In my review of meals at Kumar’s last fall, I noted the huge blind spot in the mainstream (read: white) press when it comes to coverage or indeed awareness of the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro. Their focus remains on places in the Twin Cities proper: North Indian curry houses and the occasional upscale place with a p.r push. Meanwhile the real action, along with most of the region’s growing South Asian population, is in the suburbs. The opening of the local franchise of Kumar’s in Apple Valley—at the top of the Cedar Avenue corridor that is being filled in with new residential developments seemingly every month—was one (more) sign of this. Here now is another: a local franchise of Godavari which opened in Eden Prairie just about a month ago, pandemic be damned. We picked up a large amount of food from them last weekend and ate it on our deck with some friends. Here’s what we thought of it.
But first a quick note on Godavari. My uncertain understanding is that they are based in Massachussetts. I’m not sure when they debuted but they now have close to 30 franchises in the US and one in Toronto, and are apparently looking to expand into the Middle East and Europe. The menu is a bit of a hodgepodge: it includes the curry house all-stars that most Americans and North Indians seem to expect as well as what seem like nods at generic dishes from Kerala and Goa. But the core—as far as I could glean from a close-reading of the menu and also from conversation with the gent handling payment when I went in to pick up the food—is Andhra and Hyderabadi food. This is also signaled, of course, by the very name of the restaurant: the namesake river has its origin in Maharashtra but is the major river of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh (which split into Telangana and the current Andhra Pradesh in 2014). On the menu the signifiers in the names of dishes include place names such as Rayalseema, Konaseema, Kurnool. Telanagana, Nellore and also Hyderabad.
Now, as to whether people actually from Telangana or Andhra Pradesh would find the food at Godavari—or at least the Eden Prairie outpost—to be up to their standards, I can’t say. I can say, however, that the one dish I was not enthused by was the Hyderabadi mirchi ka saalan; and that while the putatively Hyderabadi biryani was very tasty in the abstract, it wasn’t a particularly good example of Hyderabadi biryani. But there end my complaints and quibbles. Everything else was very good indeed. On the whole, I would say the meal was better than our most recent from Kumar’s and also probably our most recent meal from Kabob’s Indian Grill in Richfield. Of course, neither of those places is Andhra in focus and so it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison.
But the good news is that in the southern and western suburbs we now have at least three excellent South Indian options that—in my view—blow the North Indian curry house competition out of the water. Actually, that’s not an accurate statement. These places are not really in competition with the North Indian curry houses. Those places rely largely on a a (white) American clientele. These new(er) places hedge their bets by having some of those dishes on the menu but are otherwise aimed at recent immigrants from South India, the same people who also shop at stores like TBS Mart or Mantra Bazaar. It’s a whole other world of Indian food than has been available in Minnesota and I wish the mainstream press would wake up and alert their readership to it.
What did we eat? None of the veg appetizers looking likely to survive a 50 minute drive well, we began with three meat appetizers: the Chicken 65 (sticky in the Andhra style) was very good but was trumped by both the Rayalseema Kodi Veppudu (chicken pepper fry) and especially the Mamsam Roast (special goat fry). For veg we got the aforementioned disappointing to me (but enjoyed by others) Hyderabadi Mirchi ka Saalan—which features peppers in a peanut-based gravy—and the Ennai Kathririkai Curry—eggplant in a tangy and spicy sauce. I mentioned to them when I called to place the order that I was not inspired by their dal offerings and they very nicely threw in some pretty good sambar on the house—for some reason you can’t order sambar off the menu as a standalone dish.
On to the meat! I’ve mentioned the Hyderabadi biryani. We also got their Chettinad Chicken which was both excellent and cleared our sinuses. The Gongura Mamsam, a classic Andhra dish of mutton/goat cooked with gongura (a sour green related to sorre), was excellent—the pick of the meal, in my opinion. Also very good—and very fucking hot—was the Rayalseema Royyalu Koora (a tomato-based shrimp curry). All of these dishes—even the relatively milder ones—were going to be too hot for the boys to handle and so we got them tandoori chicken and naan. The tandoori chicken was surprisingly very good—and entirely devoid of neon-red food colouring. The naan, however, was pedestrian, though it had, of course, sat in a car for 50 minutes. The Malabar paratha, however, was really very good despite the car ride and would be even better coming straight from the kitchen as would everything else.
For a look at the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. For thoughts on value and to see what may or may not be coming next, scroll down.
As you can see, there’s been some effort expended on the decor. In the abstract the restaurant is bright and attractive. However, I can’t say I am a fan of the nature of the murals that adorn the restaurant, which lean entirely on patriarchal images of women engaged in “traditional” work.
Price? With tax and tip our bill came to just over $220. Counting our boys as one adult, that made it just over $31/head. That might seem a bit pricey but a) this was enough food for at least 10 adults, so really it’s closer to $22/head; and b) the food was far better than that served at many fancy non-Indian places where you’d pay more than $31/head. We will probably be back for more takeout before the pandemic is done and I look forward to the post-pandemic time, prophesied in scripture, when I will be able to try their dishes that will certainly not travel well (dosas and the like).
Oh, I forgot to mention that in addition to the gratis sambar at pick-up they also offered me Andhra-style buttermilk to try. The missus and I fought over this for the 10 minutes of the drive home. I should also say that if you ask for the dishes that should be hot to be at the proper spicy level and they give it to you as such it will be as hot as you can handle. If you like hot food and don’t have an Indian accent you should insist on it when you call. There’s no point in asking for most of this stuff to be made mild, however.
Where to next? Probably to Saint Paul for either Ethiopian or Cambodian; or possibly to Minneapolis for Sichuan (yes, we might try to drive past the Grand Szechuan exit to get Sichuan food). If there’s anything you’ve eaten recently in the area that you might recommend highly, please write in below.