dish comes to you well-crafted and served in a unique manner. This restaurant definitely gets an A for presentation. It can very well be compared to fine dining Indian restaurants in New York City.

My friend and I decided to order a few dishes (that is what they suggest, like tapas). About 2 or 3 dishes per person will be plenty. There is also a choice of chef's dinner, wherein you get 3 dishes and bread.

For our drink, we ordered Mango Lassi; it was good, it tasted different than most other mango lassis that I have had, but it was a very tasty drink.

The first dish that came to us was Tandoori Shrimp, it was a HUGE dissapointment. The shrimp was bland, lacked flavor, and it was accompanied by flavorless cashew semolina. I began to wonder if the remaining part of the meal would follow suit. Along with it came Salmon Tikka, which was well done, and it tasted delicious, but still lacked the 'oomph' factor.

We ordered Chicken Makhani, it was extremely tasty, a bit on the sweeter side, but the addition of cashew nut puree made it even rich and delicious. It was my best dish at this restaurant. We ordered Tandoori roti also, it was very well done.

Finally, we ordered Vegetable Biryani, which was good and spicy. A good amount of Paneer cheese made this biryani even more special.

A for the ambience, A- for the food. Would I go there again, YES! There are a lot of dishes to try out at this restaurant!

 

 

Thank you Tashan!


San Francisco, CA - GAJALEE March 12 2014

Gajalee

525 Valencia Street

San Francisco, CA 94110

www.Gajalee.net

 

Gajalee is an Indian restaurant on Valencia Street in San Francisco, CA. Valencia street has many Indian restaurants and Gajalee happens to stand out since it offers coastal Indian food (seafood curries from the coastal regions of India). Gajalee is not in any way related to the famous Gajalee restaurant in Mumbai, India, which also happens to specialize in coastal Indian food.

While at Gajalee, I ordered Solkadi, a coconut milk based sour Indian drink that is often had with coastal fish curries. It helps with digestion, and it gets its pink color from 'kokum', which is a tropical sour fruit. Solkadi here was made from canned coconut milk, not good! When making solkadi, you want to squeeze coconut milk from fresh coconuts.

For the entree, I ordered fried fish and their most famous curry, Malvani curry. Both the entrees were extremely delicious and perfectly made. I was very happy after my meal. 

The waitress (from Nepal) was quite friendly and chatty. She spoke at length about how difficult it is for them to source specific fishes from India for their restaurant, and that they try to do their best but sometimes the fishes are not available.

Overall, they do a great job with their dishes. I would definitely go there again for my meal the next time I am in San Francisco.

A for service and A- for food!

Thank you Gajalee!


Arlington, VA - AROMA March 12 2014

Aroma Indian Restaurant

4052 Campbell Avenue

Arlington, VA - 22206

http://aromarestaurant.com/va/

 

Aroma is an Indian restaurant that located in Shirlington (near Arlington) in Virginia. They serve traditional Indian food, for dine-in and take out.

Recently, my friend and I went there for a Sunday afternoon buffet. The buffet was priced for $13, quite moderately priced for a decent buffet.

I sampled Naan, Saag Paneer (Spinach with Indian cottage cheese cubes), Butter Chicken, Mushroom curry, and the Indian pickle. Naan was well done, I really enjoyed it, and it was not greasy or thick.

The best part of the buffet was the Butter Chicken; it was buttery (not creamy), spicy, the chicken was tender and sweet...I had 2 helpings of it :)

The spinach saag was nice, although the paneer cubes were dry and tough. They could have put the paneer cubes in hot water and added sauce. They may have been hard because they were sitting in the buffet for sometime. Anyhow, it was a decent dish.

The unique thing on the menu was their Mushroom curry. The curry consisted of Button mushrooms with thinly sliced onions and an onion seed sauce (spicy and tangy). The dish that was very well cooked, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rice was plain and over-salted. The dessert was Gulab Jamun (brown milk balls dunked in sugar syrup). They were freshly made and soft, although they could have been slightly less warm, I had 2 and my friend had 7 :)

The only thing that I would suggest here is that they do not call the tea ‘Indian Masala Chai’, as they carry Black Tea, which is different. It takes a bit of effort to make Masala Chai, but since their restaurant is good, they should accomodate it!

B+ for both food and ambience!

Thank you Aroma!


Columbia, MD - ROYAL TAJ March 12 2014

Royal Taj

8874 McGaw Rd,

Columbia, MD 21045

www.royaltajmd.com/

 

Royal Taj is located in Columbia, MD, in between Baltimore and Washington, DC.

While I was visiting close friends in DC, I happened to stop by at this restaurant. The restaurant has a unique decor, trendy, yet traditional. It is a Punjabi restaurant run by Punjabis; the decor speaks for itself.

I was there at 7 pm and the place was packed, and by the time I finished eating, it was 8:30 pm and people were still waiting in line to be seated. This is quite a popular place in the area!

