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Curry House Kebab Mania Masala Mumbai Masala Taj India Tandoor Taste of India
Indian restaurants are the new In Thing in Lexington. Cutting edge diners have adopted the exotic and ancient tastes of New Delhi, Bombay (Mumbai), Bengalaru, Kolkata (Calcutta), and Hyderabad. Along the way, they've become acquainted with Indian subpopulations like the Bengals and the Sindhu. Indian restaurants, like their Chinese and Mexican counterparts, offer visual splendor even before the menu arrives. Rich tapestries, statues, and murals of palaces and temples reinforce the aura of ancient cultures which made food a fine art when European and British tribes were still cooking over campfires. Indian cooking is filled with tastes and sensations unfamiliar to most Americans. Chicken and lamb, curried and tender, are the foundation of most meals. Specialized ovens, like the Tandoor or Tagine, are used in slow cooking. Coconut and grasses, including bamboo, reinforce the delicate flavor of Indian food. But of all these ingredients, Indian cooking is the art of using aromatic spices very carefully to enhance, not overpower, tastes. Subtlety is the key. Indian food is low in cholesterol and high in vitamins. Indian restaurants, especially Tandoors, are also ideally suited to family style eating. You can order one of their Platters with enough food for three, or order two Platters for a party of 4-6. This allows everyone to sample many different items. Indian restaurants are also interesting because of their unique appetizers, desserts and beverages.
curry house The Curry House opened in 2006, but was up and down under several owners. In 2011 the former owner of Tandoor bought and stabilized it. He brought his recipes with him and has added several entrees from Nepal. Appetizers include various Samosas and Pakoras (both fritters stuffed with meats and/or vegetables, a sort of Indian Perogi). They do a fine job with their four Soups : Mulligatawny (spiced lentils), Palak Shorba (spinach, potatoes, herbs), Chicken Sorba and Tomato Soup. Lovers of Nan Bread will be happy here; Curry House offers 15 and they're all good. Entrees are similar to those at other Indian restaurants with one great exception : the 10 Nepalese items. There's Khasi Ko Masu (tender pieces of goat sauteed in ginger and garlic, marinated in Himalayan spices and cooked in a mild tomato onion sauce), Aloo Tama (potatoes and bamboo cooked in mountain spices), and two Nepali package dinners (one vegetarian). Beverages include the usual Lassi, Chai Tea, Mango and Frooti. The core menu includes the usual pages of Chicken, Lamb, Seafood, Vegetarian and Tandoori specialties. The customer favorite, as at most Indian restaurants, are the Chicken Tikki Masala (chicken breast roasted in the clay oven then simmered in a tomato and cream sauce), Seekh Kebab (minced lamb cubes alternating with onions, spiced with herbs, then roasted on skewers in the tandoor oven), and the Tandoori Mixed Grill (chicken, shrimp and lamb slices roasted in the oven). Ramesh, shown below, taught us to always order a Chutney (they offer four, each $2.00) to enhance the flavor of whatever meat we ordered. A seafood lover at your table should order the Tandoori Shrimp (jumbo shrimp marinated in herbs, then broiled in the tandoor oven); it's a quite different taste and very good. Or try one of the Vindaloo dishes. Vindaloo is a blend of vinegar, sugar, ginger, herbs and spices. It is used as a marinating sauce. Curry House offers Seafood Vindaloo, Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Vindaloo and Vegetarian Vindaloo. The Vindaloo livens up the flavor considerably. You can specify whether you want it mild, medium or hot.
