Pandemic Takeout 27: India Spice House (Eden Prairie, MN)


On Sunday I had a quick look at the India Spice House grocery store in Eden Prairie. We were in the general neighbourhood again for yet another walk in the excellent Hyland Lake park in Bloomington. The last time we were there—two weeks ago—we picked up a large takeout order from Godavari, the new Twin Cities metro outlet of a popular US-based South Indian franchise. That was a very good meal. This time we picked up food from India Spice House’s restaurant, which has been around since 2008. I don’t know if the restaurant or the grocery store came first but they’re right next to each other—you can even enter the restaurant directly from the grocery store. We once again picked up a large order to eat with friends on our deck. Was it as good a meal as the one from Godavari? Read on. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 25: Godavari (Eden Prairie, MN)


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. Continue reading

Chaat, Puchka, Chaat (Delhi, Calcutta, Delhi, Jan-Feb 2020)


We returned from India on the 4th of February. It is now almost the end of August. The time seems right to finally post the last of my meal reports from our trip. This report encompasses one of our first meals out in Delhi on this trip as well as our very last meal out in Delhi; in between is a spot of eating in Calcutta. All these meals have one thing in common: chaat. As I noted many years ago in my first report on chaat on the blog (which you really should read), chaat is one of the genres of food I miss the most, living outside India, and it is one of the things I make sure to eat as much of as I can when I do go home to visit. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 15: Kabob’s Indian Grill


If you are so deviant as to read this blog on a regular basis then you know that I came across Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington late last year and very quickly pronounced their food the best Indian food I’d yet eaten at a restaurant in Minnesota. This excitement was centered largely on their lunch thalis, with a revolving selection of small bowls of goodness, which are also simultaneously the best lunch deal in Minnesota. I did also like almost everything I ate at a non-thali weekend lunch meal in December. And you’ll get a sense of how much I like their food when I tell you that I chose to eat more of it just a month after returning from a trip home to India—I never wrote that meal—another thali lunch—up before the pandemic hit but it’s covered in this write-up. When the pandemic did hit, Kabob’s closed down rather than go to a takeout-only model. I was very worried that they might not re-open. And so when I was at TBS Mart a few weeks ago for a spot of shopping (they’re just a few doors apart in the same strip mall) I was excited to see that Kabob’s is open again. Continue reading

Peshawri (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


Yes, we went to Calcutta from Delhi and ate North Indian food. Given the fact that in the last couple of decades there’s been an explosion of Bengali restaurants in Calcutta this may seem like a particularly silly thing to do. But we ate one meal a day at the home of one aunt or the other every day while we were there, and so we were not really hurting for the hardcore Bengali food experience. And then one of the events at the wedding we were in the city for had food catered by Peshawri, the North Indian restaurant at the ITC Sonar Bangla; and it was so goddamned good we decided we’d spend one. of our meals there rather than go to 6 Ballygunge Place or some other restaurant whose food would be excellent but couldn’t compete anyway with what we’d been eating at the homes of various aunts. And a good choice it was too. Continue reading

Golden Joy (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


Indian Chinese food, as I’ve said before, is arguably the country’s true national cuisine. (I am speaking here not of the more recent, putatively more “authentic” Chinese food that has made inroads into the higher end of the market in major metros but which has a more limited reach.) This is true in two senses. It is available all over the country—in large cities and small towns, from fancy restaurants to street stalls to dhabas in the middle of nowhere—and has been for many decades. And it is a cuisine that at this point has been adopted without much/any rancour in every part of the country it has gone to (which is to say, again, to every part of it). This latter cannot be said, for example, of North Indian restaurant food—which is also everywhere but whose popularity inspires grumbling in many places outside North India. The only other contender is South Indian food of the idli-dosa-vada-sambar kind (I refer to it generically because that’s largely how it’s presented and received outside the South)—but that has never quite shed its (broad) regional origins. Indian Chinese food, on the other hand, is now of everywhere and from nowhere. And in most places there are no Indian Chinese people actually associated with preparing or serving it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 12: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