The staff is quite friendly, customer-oriented, and greets you well and makes you feel special. This is something quite distinct about this particular place that I really liked that.

Since I had had a big lunch, I tried to eat less and ordered special dishes on their menu, Vegetable Rolls fried and served in a creamy sweet sauce (Malai Kofta). They were very well made, a bit spicy, but definitely special and the sauce was perfect. Along with the creamy sweet dish, I ordered Chicken Vindaloo; it was quite spicy, a bit different than what I have usually had. They need to add more vinegar to their sauce...it could have been more authentic.

For breads, I ordered Tandoori Roti (wheat Naan, if I may) and Aloo Paratha (spiced potato stuffed in wheat bread); both were decent. The paratha could have been more flavorful. Aloo Paratha is in fact a specialty of Punjab, I would expect the preparation to be a bit better.

I did not order dessert, but like all patrons, I was given a free dessert: one piece of Gulab Jamun. The syrup was well done, but the milk ball was not completely cooked from the inside.

I would rate A- for the ambience and atmosphere and B+ for food.

Thank you Royal Taj!


Manhattan, NY - SARVANNA BHAVAN February 26 2014

Sarvanna Bhavan, New York, New York

81, Lexington Avenue

Manhattan

New York - 10016

http://www.saravanabhavan.com/

 

Lexington Avenue in Manhattan boasts of several Indian restaurants; it’s also known as 'Little India'. To survive on this street, one must serve delicious and authentic Indian food. Sarvanna Bhavan does exactly that by serving savory South Indian vegetarian dishes. 

My friend and I visited this restaurant this past weekend. It has a simple and charming environment, very clean, not smelly at all, and all the customers are given a warm welcome. When we walked in, the restaurant was packed! It is always good to see that there are many Indians enjoying a meal at a South Indian restaurant. Kids, parents, families, friends, couples- you see all of them here.

The service was quick, there was not much of a wait between ordering food and having it on the table. We started with Filter Coffee (a South Indian specialty), it was a bit too strong, not sure why, but it was served in a steel glass with a steel cup to cool it; it was well foamed and we enjoyed it. It was served just the same way as in South India.

For appetizers, we ordered Mysore Bonda (lentil fritters just the way they are made in the grandiose city of Mysore, India). The Bonda was very well cooked, delicious, and was served with Sambhar (lentil soup), coconut chutney, and cilantro coconut chutney . Everything was yummy, hats off to them for getting the coconut chutney right!

For the main meal, we ordered Rava Masala dosa (Dosa is a lentil and rice crepe, but in a Rava Dosa, there is no rice or lentil used, instead semolina is used). The Masala (stuffing) consisted of mashed potato and onion, a typical masala for dosa. This dish came with two chutneys and sambhar, and it was very good!

I ordered Mysore Masala Dosa with onions, and although it was great overall, I was slightly disappointed by the big chunks of onions, they could have been chopped finer. Also, a Mysore Dosa specialty is that the dosa has a thin layer of red Mysore chutney, which in this case could have had a bit more salt spicy; mine was bland. This, too, was served with chutneys and sambhar.

I would rate Aarvanna Bhavan A- for service and A for the food.

Afterthought: If you are looking for a leisurely ambience where you can eat and relax, this may not be the place for you. The number of people coming in and out disrupts the flow a bit. As soon as you finish your meal, the waiters are quick to hand you the check and you feel obligated to leave sooner.

Thank you Sarvanna Bhavan!


Richmond, VA - FAROUK'S HOUSE OF INDIA February 22 2014

Farouk's House of India

3033 West Carry Street,

Richmond, VA - 23221

http://www.faroukshouseofindia.com/

 

On my recent trip to Virginia, I happened to stop by Farouk's House of India, a popular restaurant in Richmond.

The restaurant has a simple ambience; owned by Punjabis on a busy street, it has been around for more than 30 years. Talk about being a popular eatery!

My friends and I ordered the vegetarian appetizer platter. The Samosa was double fried, therefore greasy and darker than usual. This is my most common complaint from Indian restaurants in the US. The best part of the platter was the pakoras and the onion bhajis. They seemed to have added a tiny bit of sugar in the batter, or the sweet flavor may have come from the onions. Overall, very tasty, I would definitely recommend the pakoras and bhajis.

For breads, we ordered naan (which was semi-cooked, hence doughy) and cauliflower parathas (being a Punjabi restaurant, this was perhaps the best paratha I have had in the US).

For entrees, we decided to go with a vegetarian fare; Punjabi dishes such as Matar Paneer, Malai Kofta, and Aloo Gobi were tasty, but dishes that were not Punjabi (such as Undhiyo, which is not only non-Punjabi but very difficult and time consuming to make), were below standard.

We skipped dessert.

Overall, a decent restaurant, I would definitely go back for their parathas and Punjabi dishes.