Lately, The Curry House has gone to a buffet for lunch and on Friday and Saturday nights. We view Indian buffets skeptically : Indian flavors are very delicate and don't survive well under a heat table for 30 minutes. Indian spices need to be tailored to individual tastes. And there is no way a buffet can include all of a restaurant's offerings. Curry House addresses these issues by placing smaller portions on the line, so they are kept busy replacing items as they run out constantly. Once a tray empties, it takes longer to replace, because they are actually cooking more as needed. (Most restaurants prepare their buffets in the morning or afternoon and have everything ready before they open. This is why their flavors fade.) The Curry House rotates items daily, so while some staples are always there, many keep changing, allowing them to feature the whole menu over a couple of weeks. The favorite buffet items here are Chicken Tikki Masala, Vegetable Pakoras (spiced vegetable fritters), Aloo Gobhi (potato cauliflower ginger tomato spice patti), Nan, and Gulabjamun (honey balls). However, we really like the Sambar, a South Indian soup. It contains green chilies, red chilies, onions, tomatoes, dried mango and curry. The soup has a deep, rich flavor with an underlying heat from the chilies. It is not meant for eating with a spoon American style. It is meant as a dipping soup. The Wada (offered in an adjacent tray) is dipped into the Sambar, diluting the searing heat for a delicious treat. We also like the Achar, a chutney used to enhance the entrees. Sampled alone, Achar is very hot, but used carefully on meats or veggies, it brings out their flavors. Pictured are Sharad Dhakal (left) and Ramesh Rimal, preparing for lunch. curry buffet
Kebab Mania Kebab Mania is not an Indian restaurant. It's Pakistani. But Pakistan was part of India before the separation (Pakistan is Muslim, India Hindu, and they never got along), and the menus have many similarities, so we include it here. This is the only Pakistani restaurant in Central Kentucky. As the name implies, Kebabs are a major entree here, but there are others. Chicken is the favorite meat. It's served spiced, marinated, grilled and cooked, with rice, peppers, curry, yogurt, ginger, garlic, chilies, tomatoes and onions. The big entree is the Lahori Charga, a whole chicken slow baked for 12 hours in a mix of exotic spices. You have to special order it the day before, but it only costs $15 and is a treat you'll remember for a long time. A favorite back in Pakistan is Chicken Karahi, chicken marinated in spices and curry. Those spices include ginger and serrano chili. Lamb Boti offers small squares of grilled meat with a cilantro - chili - yogurt sauce. Somebody at your table has to order the Goat Karahi (seared spiced goat curry) or Goat Biryani (goat cooked with rice, peppers and spices). There are 10 specials on a rotating basis, with exotic names like Qeema Aloo and Haleem. Daal is a unique concoction of lentils and chilies, and there's Potato Curry, yellow potatoes fried with cumin, onions and curry. You must try the Sikanjibi (Pakistani Lemonade). It's tart, not sweet, but goes well with the entree flavors. Pakistani cooking achieves its tender meats by slow heat, so come prepared to stay a while.

Masala is in Beaumont Center. There are the usual standards : nine breads, nine appetizers, three soups, 11 chicken, nine lamb, seven seafood and 18 vegetarian entrees. Among the appetizers, we like the Meat Samosa, a crisp turnover stuffed with spiced lamb and peas, fried in vegetable oil, served with tamarind sauce. Spicy Indian pickles are an interesting "accompaniment." One difference from Tandoor is Masala works a heavy cream sauce into many dishes. Many items are cooked in a tandoor, the classic Indian clay oven into which skewers of meat or veggies are lowered and baked at super high temperatures to seal in the juices and flavors. We recommend the Platter, a sampler of all the other entrees and plenty for three, even though it is only advertised for two. 3061 Fieldstone Way, Beaumont Centre.

masala
Mumbai Masala Mumbai Masala replaces Bombay Brasier as downtown Lexington's Indian restaurant at the same High Street - Limestone corner. Mumbai offers the usual Indian entrees, with a few unique twists. In addition to Nan Breads, they offer Nan stuffed with cheese, lamb, chicken and/or herbs then baked. Among their Appetizers, we like the Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower spiced and fried, then cooked in sweet and sour sauce with peppers and onions), Chicken 65 (chicken cubes cooked with fried curry leaves, yogurt and spices), and Samosa Chat (vegetarian samosas covered with masala, spices, diced onions, diced tomatoes, mint and tamarind). They have an interesting "street food" section in their menu, which offers such treats as Vada Pav (deep fried spicy garlic potato pattie). Rather than the usual Spinach Sorba, Mumbai offers Chicken Sorba as their house soup. There are five Tandoori entrees, of which we like the Seekh Kebab (minced meat, onions and herbs roasted in the tandoor on skewers). They have nine Lamb orders, but it's hard to beat their Lamb Vindaloo (highly spiced lamb baked in a tangy sauce) and Lamb Tikka Masala (lamb pieces roasted in a clay oven, then simmered in a tomato and cream sauce). Mumbai features 10 Chicken entrees, most of which are Indian standards, but the Chicken Patia (cooked in sweet and sour mangoes, spices, ginger and scallions). Five of their six Seafood entrees are Shrimp, although Salmon Tikki Masala is the exception and very good. The Biryani (yogurt) menu includes Goat (pieces curried then cooked with rice, saffron and nuts). 15 Vegetarian entrees complete the menu. The Eggplant Bhartha is the best of these. For Dessert there is Kheer (rice pudding with nuts, cardamom and rose). Mumbai offers a lunch buffet every day.

