Category Archives: Indian

Chutnys

Cuisine: Indian

CLOSED MARCH 2011 – reopened as Paradise Chutnys with new Management

195 East Campus View Blvd (270 and 23 North, Crosswoods, next to Starbucks)
Open Tuesday to Thursday: 11 am – 2:30 pm (lunch buffet $7.95); 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Friday to Sunday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm (lunch buffet $9.95); 5:30 pm -10:00 pm
614.430.0090
Chutnys.com

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The Crosswoods complex at SR 23 (North High Street) and I-270 is not far off the beaten path. In fact, many paths beat their way to this suburban, strip mall laced part of the northside. The Crosswoods area is densely packed with apartments, office buildings, condominiums and not so long ago, six steakhouses in a quarter mile area. Somehow this retail center has become beaten down with numerous failed restaurants, unpatched potholes and thousands of cars driving by in search of an Applebee’s. Buried in the rubble of what was once a booming retail strip is a ruby of an Indian restaurant.

Chutny’s has survived where many well known competitors have failed to thrive. This nondescript location, sporting a nylon banner for a sign may have the best value Indian buffet in town (based on variety, number of offerings and price). The restaurant does not seem to get much traffic from the nearby office workers but it does run a brisk lunch time business with what appears to be every Indian IT worker on the north side (based on observation and overheard shop talk). The menu offers a wide range of northern and southern Indian cuisine as well an assortment of tasty milkshakes (Elaichi Kesar and Roohafzaa) and Lassi.

The buffet is impressive in the depth of dishes and the quality of the food. There are fifteen entrees to choose from which include two to three soups, two to three varieties of Biriyani rice and frequently filled arrays of other dishes. A few entrees are perennial including Palak Paneer (stewed spinach and paneer cheese in a curry sauce), Chicken Makani (a creamy, flavorful chicken dish which seems to be a house favorite) and a daily special daal (lentil based stew).

Ginger Chutney - all kinds of awesome!

A second buffet station features a mixed variety of desserts (usually mango custard, frequenty (sweet) curd rice, and almost always (milk and flour balls in sweet syrup) Gulab Jamun). On occasion beetroot halwa makes an appearance but disappears quickly. There are vegetables for salad, three chutneys which usually includes a ginger chutney (which can only be described a nirvana in liquid form) as well a variety of sauces and condiments.

naan

There is a self serve beverage station for those that want coca-cola products. The service is exceptional with staff getting more than a bit nervous if they see your water glass is below the 85% mark. Fresh, hot, crispy, sliced naan (bread) is brought to your table within 5 minutes of arrival.

The dining area is mostly booths with some large tables for groups. There is seating for sixty and a noticeable high volume carry out trade at lunchtime. Light Indian music plays in the background as the servers strive to anticipate your next move so they can meet your needs without interfering with your dining experience.

For those eaters that have never experienced Indian food, this is a very accessible option at an unbeatable price. For those acquainted with the finer details of northern and southern Indian dishes, there is an excellent depth to the main menu that would take months to explore. The entrees vary in price from $5.99 to $13.95.

While Columbus has quickly grown a large number of Indian restaurants in just under a decade, this one is worth putting at the top of your list. It has received high rankings on a local Indian culture website and may be a destination the local Indian community is trying to hide in very plain sight.

Apna Bazaar

Cuisine: Pakistani/Indian

810 Bethel Road
614.326.2762
www.apnabazaar.biz

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After our experiences at Luc’sMecca, and Arirang, we’ve come to believe that some of the best international cuisine in town is put out by pint-sized kitchens shoehorned into the corners of out-of-the-way ethnic groceries.  As such, when we were told about another grocer/kitchen combo out on Bethel Rd. (thanks, Amar), we were primed to expect the best… and we are happy to say that we weren’t let down.

Apna is located in a fun (from an alt.eats perspective) little strip mall across the street from Microcenter that is also home to Banana Leaf, a Korean restaurant, a Thai/ Vietnamese restaurant, a Mexican grocery store, and a bubble tea shop.  While Apna’s primary focus seems to be on take-out and catering, they’re also happy to serve you at a table in the back of the store that seats up to 8 people.

Apna Bazaar’s kitchen specializes in tandoori and karhai preparations.  The photo above is the tandoor oven, which we were allowed into the kitchen to admire. Another shot in the kitchen (below): making chicken samosas.

We started with tandoori boneless chicken (you can also get a leg and thigh or a whole chicken), served straight from the tandoor. Garnished with onion, lime, and with a relatively mild sauce on the side, this dish was a little spicy, far more tender than most tandooris we’ve had, and very very popular. It was altogether too quickly devoured.