Thank you Farouk's House of India.


Chicago, IL - TANDOOR CHAR February 13 2014

Tandoor Char House

2652 N Halsted

Chicago, IL 60614

 

Tandoor Char House in Chicago, IL is a restaurant that serves Indian and Pakistani cuisine. The restaurant is popular for its Tandoori selection (food cooked in an Indian charcoal-fired oven called Tandoor). Though, in the US, the oven is not actually fired by charcoal, instead it is fired by gas, as are most other restaurants.

The owner is friendly and so is the staff. Service is excellent. I was there with a bunch of friends during lunchtime one Sunday afternoon, the restaurant was full and the staff was still friendly and accommodative with smiles.

We started with the usual Indian drinks, I tried Mango Lassi. I must say it was one of the best Mango Lassis I have had in a very long time. My friend tried the Sweet Lassi was and said it was decent. While we were waiting for our Tandoori platter (appetizer of grilled shrimp, chicken, and lamb on a sizzle plate), we were given aachar (Indian pickle). It was a cabbage and carrot pickle, very tasty and fresh. They also displayed it on their website; this was the best dish at the restaurant! Samosas here are double fried; I found them to be over-fried and greasy, black-brown in color, and parts of them were burnt. I would not recommend the samosas at this restaurant.

The Tandoori platter was mild, bland, and the restaurant uses a ton of food color, which is not very healthy; even in the main dishes, there was a lot of food color, which, in my opinion, is never a good thing.

For the main dish, the lentils were nice; they had a good consistency and were not very spicy. The spinach and paneer dish was my favorite; it was tangy and well cooked. The other vegetarian dish we ordered was Paneer and Green Peas; it was not very good, it should have been sweeter and less creamier. The lamb curry was nice, although it seemed like the lamb pieces were not cooked along with the curry, but just mixed in at the end right before being served.

A peculiar dish called Frontier Chicken sounded interesting, but was not worth it. Greasy, dry, and just bland- avoid this one.

The restaurant does a good job with their naan, not with the paratha (parathas are quite greasy and bland, again). The breads are huge. Portion size here for almost everything is fairly large, so be sure you ask for to-go boxes!

We did not try any desserts. We were full; in fact, it was my first and last meal for the day!

Overall- great service, decent food.

 

Thank you Tandoor Char House!


Chicago, IL - VERMILION February 11 2014

Vermilion

10 W Hubbard, Chicago, IL - 60610

http://www.thevermilionrestaurant.com/

 

Vermilion is an Indo-Latin fusion restaurant in downtown Chicago. The owner also has another location in Manhattan, NY.

The idea of creating a fusion of Indian and Latin flavors seemed unique, challenging, and quite interesting. I wanted to check this integration out for myself! The ambience is modern and classy, this would be a great place to bring someone on a date. The blood red color of vermilion and black and white photographs of Indian actresses and models adorn the restaurant. This creates a lovely feminist touch.

The restaurant seemed empty but was full by dinner-time. The waiters and the concierge were extremely helpful. We decided to spend sometime at the bar, where we got Ginger Martinis (non-alcoholic beverage of Cucumber and Lime Mojito and wine), all was good!

For appetizers, we were served corn fritters (spicy) and cold cauliflower soup, both out of this world! (kudos for that) The waiter seemed extremely knowledgeable about the ingredients that went into each dish and that was very helpful.

For the main course, we ordered a Tiffin (Indian lunch box, like Bento for Japanese), a Thali (elaborate Indian dinner plate) and a fusion dish of Portuguese Lobster. The tiffin was quite disappointing, the salad was not enough, the naan bread was soaked in the water from the vegetables that were placed on it. Overall, this portion of the meal was not that great. However, the chimichuri sauce and the yogurt mint sauce were both delicious. 

The Lobster Portuguese is a must-try, I would definitely not call it fusion, but it is a great dish. The Thali had butter chicken, which was very tasty, chickpea curry, which was tasty, as well, but dry, and coconut rice, which was not good at all. The naan bread was below average, where as the roti (wheat bread) was perfectly prepared. The kidney bean curry of the Thali was tasty.

Overall, the restaurant has a great ambience, super friendly waiters, and a great selection of Indian food. The fusion recipes (for which the restaurant stands out) were quite disappointing, and so was the naan. Indian restaurants are known for their breads, so the naan here needs some work.

A decent experience, and yes, I would go back!

Charlottesville, VA - MILAN January 31 2014

MILAN

http://www.milan-indian-cuisine.com/

1817 Emmett St.

Charlottesville, VA 22901

 

Milan is an Indian restaurant located in Charlottesville, VA. There is a wide array of Indian restaurants in Charlottesville; however, I was told that this is one of the better ones. The restaurant is conveniently located in the downtown area, making accessibility easy for visitors and students. I happened to be there for their Sunday lunch buffet.

