Pandemic Takeout 33: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)

The takeout plan for this past Saturday had originally involved picking up food from an Indian restaurant in the western suburbs. But by the time the weekend showed up lunch came under time constraints and it just wasn’t going to be possible to place the order* and make it up to the restaurant and back in time to eat on our deck (an hour’s drive each way). And as the same was going to be true of the places closest to us—Kabob’s and Kumar’s—it didn’t seem like Indian food was going to be on the cards. But the boys had already been promised their tandoori chicken and naans and given how little fun they’re having compared to normal these days, we decided not to disappoint them. Accordingly, I drove up on Friday evening to Kumar’s in Apple Valley—only 25 minutes away—and picked up a large order to heat up at leisure the next day. We were going to be a smaller group than usual—only 4 adults—but to be safe I ordered as I would if we had been 6 or 8. It’s the right thing to do.

Kumar’s, like many restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, is currently open for dining in. It’s not clear if this state of affairs will continue in the state much longer but as of now, they’re open. I got there at about 7.30 on a Friday and there were four tables occupied in the fairly large restaurant. I must note that while one of these tables was set very far away from the others, I thought the other three could have been spaced even further from each other given the available real estate. There were in any case more takeout orders being picked up. Mine was one of four orders carried away in the time I was there.

When calling in the order I’d tried to mostly get things that would reheat well the next day: mostly curries and moist dishes. There were some exceptions, of course: the tandoori chicken and biryani and naans and parathas. All of these actually heated up quite well at low heat in the oven the next day. The one dish that suffered a bit in this regard was a chicken starter that turned out to be quite a bit drier than the gent taking my order had said it would be when I’d asked.

What were the specific dishes?

We started with two non-veg appetizers: the aforementioned chicken dish, naatu koli varuval; and kaara mutton perattal, a spicy stir-fry of boneless goat that was rather excellent. To follow, the chicken pallipalayam curry, made with coconut and quite tasty; mutton chops masala, which looked very striking but tasted just ordinary, I thought—and the chops were inconsistently cooked with a few falling off the bone and others too chewy. At the biryani end of things we got the mutton thalapakatti biryani which was a highlight; it came with a salna (or thin meat gravy) and a bit of raita. The role of dal was played by a decent sambar. We also got two veg mains: poondu pulikolambu, garlic cloves in a tamarind-heavy curry; and kaara kolambu, another sour curry with eggplant—both were rather good. We mopped all this up with rice and oor parathas. The boys, of course, got their tandoori chicken and naan which they said was very good (the chicken happily devoid of neon-red food colouring). I normally steer clear of desserts at Indian restaurants in the US but it was Diwali on Saturday and so I couldn’t resist. The kesari (a thick “porridge” of sweetened cream of wheat with nuts) was pleasant; the payasam (milk pudding with vermicelli and sabudana/tapioca pearls) was blah.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu and the food, launch the slideshow below. To see how much this cost and where I’d rate it compared to our other recent Indian meals, scroll down.

I noticed while consulting the bill while writing this up that we seem to have been accidentally overcharged for one item (we paid a $8 surcharge for a supersized version of the biryani though we ordered and received the regular). Even with the overcharge the adult portion of the meal came to $180 with tax and tip. Now you may think that’s a lot for four people but it was enough food for 10 adults—I know because we got three full adult meal portions out of our leftovers and I assume our friends did too. So really only about $18/head.

The meal, on the whole, was very good. One of our friends thought it was the best of the three Indian meals he’s recently eaten on our deck—the other two being from Indian Masala and India Spice House. My own estimation was a bit different. I thought the highs were very high but that a few dishes were not so far above the decent mark. Might they have been better if ordered on the day of? Perhaps (though we have to reheat all the food we bring home for our deck lunches). I’m certain they’d be better if ordered at the restaurant (though that’s also true of all the other deck lunches). I’d accordingly place them a little lower among the five Indian meals we’ve brought home in the last 2 months (Kabob’s and Godavari being the other two). Still, it’s food I’d be happy to eat again and over all the other Indian places we’ve tried over the last couple of years (barring the four mentioned above). Indeed, it’s now possible apparently to combine a food order from the restaurant with a grocery order from the neighbouring Mantra Bazaar (owned by the same people) and have them delivered for a nominal fee within a 30 mile radius (it’s free if you’re in Apple Valley or closer than we are).

What’s next? I’m not sure. I think we may be done with large deck lunches. Between the weather—getting colder and more miserable each weekend—and the rising infection rates, I think we will soon be eating only indoors, by ourselves or just with the family we are podding with. Let’s see how it goes.


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