Last year I wrote up a couple of meals at Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a local outpost of Kumar’s Mess, a popular Texas-based franchise that specializes in Chettinad food (though their menu has more than just Chettinad food). That write-up from December—which included my thoughts on developments in Indian food in the Twin Cities metro that seem to have eluded the professional critics—focused on what is normally Kumar’s specialty: thali-based meals. They’ve been doing takeout through the pandemic but I doubt thalis have been involved. They are now open for socially distanced dining-in but we only stopped in on Sunday to get some takeout for another socially-distanced meal on a deck with friends. The dining room is restricted to 24 guests only, and it’s a large space, but it’s going to take me a long while to get comfortable with eating in at a restaurant—and frankly, the sight of customers going in and out without masks, as we were waiting in our car outside for curbside pickup, did not help. The food, however, was pretty good. Continue reading

Hog Worth (Goa, Jan 2020)


After a shaky start at our first lunch on the beach (more on this later), we had our fourth very good lunch in a row at Hog Worth. I’ve already posted write-ups of the three previous: at Martin’s Corner, Palácio Do Deão, and Fernando’s Nostalgia. Unlike those three places, Hog Worth is not located in South Goa. It is located in Panjim, the capital of the state. This was another restaurant recommended by Vikram D. (who’d also recommended Fenando’s Nostalgia) and after the previous day’s experience we were looking forward to a meal there after a spot of tourism at various cathedrals. It did not disappoint. Continue reading

Punjabi By Nature II (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We enjoyed our buffet lunch at Made in Punjab at the start of our stay in Delhi but, as I said at the end of my review, we liked the Punjabi lunch we had the next week even more. That lunch was at Punjabi By Nature, the OG upscale new wave Punjabi restaurant. We last ate there in 2016 and that write-up has some background information on the restaurant and the larger phenomenon of the rise of fancier Punjabi restaurants in Delhi in the era of liberalization. I won’t go into all that again in this report—you can go read the first few paragraphs of the earlier one if you’re so interested. I am happy to be able to tell you, however, that this meal was as good as our previous, which is to say, it was very good indeed. Indeed having now eaten at most of the major contenders I would say that Punjabi by Nature may still be atop the category. Continue reading

Cafe Lota IV (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We first ate at Cafe Lota in January 2014, just a few months after it had opened at the Crafts Museum. Since then we/I have gone back there on every trip (the one exception being in 2017 when I visited Delhi very briefly on account of a family emergency). We were enthusiastic about our first meals there in 2014; the two visits since then, in 2016 and 2018, yielded somewhat more uneven results with the departure of the original chef a possible reason. I still maintained, however, that it was one of the better and more interesting restaurants in Delhi and so there was not much question that we would go back there again on this trip. Continue reading

Made in Punjab (Delhi, Jan 2020)


My reviews so far from our sojourn in Delhi in January (we have been back in Minnesota for a week now) may have given you the impression that we did not eat any North Indian food on this trip. Now, it’s true that we ate far less North Indian food on this trip than we usually do but we did eat some. In fact, our very first meal out was at a Punjabi restaurant, the aptly named Made in Punjab. We were at the NOIDA Mall of India for some wedding present shopping for later in the trip and of the many restaurant options the boys selected this one. I didn’t put up too much resistance either. I have very little interest in North Indian curry houses in the US but the genre is a very different proposition in Delhi. The boys were motivated by the promise of tandoori chicken and naans—it’s somewhat pathetic just how much better these basic dishes are at pretty much any halfway-decent North Indian restaurant in Delhi than anywhere in the US. I hoped there might be other kababs that might also be pleasing. I am happy to report we were all happy with our meal. Continue reading

Jamun (Delhi, Jan 2020)

We ate at Jamun—located in the Lodhi Colony market—the night after our dinner at Eat Pham. We met a different set of friends here. I’d suggested Cafe Lota but one member of the party nixed it on the grounds of the absence of alcohol and suggested we try Jamun, which had apparently been recommended highly to her. Being of a generally agreeable disposition, I put aside my misgivings—she is the notorious fantasist I’ve had cause to mention before—and we showed up for what in Delhi is a very early dinner reservation, at 7.30. The restaurant was fairly empty but not quiet for long. This because another member of the party—in from New Jersey—can normally be heard from two states away and that when she is not excited. On this occasion she was highly excited even before she got to the restaurant (was there alcohol involved? I don’t like to speculate). With ear plugs fastened we got down to perusing the menu. Continue reading

Kabob’s: Beyond the Weekday Lunch Thali (Bloomington, MN)