 

Restaurants in Charlottesville offer great food at quite a reasonable price. I live in Washington, DC, so eating out in Charlottesville seemed quite inexpensive. One should always tip their waiters just a little bit extra when this is the case!

 

The ambience at Milan is good, it’s bright on the inside due to large windows. It is colorful, and gives an impression of a decently modern, yet traditional Indian eatery. There is no music playing in the background (thank Goodness for that!)

 

The buffet here has a large spread. For starters, I tried their chutneys and their chickpea chaat. They were all good, had medium hotness, and had a good amount of salt. I recommend the chickpea chaat for starters.

 

The Naan that they make here is quite good, I was definitely impressed.

 

For the main meal, there was a lamb curry and chicken curry. I tried the Chicken Mushroom curry. It was mild, flavorless, and lacked taste. Their vegetarian dish of Matar Paneer (Indian cottage cheese and green peas) was extremely creamy and quite bland. I was disappointed by both the curries. My friend regarded the lamb curry in the same way.

 

The highlight of our meal was the Chili Chicken (an Indian Chinese dish). It was greasy but extremely flavorful. I highly recommend this dish.

 

Their Chicken Biryani lacked flavor as well, not enough salt and quite mildly spiced. I understand the need to cater to non-natives, but non-natives usually want to experience Indian flavors, so why would one to go a restaurant with such mild flavors?

 

For dessert, the restaurant offers a couple of fusion items such as Strawberry Mousse (my friend suggested Mango Mousse instead since Strawberry Mousse is far from being Indian). For dessert, we both tried their rice pudding; it was nice and cold (although it was 32 F outside, we tried not to complain. Suggestion: they could offer a warm rice pudding for the wintertime). The rice pudding did not have enough cardamom, but did well on the sweetness and the consistency.

 

Finally, for a buffet, their service is quite good. Overall, a decent experience. Not having been to other Indian restaurants in Charlottesville, VA, I give this restaurant an A for ambience and service and a B for their meal.

 

Thank you Milan!


San Francisco, CA - KASA January 31 2014

Kasa is a small Indian eatery located in the heart of Castro, San Francisco, CA. It is frequented by visitors of the Castro neighborhood.

 

The limited seating allows for a fascinating view of the bustling world passing by as you munch on your favorite Indian delicacies.

 

The owner, Anamika, an extremely friendly and warm person, was kind enough to explain to me the concept behind their simple menu and a little bit about Castro. Visitors familiar with Castro stopped by to say hello to her while I was in the eatery.

 

The menu here is quite simple, you pick a Kathi Roll (Indian wraps) or Thali (Traditinal Indian steel plate with various dishes in it). Instead of getting all the dishes in a Thali, the eatery offers you a choice of adding as many or as little items as desired on the Thali. I thought this was a great idea for one to create his or her own portion size! By default, the thali comes with 2 dishes.

 

Partially owned by a North Indian/Punjabi, the menu is entirely North Indian: Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Curry, Paneer dishes, and a couple of vegetable dishes.

 

For sides, there are some good choices : samosas, veggie salad, raita, rice, and lentils. They also have Indian beverages such as Maaza mango drink and Indian sodas, along with regular sodas.

 

While I was here, I tried the Masala Chai. It is quite difficult to get Masala Chai at the level of perfection found in India, yet this particular eatery does a terrific job. Perhaps, it was the best Masala Chai I have ever had in the US!

 

Though I did not plan my visit to Kasa, (I was just walking around Castro when I bumped into this place), I thoroughly enjoyed my experience!

 

If you are ever in Castro, Kasa Indian eatery is a must!

 

 

Thank you Kasa!


NYC, New York - KOKUM December 26 2013

KOKUM NYC

http://www.kokumny.com/

106 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Kokum is a quaint restaurant in Manhattan that serves authentic coastal Indian cuisine. They do an amazing job preparing authentic dishes from the Konkan coast of India, this kind of a restaurant is not found anywhere else in USA, in my experience.

 

Kokum is a small restaurant with limited seating. You can easily miss this unique place among the busy Indian restaurants in the strip on Lexington Avenue.

 

My friends and I reached there on a Sunday morning right when the restaurant had opened; we were the first ones to arrive. I will say, the air conditioning was not turned on and the place seemed stuffy.

 

The service here is slow and it takes a great amount of time for dishes to come out of kitchen for your meal. We ordered Filter Coffee to begin with and then a simple Dry Pan Fried Fish. The starter took about 15 minutes to arrive. It was tasty, perfectly spiced and lightly salted.

 

For the main course (which took 35 minutes to arrive), we ordered Appams, Kerala Paratha, Kori Ghassi (Chicken Coconut Curry), Soft-Shelled Crab Roast, and a dry Jackfruit  dish. Everything was as authentic as it could get. I must say that when we decided to go to this place, my only fear was that this restaurant would be one of those Indian restaurants that will serve me greasy, creamy, and heavy Indian food which would be as always, below average. 

