Pandemic Takeout 37: Back to Bawarchi (Plymouth, MN)


My ranking of Twin Cities metro area Indian restaurants is coming next week. Before finalizing it I wanted to get back to Bawarchi in Plymouth and we managed to do that last weekend. We were last there more than six years ago, back when I last tried to do a survey of local Indian restaurants, a survey that came to a grinding halt after a disastrous lunch at the now defunct Dosa King. We’d liked that lunch at Bawarchi quite a bit though. At the time I’d noted that while it was good it wasn’t quite good enough to justify the two hour round-trip drive for us. However, I was curious to see how they would stack up to the new(er) competition. And so we went back last Saturday to pick up a large order that we ate by ourselves first for lunch last Saturday and then over a few more meals in the ensuing days. Herewith a quick report. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 35: Hyderabad House (Plymouth, MN)


My survey of the new wave of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities continues. Next up, the Plymouth location of yet another US franchise that has come to the Twin Cities suburbs in the last few years: Hyderabad House. Well, I guess their full name is Nawabi Hyderabad House Biryani Place but that’s a bit of a mouthful and “Hyderabad House” is how they answer the phone. They have actually been around in the area longer than both Godavari—which opened this September in Eden Prairie—and Kumar’s—which opened last October in Apple Valley. Hyderabad House first opened in early 2018 in Minnetonka and then in late 2019 they opened this second branch in Plymouth. That should give you a sense of the likely presence of the intended desi market in the general area, given that the two locations are just about 10 minutes drive from each other. The first wave of the pandemic resulted in both locations closing at the end of March and then in May only the Plymouth location opened back up, first to take-out, then to dine-in and now back to take-out only. As to whether the Minnetonka location will reopen, I don’t know but I’m hoping it will as we quite liked the food we picked up from the Plymouth location last weekend and the other location is 10 minutes closer to us. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 31: Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


We were supposed to get food from Indian Masala in Maplewood two weekends ago but winter struck early and we ended up huddling indoors like weenies. This past weekend was quite a bit warmer though and so we revived our plan of walking the loop trail at the Battle Creek Park (the part that has the dog park in it) and then picking up food to bring back to our deck to eat with our usual crew of excessive eaters. I am very happy to report that not only was this meal very good, it was one of the best Indian meals we’ve had so far in Minnesota. That may seem like damning with faint praise but these days it’s really not. As I’ve reported before, the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro has improved radically in recent years, keeping pace with the growing Indian population in the area. And as this growing population is both mostly South Indian and mostly in the suburbs, it’s to the suburbs you have to go and the South Indian dishes that you have to order to experience this shift in quality. The mainstream food media in the area remains focused on the North Indian standbys in the Cities proper—this is a shame as both the new(er) restaurants and local diners interested in Indian food need a brighter light shone on these developments than a minor blog like mine can manage. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 30: Back to Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We got Indian takeout again at the end of last week but not from the place I’d been hoping to finally get to. The plan earlier in the week had been to do our usual weekend family walk in Maplewood and pick up some food from Indian Masala. But as Saturday approached, the forecast sapped our will and we decided we’d spend the day huddled at home. It’s not that we don’t plan to go out at all in the winter but that it’s too soon for temperatures so low. It may be Minnesota but it’s only fucking October, dammit. However, the story ends well. I ended up going to Costco on Friday morning and picked up a large order from Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I’m happy to report that they continue to survive the pandemic, that they are now offering their lunch thali to go on weekends and that their food is still very good. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN)