Luckily for our hungry group of 8, the food kept coming. We sampled (below, clockwise from top left) chicken karhai, beef nihari, goat qorma and chicken kabab karhai.

The word karhai (or karahi) refers to both a traditional wok-like Indian/Pakistani cooking dish, and a cooking method that uses this dish. Apna offers chicken (whole or half), goat, and kabab karhai preparations. We tried the (bone on) chicken karhai – fragrant with ginger, this was one of the more mildly spiced dishes we tried – and the kabab karhai, a generous quantity of heavily spiced ground chicken shish kababs, chopped up and sauteed with onions and tomatoes.  Both were enjoyed by all, with the nod going to the kabab version.

The nihari was another crowd pleaser, a delicious rich stew of tender beef shanks cooked overnight.  Apparently a popular breakfast dish in Pakistan, Apna’s nihari was deeply flavored with cloves, cumin, ginger and cardamon, and had a heat that came on slowly and peaked impressively.

The qorma (korma) consisted of tender goat served in a sauce whose richness was similar to the nihari, but was distinctly different in flavor with plenty of cardamon and a lot of chili. Among a table full of spicy-hot foods, it was the hottest of the dishes that we tried.

The meal was accompanied by seemingly endless piles of naan bread. Apna’s naan is different than most, and is considered by our Indian friends to be more authentic – made with whole meal flour, it was lighter, crisper, less doughy and served without any butter or ghee.

Apna Bazaar also has a selection of Indian sweets including gulab jaman, laddo and halwa, but as we were too full, we managed only a cup of steaming hot milky chai.

Apna Bazaar does not provide many options for vegetarians, and with the exception of potato samosas and naan bread all of the dishes are meat based. Drink selections are also limited but include water, chai, Coke and some Pakistani sodas including the sweet and floral Pakola.

Our bill, including drinks, came to about $10 per person. The owner seemed willing and able to adjust the spice level in most of the dishes. We recommend calling ahead an hour before you want to collect your food.

The Food Corner

Cuisine: Indian (and Mexican and Greek and American and…)
60 N. Wilson Rd.

614.208.3600

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Note: As of 10/9/2010, The Food Corner is closed.

Anyone remember the Kentucky Taco Hut that used to be in the OSU campus area?

I think we found its indie cousin.  Much as you could leave KTH with a bucket of original crispy, a meat lovers pie, and a burrito supreme or two, at The Food Corner you can take your pick from a menu with such divergent items as quesadillas, fried bologna sandwiches, gyros and tandoori chicken.

We’d driven by The Food Corner on numerous occasions, and while we’ve gotten a chuckle out of the ‘American – Mexican – Kabobs & Curry’ sign, we can’t say it inspired us to try them.  It took an Indian gentleman’s suggestion (we bumped into him during a fruitless attempt at finding a rumored Filipino grocery on the west side) to nudge us into entering.

It’s clear this used to be a fast food restaurant – perhaps a Wendy’s?  At any rate, for such a conversion, it’s unusually clean and well sorted out, if maybe just a bit lacking in the charm department.  The process seems to be that you order at the counter, sit (your meal will be brought to you) and then return to the counter to pay.

 

Click to enlarge

 

The menu (above) that shows the aforementioned motley mix o food is surprisingly extensive and almost comically wide-ranging, but it really just scratches the surface.  There is also an entirely separate full Indian menu – with, I kid you not, 102 additional items – as well as an Indian lunch buffet.  I don’t think we’ve ever seen a more ambitious range of items on offer anywhere.

Since the owners appeared to be of Indian origin and the recommendation came from an Indian man, we stuck to the Indian menu.

First up was the vegetable samosa, served chaat style – with chickpeas and a variety of sauces.  There were a lot of flavors playing well together in this dish, but the samosa itself struck us as being a bit on the chewy side.

Next came the ‘bread basket’ – a mix of naan, garlic naan, and aloo naan. All of these were enjoyable – particularly the aloo naan with its potato and onion filling – but they’re not quite up to the heavenly deliciousness of Mecca’s wonderful bread offering.

We have no idea what came out next.  We ordered an item off of a photo on the wall that is not on the take home menu we intended to rely on… and what came out most assuredly was not that item anyhow.  It was a chicken dish in a brown sauce, and was surprisingly bland by the standards of Indian cuisine.  The chicken was on the dry side.