Taj India is the latest incarnation at the old Oriental Garden / India Palace location. Taj opened in 2009 and has already developed a loyal following. They lured longtime Lexington chef Benny Head from his former UK campus location, and offer a Northern India menu. The decor has a regal ambiencewith ornate chandeliers, a waterfall and rich wall hangings. The lunch buffet (seven days a week) is spectacular, with over 20 dishes and various tandoor baked breads and other sides. Lexington has eight good Indian restaurants, but the Chicken Tikki Masala, Saag Paneer and Tandoori Chicken here are as good or better than any of them. Among appetizers, we like the Lamb Kebabs. They offer eight good vegetarian dinners. The Tandoori Mixed Grill is a great way to sample the variety of their menu. Goat Curry was new to us, and we found it quite unique and tasty. Although their Rice Pudding is the traditional dessert, we were more impressed with the Mango Pudding. This is not a good location, out of sight of Richmond Road, on a dead end street. Both their predecessors were really good, developed a loyal following, but never attracted enough walk in or drive by traffic to survive. We hope Taj India makes it. 54 Patchen Drive. From downtown, take East Main / Richmond Road under New Circle Road, then turn right on Patchen.

Taj India
Tandoor Tandoor is the oldest Indian restaurant in town, named for the conical clay oven heated to high temperatures. Cooks then marinate meats overnight, stack them on skewers and lower them into the tandoor. For starters, we like their Murg Shorba (spiced chicken soup) and its companion Palak Shorba (spiced spinach soup). Tandoor offers nine breads, all made by rolling out the dough and spreading it along the side of the oven. Onion paneer, for example, is bread filled with onions. Tandoor offers the traditional Platter, advertised as feeding two but with plenty for three. However, the entrees are great. In seafood, we recommend Vindaloo (jumbo shrimp, scallops, and fish baked with potatoes and spiced hot sauce). The Tandoor Mixed Grill includes chicken, lamb and shrimp baked on a skewer in the tandoor. There are nine lamb entrees. We like the Karahi Gosht, diced lamb sauteed in a wok with onions, garlic, pepper, tomato, ginger and herbs. Of the 11 chicken entrees, we like the Karahi Chicken Saag, which is boneless chicken baked with spinach, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Tandoor lists 16 Vegetarian dinners. We like Vegetable Vindaloo, mixed veggies cooked in a tangy curry sauce. There are lunch and Sunday brunch buffets. Tandoor is the only Indian restaurant in Lexington serving authentic Indian wines. 3130 Maple Leaf Drive, Andover Shoppes, off Man O War across from Carmike Cinema. From downtown, East Main/ Richmond Road several miles, then turn left onto Man O War and right onto Maple Leaf Drive.
Taste of India is Lexington's newest Indian restaurant. The Friday nights we ate there it was not full but we noticed a steady stream of carryout service, so obviously it has already developed a loyal customer base. The ambience is very informal and festive, and includes large TVs with Bollywood films. Service is professional but warm and cheerful. They offer the usual Indian classics but have added a few and customized others. Beverages include Indian Coffee, Mint Iced Tea, Black Hot Tea, and Punjabi Chai, a delicious blend of black tea, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove and milk. All come with free refills. There are Lentil, Spinach, Chicken and Coconut Soups. We really like their Spinach Soup (Palak Shorba), a rich and creamy take on this traditional item. They offer four Salads : Fish, Chicken (the Salmon and Chicken cubes are grilled in a clay oven), Kachumber (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and chaat masala tossed in lemon juice), and Garden. Appetizers are very traditional : Veggie Pakora (mixed vegetables battered in a lentil flour then deep fried), Veggie Samosa (peas and potatoes turnovers) Meat Samosa (spiced lamb, peas and chutney turnovers), Paneer Pakora (fried cheese & chutney), Chicken Pakora (fritters stuffed with spiced chicken, garlic & ginger), and Gobhi Manchurian (batter fried cauliflower fritters in red sauce). They offer 12 kinds of Nan Bread. We think all 12 are delicious and urge you to try the Sampler Basket. There are seven Tandoor Oven specials, including traditional classics Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikki and Seekh Kebab, but we recommend their Mixed Tandoori (marinated and roasted chicken, lamb & shrimp). You can pick from 12 Chicken dishes, of which we suggest the Mango Chicken (chicken cubes cooked with sweet & sour mangoes, spices, ginger and scallions). There are pages of Lamb, Seafood and Vegetarian entrees, and two delicious Goat specialties. 2467 Nicholasville Road. 260-1911.
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