The Return of the Weekday Lunch Thali at Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


Let joy be unconfined: the Twin Cities metro’s greatest lunch deal is back! Yes, I refer to the weekday lunch thali at Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I have reported previously on these excellent thalis that I first ate in 2019 (see here and here). In late 2020 it was still available in to-go format (which I duly took advantage of). But then it went away. And even when in-person dining returned to Kabob’s last year, the weekday thali did not—though it was replaced by a new weekend thali served on banana leaves. I don’t mean to suggest that this was the worst restaurant-related development during the pandemic but it certainly was the one that impacted my life the most. Imagine my excitement then on seeing the restaurant announce on its Facebook page a couple of weeks ago that the weekday lunch thali was returning. I showed up as soon as I could to eat one and then again a week later. Here is my brief report on those meals. Continue reading

Bukhara (Delhi, March 2022)


After a break last weekend it’s back to my restaurant reports from my two-week visit to Delhi in March. I’ve previously reported on meals eaten out at Comorin, Cafe Lota and Carnatic Cafe—and also on a takeout biryani blowout. I now have three reports to go and the first of them is of what was once the most celebrated high-end restaurant in Delhi: Bukhara at the ITC Maurya hotel. I last ate there more than 20 years ago. There was a time when eating there (or at its Awadhi sibling, Dum Pukht) was a highly aspirational thing for me but as the Delhi restaurant scene has exploded in the intervening period it hasn’t really felt like a return to Bukhara (and its very high tarifffs) was very urgent. However, when we were in Calcutta in January 2020 we ate at Peshawri at one of the ITC hotels there and it was truly a fabulous meal. (In case you’re wondering, to preserve the Bukhara branding, names like Peshawri are used for restaurants at ITC’s other properties that present that menu.) And so when I reminded my strapping young nephews that despite having become working professionals they were yet to buy me a fancy meal, it was at Bukhara we ended up. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Biryani and Kababs (Delhi, March 2022)


I ate out a fair bit in Delhi in March but I ate at home more. One of those meals eaten at home, however, also featured restaurant food. Or to be more precise it featured food from a number of different restaurants. You see, my sister’s birthday fell during my trip and it was the first time in more than 30 years that I was in the same city as her (and my parents) on the day. And as one of her absolute favourite foods is biryani, we decided to do an extended family gathering at my parents’ place centered on biryani. My nephews were tasked with ordering the biryani. Their first thought was the popular chain, Biryani By Kilo, but they readily admitted that they had not tried a whole lot of alternatives in Gurgaon. Accordingly, I put the question to Twitter and when a large number of other places received votes it seemed only right to order from as many of them as possible. And that is how we ended up with seven different biryanis from five different restaurants. And to be safe I also ordered a bunch of kababs from the closest location of the venerable Al Kauser. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Cafe Lota V (Delhi, March 2022)


Cafe Lota may be my favourite restaurant in Delhi. I’ve eaten there on every trip since we first ate there in 2014—in some cases more than once. Part of our affection for it is that it is attached to the Crafts Museum, one of Delhi’s less visited treasures—and the restaurant itself is beautiful. Part of is that we’ve eaten there with so many good friends over the years. And a large part of it is the food, which is always excellent, always interesting and always an object lesson in the fact that a restaurant specializing in contemporary Indian food does not have to run away from “tradition”. One of the still remarkable things about Lota is how easily and seamlessly they present traditional dishes from different parts of India—sometimes in traditional guises, sometimes in updated presentations—alongside more mod’ish takes. As I noted at the end of my review of my meals at Comorin on this trip, the kind of thing Comorin is doing was really pioneered by Lota, and I think I prefer Lota’s version of it. You can go eat a Himachali thali and you can go eat bhapa doi cheesecake or apple jalebis—all of which I ate on this trip with some of my closest friends and fellow Lota aficionados. Between the laughter and the food, it was a wonderful meal and I can’t wait to do it again in January. Continue reading

Carnatic Cafe, Eight Years Later (Delhi, March 2022)


It has been eight years since our first meal at Carnatic Cafe—but that meal was not at this Carnatic Cafe exactly. Back in 2014 there was only one location of Carnatic Cafe, in the Friends Colony market. Now, as with almost every successful restaurant in Delhi, it has multiple locations all over the National Capital Region—including a new one at Terminal 3 in the international airport; indeed, I think that original location may no longer be in business, or may have moved into more upscale digs in some shiny new mall or the other. And it was at one of these newer, albeit not very shiny, locations—in Greater Kailash-II’s M block market—that I met up with a bunch of old friends for lunch a few days before returning to Minnesota last week. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Comorin (Delhi, March 2022)


Comorin flashed on my consciousness just as we were leaving Delhi in early February, 2020 (a month before you-know-what). It is the new-er, more casual restaurant from Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent. It opened late in 2018 in Gurgaon—at the swanky Horizon Centre, where it sits on the plaza level alongside a number of other flashy places aimed at Gurgaon’s young, professional elite. Given how much we loved our meal at Indian Accent in 2014 I was hellbent on eating at Comorin on this trip, especially as my parents have now moved from Noida to Gurgaon. As it happened I ate there twice in my first week here. Continue reading