We are well into the Golden Age of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. You might not have a sense of this from the local food media’s restaurant coverage but over the course of the last half-decade or so the Indian population of the Twin Cities metro has been growing steadily and newer restaurants have been opening to cater to this market. As I’ve noted in a number of write-ups on the blog, the new(er) population is likely highly skewed towards South Indians. This can be seen both in what’s on offer in Indian groceries around the metro (see my look at TBS Mart in Bloomington, for example) and in the fact that more and more restaurants have opened in the last few years that have menus focused on South Indian dishes. (I’ve reviewed a few of these—Persis, Bay Leaf, Hyderabad Indian Grill.) 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 Lunch Thali at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Is this the best lunch deal in the Twin Cities metro? I think it might be. It’s certainly the best Indian lunch deal—and for that matter this was the best Indian meal of any kind I’ve had in Minnesota in 12+ years. I ate it at what is almost literally a hole in the wall in Bloomington, in the same large strip mall that houses TBS Mart. I’ve noticed it out of the corner of my eye over the years but always assumed it was a Middle Eastern place; there’s another Indian place right there and I suppose I assumed there wouldn’t be two Indian places right next to each other like that. Anyway, the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. And specifically an idiot who has been denying himself not just an excellent lunch thali for almost a decade now but also the nostalgic charge of eating it in a place that evokes the no-frills canteens and mess halls that are a commonplace in Indian cities. Here, specifically, is what I—and maybe you—had been missing. Continue reading

Thanjai (Montreal)


South Indian food in Montreal? Why not? While associated with cooking in the French idiom, Montreal is home to a large number of restaurants featuring the cuisines of the large number of immigrant communities that can be found in the city. Jewish concerns like Schwartz’s and St. Viateur may be the most famous, having become iconically Montrealer. The Portuguese presence is also long established as are immigrants from Francophone countries such as Haiti and Vietnam. But there are other communities as well—Montreal is home to a dizzying array of languages. On our final full day in the city we spent the morning in conversation with two non-profit groups in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood that work with immigrant communities, especially people from lower income brackets. Right next to the building that houses the second group is Thanjai, a restaurant recommended to us for dosas. All 13 of us accordingly descended on them for lunch. Herewith an account of our experience. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Hyderabad Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


Another week, another Indian lunch buffet in Bloomington. I’ve been meaning to check out Hyderabad Indian Grill* in Bloomington since trying some of their food at India Fest, 2018 at the St. Paul Capitol last August (the next edition is on August 10). And on a trip up to Minneapolis this week I managed to stop in. They’re located further north than Surabhi and on the other side of the freeway (at the intersection of American and Penn, in the big strip that includes a Fresh Thyme market). They opened a year and a half or so ago—fitting well with my hypothesis that a new wave of South Indian-leaning restaurants have been opening in the Twin Ciites metro in recent years following an increase in the South Indian population in the area. Apart from the name of the restaurant there aren’t so very many nods to the South Indian connection in the lunch buffet (and even the a la carte menu seems less South Indian-leaning than at Persis) but they don’t put out the standard North Indian curry house spread. And on the strength of my meal today I’d recommend it for those looking for a good Indian lunch buffet in the area. Continue reading

Sagar Ratna (Delhi, Spring 2017)


I had to take an unexpected side-trip from London to Delhi recently on account of a family emergency. Fortunately, everything went well and things seem to be returning to normal. I myself am now back in London (where we’ll be for another six weeks or so). I didn’t really have a whole lot of time in Delhi for things that didn’t rotate around hospital visits but did manage to find time to lunch with two old friends. The first was this meal, a quick lunch in Connaught Place. I was for some reason longing for idlis and vadas and the CP outpost of Sagar Ratna is where we went,  Continue reading

Malabar Junction (London)


I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid and teenager in India (1970s and 1980s) south Indian food—outside of south India—really meant the idli-dosa-vada complex. Served in small towns all over north India in restaurants with names like Madras Cafe or Kerala Cafe (just as almost every Chinese restaurant was named either Nanking, Golden Dragon or Kowloon) this subset of south Indian cuisines was one of the three national cuisines of India—Mughlai and Chinese being the others. It wasn’t until much later that I became aware that there was a lot more to south Indian food beyond the vegetarian cliches and that in fact south India is more non-vegetarian than vegetarian. For many of us in Delhi in the early 1990s a restaurant in Hauz Khas named Malabar was our introduction to much of this food—it specialized in the food of Kerala and the southwestern coast. Later, restaurants like Coconut Grove and Swagath expanded Delhi’ites horizons further. Continue reading