 

The appams (fermeted rice breads) were lightly sweet due to coconut water and perfect. Freshly made appams were perfect to dip into piping hot curries. The soft-shelled crab roast was delicious, although the crab could have been a bit softer. Coconut Chicken Curry was perfect and the jackfruit dish was a nice dry combination along with the curry dishes.

 

I was surprised by the quality of the food at this restaurant. Preparing Indian cuisine from the coast of India is a special task, which requires fresh coconut and coconut milk derived from fresh coconut, and that adds the authentic taste to this dish. This tiny little restaurant in Manhattan recreates the same magic from the coast of India and hats off to them for doing this.

 

This restaurant is my favorite Indian restaurant in the US for Coastal Indian cuisine. People are friendly, price is average, the only thing they need to work on is bringing dishes from the kitchen to our tables, without compromising the quality and taste of the food.

 

Thank you Kokum!


NYC, New York - KATI ROLL December 26 2013

The Kati Roll Company

http://www.katirollnyc.com/

99 Macdougal St (Macdougal St Between Minetta Ln & Bleecker St)  New York, NY 10012

 

Kati Roll Company is an Indian snack eatery that specializes in flatbread rolls that are filled with tandoori meat and/or vegetables, not to be confused by paratha, which are stuffed Indian flatbreads. This eatery in Manhattan is a to-go place to grab a quick bite on a busy day.

 

Kati rolls are semi-flaky bread made from white flour. Grilled meat or vegetables, along with thinly sliced onions and fresh chutney are placed in the center of the bread, which is wrapped and served. This is special snack dish from the Indian state of Bengal.

 

While looking like a hole in a wall with barely 12 people, the Kati Roll Company is always flooded with a line of eager customers!

 

The rolls are delicious and fresh, and the service is fast and unpretentious. The eatery is quite warm even on a cold wintry night owing to poor air-conditioning and the hot plates, and the tandoor that keeps adding heat to the eatery. 

 

There are various kinds of Kati Rolls - Chicken Tikka Kati Roll, Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) Kati Roll, Spiced Potato Kati Roll, and Spiced Lamb Kati Roll. Each of these is wrapped in greasy, all-purpose flat breads along with cilantro chutney, onions, and some chaat masala (a spice mix that gives a tangy flavor, usually added to savory dishes).

 

You can get Mango Lassi or any other soft drink (you have to pay extra) to go with your Kati Roll. For $10 or less, this is a great place to satisfy your hunger for a spicy Indian treat.

 

Thank you Kati Roll and Company!


Baltimore, MD - AMBASSADOR September 02 2013

AMBASSADOR DINING

Location: Baltimore, MD

Ambience: British Empire-style Indian, Family Dining

Price Range: Moderately Expensive, Good Value for Money

Seat Availability: Easy

Parking: Street parking, moderately difficult

Metro accessible: No

Website: www.AmbassadorDining.com

Worth it? YES

 

OVERALL:

As my friend said, this restaurant is a hidden gem in Baltimore. Ambassador Dining is located inside Ambassador Apartments. Decent food, great ambience, cool, and classy. There is even verandah (outdoor) seating. This is an ideal location for family dining, corporate dining, and of course, dates. Service is excellent and the price is moderate. I would highly recommend the weekend buffet lunch.

 

DETAILS:

Very rarely do I drive to Baltimore to try out new restaurants. Ambassador had been on my list of Indian restaurants to try for a while. Be warned though, the restaurant is difficult to find, especially if you are not familiar with the Baltimore area. It is located within the first floor of Ambassador apartments. It’s a unique location, very classy, British Empire-style Indian decor, quiet, green, even includes a water fountain in their verandah with seats...I would make a trip here for the scenic beauty, let alone the food!

I ordered mango lassi, unusually yellow but on of the best mango lassis I have had in a long time, I highly recommend it. My friend got Punjabi chai, which was quite creamy (Punjabi style) and sweet, but good, I could smell the cardamom in the chai as he sipped it.

The buffet had vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian, options. The names were besides each dish...patrons might get confused. Salads and chutneys were good. We had Aloo Tikki, which was very nice; it is a sautéed potato cake with chickpea sauce on top. I really liked their Shallow Fried Fish, a must-try if you love seafood.

Chicken entrees were abundant in the buffet - Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken, Chicken Salad, and Chicken Vindaloo. They were all average and I must confess that Chicken Vindaloo was poorly prepared.

Vegetarian dishes included creamy Dal Makhani (well prepared); creamy Saag Paneer (decent) served with white basmati rice and naan. The Naan was greasy, but good.

For dessert, we had Rice Pudding (Kheer), it was amazing! However, it could have been better if it had nuts and raisins. Surprisingly, they had good chocolate cake, which was nice to try, and I finished over decaf coffee, which was also good.