Godavari, Finally in Person (Eden Prairie, MN)


I had Godavari at the top of my Twin Cities South Asian/Indian restaurant rankings in both 2020 and 2021. And that was based only on takeout meals brought home and reheated during the height of the pandemic. We’ve been looking forward to eating in there for a while and a week ago Saturday we finally managed it. It was just the four of us and one friend but we still managed to do quite a bit of damage. We mostly ordered things we hadn’t got from them before, including some things we hadn’t ordered because they hadn’t seemed like good bets to survive a long drive and reheating. I am pleased to say that if Indian Masala’s weekend buffet a week earlier had not impressed overmuch, this meal validated our already high opinion of Godavari. Herewith the details. Continue reading

The Weekend Buffet at Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


I’ve had Indian Masala—along with Godavari—at the top of the 2020 and 2021 editions of my Twin Cities Indian restaurant rankings but until last weekend we had never eaten in the restaurant. We first ate their food in late 2020—during what we’d then naively thought was the height of the pandemic—and then again as takeout in 2021. On the first occasion I’d gone in to pay and the long-neglected interior had not looked very prepossessing. Once they opened back up I had reports of the dining room having been more or less redone and looking much shinier. I also heard lots of promising reports of the special buffets they’d begun to run. (Most of these reports came to me via Mike McGuinness—the man behind the excellent East Metro Foodies group on Facebook and almost certainly Indian Masala Fan #1.) They now have special vegetarian/vegan buffets during the week and occasional Indian Chinese buffets as well. And on Saturdays and Sundays they put out what they call their Grand Weekend Buffet. Given our high opinion of the food from their regular menu, this seemed like a promising situation and so—having made our return to in-person dining last weekend at Grand Szechuan—we showed up last Saturday to partake of it with a couple of friends. How was it? Read on. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 73: India Palace (Burnsville, MN)


It was our older son’s birthday this Sunday and as part of his special day he requested tandoori chicken. Given the snowfall on Saturday and the indeterminate status of the local highways and roads I was wary about going too far to get it. The options within easy range were Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a sound choice based on past experience—or a place we’d never eaten at or gotten food from before: the Burnsville outpost of the India Palace chain. I opted for novelty—and also, I admit, the chance to expand my survey of older North Indian places in the Twin Cities metro. A good decision? A bad decision? Read on. Continue reading

Chennai Dosa Corner (Los Angeles, December 2021)


Yesterday I reported on a brief stop at Surati Farsan Mart in Artesia to eat paani puri and chaat. After that tasty start I made my second stop: at Chennai Dosa Corner for, well, a dosa.

Chennai Dosa Corner has been open for about eight years (so the gent at the counter told me). It is now one of several South Indian specialists open on and off Pioneer Boulevard. Back in the day if you wanted a good dosa in L.A County you had to go to Udupi Palace further up Pioneer Blvd. (Well, Paru’s in Hollywood was also quite good but didn’t have quite the same ambience for the immigrant nostalgist; nor did Sunset Blvd. have a branch of the State Bank of India right at the freeway exit.) My local informants tell me that Udupi Palace is still the gold standard in Artesia, and as an immigrant nostalgist of the old school it would have been my first choice except for one problem: yes, no outdoor seating. Thus Chennai Dosa Corner just a little bit up the road. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Surati Farsan Mart (Los Angeles, December 2021)


I noted in my review of dinner at Mo Ran Gak earlier this week that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a couple of years ago has meant the loss of Koreatown as our base of operations on our trips back to Los Angeles. But as an unfortunate bearded bloke once said, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. For us this has meant greater proximity to the Japanese restaurants of Gardena and Torrance. And it has also meant even greater proximity to Artesia whence is located Southern California’s premier Indian enclave. Back when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s, trips to Artesia to eat on the long drag of Pioneer Blvd. were always special—there not being very good Indian food in Los Angeles proper (a situation that is still probably true). But it was also a major pain in the ass to get there from the Westside. Now, it’s a short 15 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s door to Pioneer Blvd. And so on a day when the boys demanded burgers from In-N-Out I abandoned the family and sallied forth in search of chaat and dosas. My first port of call: Surati Farsan Mart. Continue reading

Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2021 Update


Just about a year ago I published my first-ever “Highly Subjective Ranking of Indian Restaurants in the Twin Cities Metro Area“. That list was occasioned by recognition of the fact that the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities at the end of 2020 was almost wholly transformed from what it had been like when we arrived in Minnesota in 2007. And also by the fact the mainstream food media and their readers continue to be largely unaware of these developments. Now I don’t pretend to have a very large reach on this blog but I was happy to see that post shared and re-shared by many people on various Twin Cities food groups on Facebook. And though it was posted with just a week left in 2020 it quickly rose into the top 5 most read posts of the year. And it’s been read consistently in 2021 as well (it’s currently in the top 3 most read posts of the year). Here now is an updated second edition. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 70: India House (St. Paul, MN)


