New Indian Food on the Block
Add Taste of India to your restaurant rotation
A city’s culture can largely be sussed out by studying the breadth of its dining landscape. At almost a year old, Taste of India is already a significant contribution to that landscape, and is poised to become another go-to for this foodie. Beyond the vibrant colors and sensations of Indian cuisine lie a couple basic, undeniable truths: The dishes are terrifically balanced, and there’s something for every type of diner.
The restaurant space itself is pretty utilitarian, though not without an understated elegance. Nestled into a retail space on Juan Tabo, the dining room is simple and functional, relaxing if not a bit sparse. We were among the first to sit for what proved to be a slow but steady weekend crowd. There were a handful of to-go and delivery orders, something I always consider a good sign. Another good sign: a free little appetizer while we decided on dinner. In this case it was two crisp-baked papadum, tostada-sized crackers made from gram flour and served with three chutneys. We found something to like in all of them.
When it comes to beverages, they’re limited to non-alcoholic options—but both I tried were terrific. I’d say use the weather as your guide. If it’s a warm day, take a mango lassi ($2.99). That might seem high, but it’s cheaper than a shake at most soda fountains, and it’s infinitely better and better for you. In fact, Taste of India’s was the best mango lassi I’ve ever had. If it’s a cold day, go with the Masala tea ($1.99). Now, you get a pot of chai as opposed to the endless refills of yore—which, for someone who loves chai like I do, could be cause for concern. But it’s a light, slightly creamy, soothing blend of spices and perfect to stave off the bite of early spring winds.
For starters, the vegetable samosa ($2.99) is a home run. It’s a silky mash-up of peas, potatoes, onions, fried in two triangular pastry pockets—veggie deliciousness similar to a stuffed sopapilla. If I’m splitting hairs, the pastry corners were a touch dry, so I just took a bit of the onion chutney that came with the papadum. The chicken mulligatawny soup ($4.99) has a stock made sturdy by lentils and some potatoes, along with the luscious mélange of tart apples, carrots and onions, all dotted with scallions. It’s different than I’ve had and made myself, but still very tasty. The chicken fell apart, and the curry warmed and accumulated without any burn to speak of.
For dinner proper, there’s the butter chicken ($12.99)—a rich, thick and generous dish. What seems to be a smallish bowl when it arrives is surprisingly filling once you pour a serving over the basmati rice. Whatever spice this curry has is tempered by the creamy yogurt that reduced into almost a gravy, and there’s enough for two or even three diners—especially if you take an order of garlic naan to sop it up with (and, at $2.99, you definitely should). In fact, the bread options are a wonder to behold. You could visit once a month for almost a year before you ever repeated one. Offering up a good bread is an oft overlooked yet tremendously approachable way for shy folks to successfully dine outside their comfort zone, and Taste of India absolutely appreciates that.
The full order of chicken tikka ($13.99) is maybe best explained as India’s version of fajitas. Onions, bell peppers and a squeeze of lemon, all on a scorching skillet and topped with a pile of orange-hued hunks of boneless chicken. Again, the portions are more than generous, and the chicken is surprisingly moist—despite being baked in the traditional clay tandoor like the typical bone-in tandoori chicken. The dish is finished with a handful of fresh-chopped cilantro. I’d be amazed if you didn’t have leftovers. I used mine to make a pretty darn good BBQ chicken pizza the next day.
A successful night dining out is often a confluence of the tastes, physical space and service. Taste of India has foregone a bit of the flash their website suggests, and has focused instead on getting tremendous flavor on the plate. I’m eager to try their lunch buffet—which promises standards and a few daily surprises. Until I do, I suggest you give it a try. It’s the kind of newer restaurant that I always want to see succeed—one that gets the food right, while humbly building its place in the dining landscape. Because, measured on taste alone, they should have plenty of time in the future to buy some flashy dinnerware.
1605 Juan Tabo Blvd NE
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11am-2:30pm; 5pm-9pm Fri-Sat: 11am-2:30pm; 5pm-9:30pm Sun: 11am-2:30pm