Dining Out: Just the right spice at India House
Sandy » I just saw "Slumdog Millionaire," a heartbreaking yet hopeful tale about human existence, and subsistence, in parts of modern-day India. Though the film shows numerous glimpses of Mumbai's Dharavi slum, rarely do viewers see examples of the cuisine -- in the form of naan, rice and chai, three of the country's food staples.
In Utah, we are fortunate to have many Indian restaurants that offer much more than those three mainstays. India House is one to recommend.
The Tribune last visited the six-year-old Sandy restaurant in 2003 and prices were very reasonable -- they still are. Most notably, for $8.99, the lunch buffet -- offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays -- is comprised of rice, salad, a soup of the day, naan, an appetizer, two vegetarian entrees, three meat entrees and dessert, hopefully all eaten in moderation.
Another plus is the restaurant's attention to detail. It shows in the house-made yogurt and paneer (cheese), in original creations such as mint naan($1.79) or saag (spinach) naan ($3.99), and in the tastefully decorated and dimly lit dining room done in primary colors.
With Indian cuisine, it's all about the spices. Spice doesn't just infer heat; it can mean tangy, bitter, smoky, sweet and earthy, to name just a few taste descriptors. It's the correct ratio of all of these that is the sum of a good dish -- and India House has many.
This is due, in large part, because the same chef has been manning the stoves since the restaurant first opened, allowing him to perfect his secret garam masala spice blend -- which uses six different spices -- as well as master the heat levels of dishes.
Here, order a dish mild, medium or hot and it will arrive as requested. Heck, the kitchen will even use a sauce made with habañeros for those who really crave heat.
That garam masala is put to good use in the lamb vindaloo (medium or hot only, $11.79). Small cubes of tender lamb are coated in a crimson sauce accented with cloves, black cardamom, ginger, vinegar, red chiles and the masala blend. A cheery orange creamsicle-colored mango lassi ($3.29) -- yogurt with mango -- really helps to cool things down.
Every cuisine has an entry-level dish. Thai has its Massaman curry, Chinese has its General Tso's chicken, Japanese sushi has its California roll, and Indian has chicken tikka masala ($11.99). Cubes of chicken breast are marinated in yogurt, cooked and served in a rich tomato cream sauce. It's a great dish for those new to India House.
More unusual but worth trying is the shrimp coconut korma ($12.59). Here, coconut milk is used instead of cream in a sauce that contains tangy fenugreek, soothing grated coconut, tomatoes and spices.
Vegetarians have more than 10 meatless dishes to choose from, including aloo gobhi ($8.99), featuring tender florets of cauliflower, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and peas, and saag paneer ($9.99), a creamy blend of spinach, broccoli, garam masala, onion, garlic and ginger.
For newcomers, an order of "assorted snacks" ($5.99) is a good way to sample the menu's starters. The vegetable and meat samosas are crispy, plump 3-D triangles stuffed with potatoes and peas or spiced lamb. Chicken pakoras were incredibly moist but the vegetable pakoras , skimpy on ingredients and heavy on chickpea batter, were dry.
If you can make room for dessert, order the kulfi ($3.99), an unusual off-white ice cream with cashews, pistachios and the scent of green cardamom, or gulab jamun ($2.99), fried, sugar syrup-soaked, spongy pastry balls.
In the kitchen and in the front of the house, it's obvious India House takes pride in exposing Utahns to its thoughtful Northern Indian cuisine. When I go back and savor the shrimp coconut korma, I'll be thankful I have the means to be able to enjoy more than naan, rice and chai.
Bottom line » Indian food shines due to precise spicing and accurate heat levels
Well executed, creative and thoughtful Northern Indian cuisine. Lunch buffet is plentiful and reasonably priced.
Location » 8660 S. State St., Sandy; 801-569-0550
Hours » Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (lunch buffet: Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m.
Children's menu » No
Prices » $$
Liquor » Beer and wine
Corkage » $10
Reservations » Accepted
Takeout » Yes
Wheelchair access » Yes
Outdoor dining » No
On-site parking » Yes
Credit cards » All major