This is one place you can go to for your first, as well as last, meal of the day. For a buffet at $15, I highly recommend this place.

 

Thank you AMBASSADOR!

 

 


DC - MALGUDI August 31 2013

Last night, I was walking in Dupont last night and I saw a new Indian restaurant cafe that opened up in Washington, DC. This place is right below Heritage India restaurant in Dupont. It is called MALGUDI. It is a South Indian restaurant cafe. The menu is cute, I have not tried it yet, but I took a picture of the menu just in case you are interested in checking it out. When I try it, I will update this post.

 

Malgudi Days was a very popular television show when I was growing up in India. It is said to be a fictitiuos town in South India and the series was based on the people living in that town.

 

 Link: http://www.malgudidc.com/

 

 

 

 


Chevy Chase, MD - INDIQUE HEIGHTS August 18 2013

INDIQUE HEIGHTS

Location: Chevy Chase, MD

Ambience: Fine Indian Dining, Traditional Indian decor, Family Dining

Price Range: Moderately Expensive, Best Value for Money

Seat Availability: Easy

Parking: Street parking, little difficult to find a spot

Metro accessible: Yes, Friendship Heights metro.

Website: www.IndiqueHeights.com

Worth it? YES

 

OVERALL:

 

Indique Heights is an above average restaurant with a over the top ambience. Curries here are exceptional and so are appetizers. Breads and Desserts are average at best, and for such a beautiful ambience and high quality ingredients they use in their food, I would think they need to work on accompaniments. More of a North Indian fare, needs more spice (not even enough for the average American), and certainly a bit more salt...if not, there should be salt on the table.

 

DETAIL:

 

Last night, I was invited to a birthday party at Indique Heights, an Indian restaurant conveniently located near Friendship Heights metro, right on the border of Maryland and Washington, DC.

The restaurant is quite large. It has a beautiful lounge with a traditional Indian jhula (swing), including outdoor seating, indoor seating, bar seating, and 2 private dining rooms. We were seated in a private dining room. Price for a party of 20 or more was quite reasonable, $35 for the entire evening plus $14 for an open bar throughout the evening. Gratuity and taxes were separate.

Drinks were tasty, good quality alcohol was used, and a good play on their Martini selection, enough to qualify for an upscale gay Indian bar.

From the STREET SNACKS / APPETIZERS section - We ordered Samosa Chaat, Bhelpuri (puffed rice krispies with chutney), and Chicken Hariyali Kebab. Samosa chaat was tasty, but the chicken kebab could have been more flavorful. Bhelpuri was delicious, the flavors were perfect, sweet and tangy, and the presentation was beautiful. I have had so many bhelpuris in India; I Indique Heights’ food was definitely comparable. They all came with extra chutneys: green chutney, tamarind, and lemon pickle.

We had an array of entrees for our main course. Chicken Tikka Masala here is perhaps the best I have had in our city; the  chicken pieces could have been grilled a bit more. It has a nice creamy sweet texture and not overtly spiced, and it is a perfect combination with other spicy dishes.

Saag (Spinach), Bhindi (Okra), and Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) dishes at this restaurant are delicious, not very spicy. I would suggest selecting from one of these dishes. Good job on the mild curries!

Lamb curry was, at best, average. We were expecting it to be spicier, since every other dish was mild hot. Dal Makhani was good too, but nothing special. It usually helps to smoke Dal Makhani, but they don't do it here.

The breadbasket we ordered was average: Naan, Roti, and Kulcha. Breads in Indian cuisine are one of the highlights, so they need to do a better job on breads. Same thing with rice, it could have been fluffy and the grains could have been longer.

For dessert we ordered Ras Malai and Gulab Jamun. Ras Malai was delicious but the Gulab Jamun was below average. I have yet to eat Gulab Jamun at an Indian restaurant that tastes satisfactory. I would prefer a canned gulab jamun bought from the Indian store over theirs. Also, I was not able to find a dessert menu online.


Dallas, TX - KRISHNA TEMPLE August 14 2013

HARE KRISHNA TEMPLE RESTAURANT

Location: 5430 Gurley Ave, Dallas, TX - 75223

Ambience: Hindu Temple

Price Range: Inexpensive

Seat Availability: Readily available

Parking: Street Parking

Website: http://www.radhakalachandji.com/about-us/kalachandjis-restaurant.html

Worth it? DEFINITELY

OVERALL:

It is a Hindu temple, vegetarian and lightly spiced food is served here. It is a Krishna temple, run by ISKCON. Wonderful ambience, delicious food that is cooked with good quality ingredients. Certainly a great place for the spiritually inclined.