Late last year I posted a couple of reviews of lunches I’d eaten at Kabob’s in Bloomington (here and here). Those were the best Indian meals I’d yet eaten in Minnesota, I said; indeed, I went so far as to say that I’d be happy to eat those meals in India as well. Having just got back from four weeks in India, I’ll admit that last is slightly hyperbolic—there are far better South Indian thali meals to be had even in Delhi, which is not exactly in South India. But only slightly hyperbolic. It would be far from the best South Indian restaurant in Delhi (and yes, I know “South Indian” is an overly general category) but it would do well enough. I say this with confidence because a couple of weeks before leaving for Delhi I finally ate a non-thali meal there with some friends, and I can tell you that the weekday thalis aren’t the only reason to eat there. Continue reading

Nimtho (Delhi, January 2020)


Sikkim, which became an Indian state in 1975, is counted as one of the eight northeastern states of the country. It is not, however, contiguous with the other seven northeastern states, being separated geographically from them by parts of northern West Bengal that lie further east than Sikkim. The population is of largely Nepali origin with the Lepchas and Bhutias among the other major indigenous ethnic groups (there are also Bengali and Marwari communities). My family lived in northern West Bengal in the early 1980s and I went to boarding school in Darjeeling in the mid-1980s. We went on many hiking trips to Sikkim and I had Sikkimese friends in school. Sikkimese food is, therefore, not largely a blank space in my culinary map as is the case with most of the other northeastern states (the other exception is Assam). Unlike Manipur—whose food I know only from our recent meal at Eat Pham—or Nagaland—whose food I know only from meals at Dzükou and Hornbill—I’ve eaten a fair bit of Sikkimese food in my adolescence, though not a whole lot of it since then. As on this trip to Delhi we were trying to eat a greater regional variety of food than we usually end up doing, I was pleased to learn that there is a well-regarded Sikkimese restaurant in Greater Kailash-1: Nimtho. We ate lunch there in between our dinners at Eat Pham and Hornbill. Herewith some details. Continue reading

Bagundi 2 (Delhi, January 2020)


From the North East to the south and to a restaurant I first ate at on my trip to Delhi in December 2018. Bagundi, located in M block on the Connaught Place outer circle, features the food of Andhra Pradesh. The state in fact split into two in 2014, or rather a new state, Telangana was carved out of the north-western parts of the old Andhra Pradesh. As far as I can make out, Bagundi’s conception of Andhra food is not affecting by these border re-drawings: their menu features most of the dishes I would have expected to see on an Andhra menu prior to 2014.
Continue reading

The Categorical Eat Pham (Delhi, January 2020)


We’re coming to the end of our stay in Delhi on this trip (we’ve been here for almost two weeks). Coming “home” to Delhi has become progressively alienating in the 26+ years since I left for graduate school in the US. For the first  few years it was like falling back easily into a mother tongue you don’t speak in your day-to-day life. After that as the Indian economy liberalized and the mediascape and urban landscape began to transform radically, trips “home” began to feel increasingly foreign: familiar roads and places became harder to map, my old points of reference were no longer reliable. And, of course, as my life in the US—work, marriage, children—became more established the question of which was “home” became more blurred. This is, of course, a familiar immigrant story. Though there is a great deal of class privilege encoded in the fact that I have been able to be a regular visitor to India (for weeks at a time) ever since I left, I don’t want to claim that there’s anything exceptional about this sort of thing. But for me this trip has been different. Continue reading

Three More Thalis at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading

The Bombay Bread Bar (New York, August 2019)


This was the third of three Indian meals I ate in New York in August. The Bombay Bread Bar was the latest of renowned chef, Floyd Cardoz’ Indian restaurants. I never had a chance to eat at Tabla, Cardoz’ most successful restaurant, in operation from 1998 to 2010. Along with Tamarind under Raji Jallepalli*, Tabla was one of the few restaurants in that period that attempted to move Indian restaurant food in the US past the established cliches. Despite its longevity, however, it did not really spark a movement. Now the zeitgesit has caught up to Cardoz. New York alone is full of restaurants serving modern and regional Indian dishes, in rooms that are trendy and playful (see Adda and Baar Baar, for example). It made sense then that in 2016, after several years helming non-Indian restaurants, he made a return to this culinary space with Paowalla. But it didn’t stick, and in 2018 the concept was switched to the more casual Bombay Bread Bar. This was apparently more successful but not successful enough to keep it in business. It was announced in July that the restaurant would close in September. Nonetheless, I wanted to eat there. Having tried Cardoz’ updated take on Goan food in Bombay (at O Pedro), I was curious to see what he had been up to here. Continue reading