My quest for really outstanding Indian cuisine continues. My current favorites include the Namaste Cafe, 2512 Hennepin Ave. S., Curry Up in Maple Grove, and Kabobs in Bloomington. Of these three, the only one you would actually want to go to on a date is Namaste, which is actually Nepalese, but serves dishes from both sides of the border, and offers a nice selection of wines and beers.
Curry Up in Maple Grove is actually an Indian market with a no frills cafe (disposable plates and cutlery) hidden away in the back of the store that offers both North and South Indian specialties. Also very good, but with even less ambience is Kabobs, in a dilapidated strip mall in Bloomington, which features Pakistani, North Indian, Hyderabadi, and Indian-Chinese fusion cuisine. They just opened up a second location at 8085 Wedgwood Lane Maple Grove, not far from Curry Up, which is larger than the original and offers a lunch buffet. Surabhi Indian Cuisine in Bloomington is also a couple of notches above average, as is Chapati in Edina and Northfield.
I was very fond of the south Indian vegetarian Udupi Café in Columbia Heights, but the quality seemed to slip a bit after it changed owners and became Nala Pak. It’s still worth a visit, though, for their lunch buffet, though. Passage to India next to Calhoun Square was another favorite, but it’s gone, too.
I did have a perfectly lovely dinner last night at Gandhi Mahal, at 27th and E. Lake St., Minneapolis. I went back with a bunch of friends hoping to try the entrée sampler, but it’s no longer offered. So we picked a mix of entrees from the menu, plus an appetizer platter and a couple of orders of aloo chat, a traditional Indian street snack.
I thought the dishes we sampled tasted pretty much like most of the other Indian restaurants in town, (i.e., decent, but not especially memorable) but my dining companions were considerably more enthusiastic. In any case, the ambience is much more attractive than the usual curry house, and service was prompt and friendly. There’s no wine or beer yet, but an application is in the works, and the waiter said that they hope to have it by the end of the month. In the meantime, they offer some tasty lassi (yogurt) drinks, including a badami lassi flavored with almonds and pistachios ($4).
My favorites this time around included the tandoori fish (salmon, $17), brought to the table on a sizzling platter with grilled onions and green peppers; and the Delhi Tikka Masala with shrimp ($17), plump and succulent prawns in a creamy mildly spiced tomato sauce. Chicken tikka masala is now one of the most popular dishes in Britain; according to one account, it was actually invented at an Indian restaurant in Glasgow.
The tandoori lamb shish kabob ($15) had potential, too, but the meat was overcooked and dry. Other winners included the goat vindaloo ($14), properly tart and hot in a rich brown gravy, and the aloo begun ($11), eggplant and potato in a spicy sauce. The palak paneer (homemade cheese in creamed spinach, $12) and the malai kofta (vegetarian fritters in an almond cream sauce ($12) were about the same as everywhere else, and not that different from the version sold in shelf-stable retort pouches at Indian groceries – but I enjoy them, so I am not complaining.
The aloo chat was a disappointment – just boiled potatoes in a seasoned yogurt sauce, and not nearly as varied in flavor or texture as what’s you can find on the streets of Delhi – or, for that matter, on the appetizer list at Namaste Café.