I don’t know if they shake the hand of everyone who walks through the door, but the greeting from the server set the tone for my experience of dining at Gandhi Mahal, the Indian restaurant that opened at the end of May at 3009 27th Ave. S., in the former space of the short-lived Calypso.
Less than a month after opening, word of mouth and several reviews were bringing customers in, said owner Arshad Rahman.
3009 27th Ave. S.
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
Lunch buffet, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
“We were looking for the perfect place,” he said of Gandhi Mahal’s inception. “My idea is not from today or yesterday, it’s from before,” he said, explaining that he’s put years into the concept of the restaurant. “It must be the right neighborhood and space. This is the right space for the concept.”
The space functions essentially as two rooms, with a dividing wall running down the middle. Cloth and tapestries hang from the walls and windows, where the afternoon sun is diffused, creating a red-and-orange glow. Tables are set immaculately, and many entrees are served at your table right onto your plate.
The menu begins with a handful of appetizers, soups and salads. The two-dozen entrees include a good sample of Northern Indian dishes, spiced to order. Most can be made with your choice of tofu, vegetables, meat or seafood. Tandoori dishes are available, and, of course, Gandhi Mahal offers vegetarian entrees in honor of its namesake, whose image abounds in small photos hung around the restaurant. The Gandhi Thali is an eight-course sampler of dishes “prepared the way that Gandhi would have approved of,” according to the menu.
For lunch, try the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., for $9.95. It features different dishes everyday, so people “can find out what they like,” said Rahman. He also applies the sample concept to dinner, with what he calls “Indian tapas” — $3–$5 samples of desserts, lassis or entrée items.
Food is available to pick up, and Gandhi Mahal offers catering either off-site or in the upstairs banquet hall, available for rent. The restaurant does not currently serve beer or wine but intends to get a license to do so.
The food and service at Gandhi Mahal are an extension of a long line of family tradition, said Rahman. His parents owned restaurants in New York City (which Rahman left to come to Minneapolis), just as his grandparents did in the state of Assam in India.
Rahman’s family is not so far-flung, however; most of the staff are family members, he said, rattling off a half-dozen relations. “I try to keep things always within the family,” he said, explaining that, with family, he knows what quality he can expect.
Gandhi Mahal is a different kind of restaurant than Rahman’s other venture, a food-court-style restaurant in the Dinkydome, opened in 2005.
When speaking about his most recent venture, Rahman exudes a confidence that rivals his hospitality. “When I do well here, they will want us to stay forever,” he said. He prefers long leases and expects to open more restaurants in the future. One concept is to fuse world cuisine with Indian spices, which he plans to begin growing fresh at the restaurant.
He excused himself from the interview to greet a group of six. As the couples were seated, one woman offered an unsolicited review of the place and a testament to the value of word of mouth.
“We just came in here; it’s really good,” she said to her friends. “Of course, there are many more things to try.”