Last, but not least, was the mattar paneer… which, mercifully, was both as-ordered and on the menu.  The paneer – a light, rennet-free cheese – was as good as any I’ve ever had, and the sauce that came with it was enjoyable if curiously subdued.  This is but one of twenty vegetarian options available on the Indian menu.

The buffet (which went untried on this visit) seemed a good value at $6.99.

The Food Corner’s service was solid, and the owners were thoroughly kind and helpful.  Our recap of our experience isn’t entirely glowing, but it’s hard to suggest that that should mean anything when there was (due to the size of the menu) so much left untried. To that end, if any of our readers do try (or have tried) the place, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Banana Leaf

Cuisine: Indian
816 Bethel Road
614.459.4101
www.bananaleafofcolumbus.com

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Banana Leaf is a vegetarian and vegan Indian restaurant whose owners hail from Gujarat in western India. Banana Leaf has several features that distinguish it from other Indian restaurants. Although you can order a la carte, most people opt for the grand buffet option, available both at lunch (11.30-2.30pm) and dinner (6-9.30pm). On arrival you are greeted with endless lassi (a rich yogurt ‘smoothie’), which comes in a choice of 6 flavors (mango, rose, khus, sweet or salted). Khus is a bright green herbal syrup with a woodsy medicinal flavor.

The second distinctive feature are the chaats, prepared in the dining room. Chaats are traditionally a street food in western India, originating in Gujarat. These were described as the second course but arrived as a series of separate plates served family style, giving the opportunity to savor each one individually. I won’t describe them all in detail, but they were intriguing mixes of flavor and texture with spicy, crunchy and cooling chutney: they included bhel puri – puffed rice krispies mixed in a tangy and sweet sauce with onions, potatoes, tomatoes and cilantro; ragada pattis – spicy potato patties simmered and seasoned with dried pea spicy gravy; samosa chaat – samosas covered with spicy chickpea gravy.

Also served at the table were masala dosas, thin rice crepes stuffed with a spiced potato mixture. Piled together, they got a little soggy and didn’t quite live up to the versions found at Dosa Corner or Udipi.

The pani puri were a notable hit, small round crunchy puffs into which you pour a spicy broth before eating.

You would be correct in thinking that this is already a lot of food, especially given the set price of $12.95 but the buffet component of the meal is still to come. The buffet consists of choices of an appetizer (potato pakora), vegetable curries, daals, steamed rice, special rice, chutneys, vada (a lentil flour donut) and a dessert (halwa). The buffet changes daily and is different even from lunch to dinner on the same day.

Just when you think you can’t eat or drink anything more, its time for masala chai, milky tea served (we suspect for western tastes) unsweetened. We were there at closing time and were offered any leftovers that we wanted to take home from the buffet.

The owner Kamal Panchal and his wife are extremely friendly and passionate about their food. They enthusiastically explained the dishes to us and patiently answered all our questions, even bringing some khus syrup to the table for us to taste. Kamal is an animated and entertaining story teller. Banana Leaf is very good value and a great introduction to southern and western Indian food.

There is more information about the a la carte menu and buffet options on Banana Leaf’s website as well as a $1 off coupon valid until the end of the year.

Dosa Corner

Cuisine: Indian
1077 Old Henderson
614.459.5515
Dosa Corner web site

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Dosa Corner is a small no-frills South Indian Vegetarian restaurant with a small dining area and a focus on take-out. We have tried more than a few things at Dosa Corner and, so far, have enjoyed them all. Appetizers include samosas, medu wada (lentil donuts) and pakora. Except for the idli (steamed rice and lentil dumpling) all appetizers are deep fried.

The speciality of the house is of course the dosa, and there are many different variations offered here. A dosa is a thin crispy crepe made from rice and lentil flour that usually comes wrapped around some sort of filling, although you can get them plain. Favorites include the channa masala dosa with curried chickpeas, potatoes and lots of fresh cilantro and the mysore masala dosa with roasted onion chutney  and topped with a cilantro potato mixture.

Another good option is the spicy spinach uthappam. An uthappam or uttapam is a pancake in which the other ingredients are cooked into the batter such that it looks a little more like a pizza. It is thicker, spongier and less crispy than a dosa. All dosas and uthappam come with dipping sauces.

Dosa Corner also has a variety of rice and curry dishes. Pictured below is the mutter panneer made with homemade cheese. The main dishes are around $7 and for around $10 you can get a thali (combination meal) with either a dosa or with curry and poori (fried bread).

Portion sizes are generous and the owner is friendly and helpful. There is a specials board and lots of pictures of the food on the wall – helpful for when explanations aren’t entirely clear. Dosa Corner also offers Indian sweets and snacks.