DETAIL:

Earlier this year, I happened to visit Dallas and Austin, TX for a weekend. I was in downtown one morning, when I decided to go to a Hare Krishna temple I happened to spot. Upon entering to worship, I found out that the temple had a restaurant that served vegetarian Indian food. To my surprise, there were quite a few people who were standing in line for a buffet lunch at this temple that morning. Of course, I could not pass up the opportunity to explore this restaurant’s cuisine! The lunch was delicious and the ambience was beautiful. Till date, it has been one of my most memorable meals in the US. You do not have to be a follower of the Hare Krishna movement to eat at their restaurant.

Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement has followers all around the world. You can find more information on the movement on the internet. Apart from the customs and traditions, the food at their temples all over the world is well known to be very flavorful. The food is prepared according to Ayurvedic philosophies, and it is always vegetarian, heavily dairy based, and mostly fruitarian. The food is made with the best ingredients and cooked in Indian clarified butter (ghee), which perfumes every dish with its flavor.

Since it was a Sunday, they had their ‘All You Can Eat’ buffet at the restaurant. The buffet had salads, soups, lentil soups, vegetables, rice, breads, and a special drink that is perhaps a creation of the temple cooks. The drink was iced tea lemonade with a twist. I liked it. What I liked even more was once you get your food, you enter an area, which is known as the VERANDAH, it is an enclosed open space where everyone sits to eat. They have the sound of birds chirping in the background, water flowing, and it immediately transports you to your verandah back home in India.

The key thing to note about food in this temple is that it is all lightly spiced, made in ghee and vegetable. Here, you will not find exotic Indian curries that are made with a ton of ingredients or any spicy hot Indian curries that often burn your mouth. Instead, food here is pleasant and simple.

There are a couple dessert choices here. I remember having a Blueberry Halwa, which is a confluence of blueberries (not very Indian) with semolina pudding. It was delicious, just what I needed then after my meal. The servers, if I am not mistaken, were from all over the world, and some of them wore Indian clothing. It was a very Indian atmosphere, very typical to Hare Krishna temples.

Right outside the restaurant, within the temple itself, they sell holy books on the Krishna movement. They have a couple of good Indian vegetarian cookbooks if you are a vegetarian and looking to cook Indian food.

Thank You KRISHNA TEMPLE!

 


San Juan, PR - TANTRA August 12 2013

TANTRA

 

Location: 356 Fortaleza, San Juan, Puerto Rico - 00901

Ambience: Intimate, Tantric, Romantic

Price Range: Moderately Expensive

Seat Availability: Readily available

Parking: Street Parking, fairly difficult

Metro accessible: NONE

Website: NO WEBSITE

Worth it? YES

 

OVERALL:

Although many Latin fusion choices are offered, I personally would eat authentic Indian dishes at this particular restaurant. Indian food in the Carribean is uniquely prepared; therefore, I would recommend this place, especially if you are a vegetarian.

 

DETAIL:

For the Fourth of July long weekend, my friends and I went to San Juan, Puerto Rico! It was my first time in the Carribean, so for my birthday (July 6th), my friend took me to an Indian restaurant in Old San Juan called Tantra.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food, atmosphere, and the crowd at the restaurant. After a busy couple of days in San Juan, this was a perfect meal for a moderately upscale Indian restaurant in the Carribean. The name Tantra completely resonates with the ambience of the location. Warm candlelit lighting and ethnic art from India made for a pleasant experience.

The staff was not well trained; they had difficulty explaining the menu, especially if you were to ask them to customize certain items. This meant that the manager had to come to our table every now and then.

For Appetizers, there was an interesting twist with Latin influence. I had never had and Indian-Latin fused cuisine, so this was a good try. Indian-Latino Sampler for Two is a good option; it comes with a lot of food that includes Caribbean Spiced Duck Breast, Garlic Churrasco, Norri Roll, Coco Camarones, Fish Tempura, Mofongo & Lo-Mein.

For the entree, my friend and I both opted for seafood curries. The curries were delicious! The food transported me back to Goa and some places in Mumbai where authentic coastal seafood is served. Good job on the seafood preparation, I must say. The entrees came with rice, and there was plenty to eat for the two of us with just 2 curries.

Very rarely do you find a restaurant that makes good Indian seafood curries. Making a good seafood curry is an art, and this restaurant practices that art. The blend of fresh coconut, spices and the sourness added with tamarind gives their seafood curries a good taste. Even though we ordered 2 seafood curries, they both tasted very different from each other, which was a good taste test, I must say. 

 

 

Thank you TANTRA!


Bethesda, MD - PASSAGE TO INDIA August 10 2013

PASSAGE TO INDIA

Location: Bethesda, MD

Ambience: Traditional

Price Range: Somewhat Expensive

Seat Availability: Advance Reservation required

Parking: Street parking, Valet parking

Metro accessible: Yes, Bethesda is the nearest

Website: www.PassageToIndia.info

Worth it? YES

OVERALL:

Overall, a decent experience. This is a good restaurant if you are shopping in or around the Bethesda Row area. The restaurant serves great North Indian fare, but if you are a vegetarian, or if you prefer really spicy food, then this is probably not the restaurant for you.