At the end of last year I published my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro. (In case you missed it, you can find that post here.) In that post—which largely celebrated newer South Indian specialists—I rashly announced that in 2021 I would make more of an effort to explore more old-school North Indian restaurants as well—the kinds of places that have long been the mainstay of the Indian restaurant scene in the US. Of course it is now mid-November and I’ve not really done much of this exploration. I’m going to try to hastily make up some ground at the end of the year. Here first is a review of a recent takeout meal from India House, a longtime standby for those looking for chicken tikka masala, dal makhani, sag paneer etc. in and around Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Continue reading

Bombay Pizza Kitchen (Eden Prairie, MN)


Bombay Pizza Kitchen opened late last summer in Eden Prairie. As their name indicates, their thing is Indian-style pizza, a genre with an established history in India. Indeed, on our family trips to Delhi the boys much enjoy eating Indian-style pizza at outlets of Domino’s or Pizza Hut in malls (take a look at Pizza Hut India’s options here). I would imagine the genre is already quite widespread in places in the US where large populations of Indians and other South Asians can be found. The Twin Cities is increasingly one of those places and so it’s not a surprise that it should be here too now. Of course, they’re not the first such place in the Twin Cities metro; they’re not even the first in Eden Prairie: Pizza Karma, which opened a year or so previous, is less than a 10 minute drive away. We had been planning to go eat at Pizza Karma before the pandemic began and it’s entirely by happenstance that we ended up at Bombay Pizza Kitchen first. We stopped in for lunch with friends this past Sunday, after a 3.5 mile walk around Rice Marsh Lake on the border of Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. We were hungry and got a fair bit of the menu. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Spicy Mango Chutney


Mango discourse in the South Asian diaspora is focused almost entirely on nostalgia for varieties not available outside the home countries—a condition that leads some to overpay by some orders of magnitude for fruit flown in by small scale importers and distributed via ad hoc channels. I miss my mangos too—especially the langda, daseri and chausa—but I find this to be folly. Far better to embrace the good mangos that are available in the US—see the ataulfo, for example. And also to embrace the easily available unripe, green mango and all the excellent things that can be done with it: from Bengali kaancha aamer chatni to aam panna (the green mango drink that is as central to surviving South Asian summers as ripe mangos are as a reward) to Kerala-style curries to various pickles and chutneys. But then I understand that not everyone can be as tranquil and reasonable as me. Speaking of aam panna, this recipe is one I improvised this summer on a day when I boiled and mashed mangos for a batch of aam panna that would have been so large as to challenge even my ability to consume it over a couple of weeks. So I kept a third of it aside and made this versatile chutney that works great as a pickle (with dal and parathas/chapatis or rice), as a sandwich spread, and even as an accompaniment to cheese (like manchego, for example). And it’s very easy. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Begun Bhaja


Begun bhaja literally means “fried brinjal/eggplant” in Bengali. It is one of the simplest preparations in the Bengali repertoire and one of the most quintessential. A meal comprising just dal and rice and a few slices of begun bhaja is an excellent meal indeed. Well, I say that now. As I’ve noted before, I did not actually eat brinjal/eggplant till just a few years ago. But it is also true that even in my most baingan-phobic youth I always liked the taste of begun bhaja and would eat small bits of the non-seedy parts of the flesh along with the crispy, almost smoky peel. Now I am older and wiser and enjoy all of it.

In its simplest form, all this dish requires is baingan, salt, haldi, red chilli powder and oil. The version I make most often adds only one ingredient to the above, probably making it less quintessentially Bengali in the process. That ingredient is amchur or dried mango powder. Some people add some sugar to the mix as well (the love of sugar is a sickness among us Bengalis); some also add flour; I’ve sometimes sprinkled some rava/sooji/semolina over right before frying. I like these fine as variations but most often come back to the simple version in this recipe. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 63: Namaste India Grill (Arden Hills, MN)


The Zeroth Law of Ordering at Indian restaurants in North America says that if the person taking your order asks you if you want your dal makhani “mild, medium or spicy” you should give up hope and head for the exit. I have to confess that when the person taking my takeout order on the phone on Saturday mornign at 11 asked me this question I was tempted to hang up. But the boys had been promised tandoori chicken for weeks now, and I’d also committed to reviewing more North Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro this year—and so I said a little prayer to my many-armed gods and placed the rest of the order. This is how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 54: Aroma Indian Cuisine (Bloomington, MN)


I’m going to keep a promise for a change. I said last week that this week’s pandemic report would be of either a return to Peninsula or a first outing at a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington and I keep my word. This is a review of Aroma, a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington. They opened in April 2020—talk about perfect timing—in the exact same location as the erstwhile Surabhi—a place whose lunch buffet I’d liked more than I’d expected to in 2019 even as I worried about their prospects given the desolate feel of the restaurant when I ate there. Of course, in 2021, many restaurants have no one in them. And even though Aroma is open for dining-in, when I arrived at 11.45 on a Saturday to pick up a large order there was nobody eating there. There were, however, clearly doing a brisk takeout business, which I was glad to see. Here’s what we thought of what we ate. Continue reading