DETAIL:

Passage to India is located near Bethesda, MD. The ambience at this restaurant is traditional, while being colorful, interesting, and inviting. The customer service is excellent; they greet you when you come and frequently check in with you despite being packed.

When I first looked at the menu, I realized that drinks here are expensive.  The menu is long, complex, and confusing, even though they tried to compartmentalize into various regions of India. Most patrons end up ordering North Indian dishes since they are familiar with them.

The appetizers are fairly generic, nothing special. Hence, we decided to skip appetizers. Entrees are divided in 4 regional cuisines of India (North, East, West, South). We decided to try something from all the regions.

NORTH INDIAN - Certainly, the north Indian food here is excellent, I would highly recommend Paneer and Figs Korma (Paneer aur Anjeer Kofta). It’s mild, creamy, and sweet. We also got Jackfruit curry, which is tasty and spicy. I have had jackfruit as a fruit in India, but this was my first time eating it in a curry. My friends commented that it tasted like Artichokes, and I agree.

WEST INDIAN - We were disappointed with the Konkan Fish Curry. It was very mild, requiring some salt. It was also quite creamy. The key to making West Indian food is using freshly squeezed coconut milk, not something from a can. Also, for a restaurant specializing largely in North Indian food, Passage to India had some  difficulties in recreating a specific West Indian cuisine.

SOUTH INDIAN - From the South Indian menu, we tried Coorgi Murg (Chicken curry from Coorg region), which was very good. A nice minty flavor and heat from peppers made this a perfect combination with the mild Korma curry that we ordered. You can choose white or dark meat of chicken.

EAST INDIAN - We did not try anything from this section, perhaps next time around!

ACCOMPANIMENTS & DESSERT - Each entree comes with some salad and rice. Breads are awesome; we tried Mint Paratha, Roti, and Naan. They were all good. Desserts are amazing, we ordered Kulfi (Indian vegetarian ice-cream, which is not churned) and Semolina Halwa, and they were both amazing. Portion sizes are good; for a party of 3, ordering 3 or 4 curries and 3 breads will be sufficient.

Thank you PASSAGE TO INDIA!


DC - RASIKA August 05 2013

RASIKA WEST END

Location: Washington, DC

Ambience: Modern, Corporate

Price Range: Expensive

Seat Availability: Extremely Difficult

Parking: Street parking

Metro accessible: Yes, Foggy Bottom is the nearest

Website: www.RasikaRestaurant.com

Worth it? CERTAINLY

 

OVERALL:

Ranked #1 Indian restaurant in the US and perhaps in the top 10 restaurants in the country overall. If you are in the Washington, DC area, then you must check this restaurant off your list. RASIKA caters to mostly upper crust and corporate crowd. Flavors here are relatively mild, perhaps catering to the western palatte. However, Indian cuisine is full of bold flavors, our spicy food is spicier, our desserts are sweeter, our tangy food is tangier...however, not at RASIKA.

 

DETAIL:

One of the most popular restaurants in Washington, DC (non-Indian restaurants included), Rasika has two locations. I visited Rasika's West End location sometime in July, 2013.  I had to make my reservation for a weeknight dinner about 22 days in advance and they were able to fit my friend and I in for an 8 pm slot. I heard that Tuesday nights are a bit slow, so you can try your luck then.

The Rasika West End location has a modern and corporate ambience, catering to modern cuisine lovers and a corporate crowd. The Rasika location at Penn Quarter is just a bit more on the traditional side.

Rasika has a lot to offer,, they do a great job of covering the entire Indian cuisine, which I might add is quite the commendable feat..  Not only that, but each dish is unique in taste; not too greasy or creamy. You  leave full, but not uncomfortable. Each of the dishes are clean and well prepared.

We had Cauliflower Bezule, Paalak Chaat, and Karwari Shrimp for appetizers. The 'Paalak Chaat' is the most famous dish at Rasika. I have observed other restaurants adding the same to their menu. It is a deep-fried lightly spiced spinach dish topped with yogurt and chutney . We checked it off of our list, and it was, as expected, pretty good.

For the entree, we got Manglorian Chicken Curry and Fish Manga, both delicious. I am a big fan of Manglorian food, so the chicken curry was my favorite. You must go for the Bread Basket; it has a good variety and is certainly filling for two people.

I found the Goan Bebinca quite interesting. I don't think I have ever had this outside of a Goan restaurant in India, therefore that was good to try. My favorite was Apple Jalebi with Cardamom Ice-cream. Nice hot jalebi with cold ice-cream is a mouth-watering combination!

Wine selections may confuse you, but the staff is there to help. The manager even remembered my name and stopped by to chat with us, excellent customer service!

The restaurant is pricey, so I always reserve this restaurant for special occasions. When visiting Washington, DC you must try to reserve a seat at Rasika for sure!

 

Thank you RASIKA!