If there are any of you who love Indian and Thai food as much as I do you will be glad to know that Buffalo is a hot spot for Asian infused cuisine. India cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.
The development of these cuisines have been shaped by Dharmic beliefs, and in particular by vegetarian diets, which is a growing trend in Indian culture and across many northern cultures. There is also Central Asian influence on North Indian cuisine from the years of Mughal and Turkic Delhi Sultanate rule.
Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations and colonialism have played a role in introducing certain foods to the country. Potatoes are a staple of Indian diet and was brought to India by the Portuguese, who also introduced chillies and breadfruit. Spices played a universal role when bought from India and traded around Europe and Asia. It has also influenced other cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia, the British Isles and the Caribbean.
Here in America, Indian food has blended with other asian influences and done so nicely. Here are top faves in Buffalo NY:
My number three pick is: Kabab and Curry. Located on 5185 Transit Road in Williamsville NY, Kabab and Curry is and Indian/Pakistani infused cuisine. From A la carte to catering, Kabab and Curry has a little bit of everything. They even have a spice meter for those who don’t like their food ultra spicy- like me and they also offer lunch and dinner buffets that range in price from $8.99- $12.99. The dinner buffet is only offered on Wednesday nights. Not a bad price for an all you can eat buffet. Kabab and Curry offers heart healthy and gluten free options which will be symbolized on the menu. Now for food I highly recommend their Aloo Kababs ($3.95). Made with potato, ginger, garlic and corriander, this appetizer is served with chutney and is a great portion sized starter that can be made vegan for those who don’t eat meat. The Sambar ($3.95) is a lentil and curry leaves soup that packs a ton of flavor and spices into one bowl of soup. The red chili and corriander stand out in this dish, warming the cockles on these brutal winter nights. For main dishes- the chicken biryani ($12.95) has to be one of my favorite dishes. Made with basamti rice, it is marinated with your choice of meat, vegetables, saffron and spices and then slow cooked. Your mouth waters when you see it handed to you plated a top homemade yogurt. You can’t go wrong with this dish. With a wide variety, Kabab and Curry is a great choice.
My number two pick is- India Gate. Located at 1116 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo NY; India Gate is a great “best of both worlds” style Indian restaurant. It infuses different mixtures of asian influence and serves it up on warm Naan Bread. My favorite is the Dal ($9.95). It is a great lunch time meal that doesn’t leave you in a food coma. I usually order it with black lentils; seasoned with garlic, ginger and served on basmati rice. The lamb curry ($12.95) is also a great dish. Lamb, while lean, can be a bit much if you have a sensitive stomach. It is seasoned with herb sauce and served over (again) basmati rice. Basmati rice is a very popular indian dish and commonly served with most foods. Any of your dishes can be served with Naan bread. An absolute staple for me. I am partial to the garlic naan, but they offer the traditional naan as well. Reasonably priced, this is a great place for an energized lunch before heading back to the office to finish that proposal that’s due at the end of the day.
And my number one pick is……..Taj Grill. Taj Grill is located at 2290 Delaware Ave, Buffalo NY. A stunning and rich atmosphere lends itself to a truly unique experience. The scroll work and decorations are authentic to the region; with the family taking pride in showing off what their culture is truly about. Family owned, Taj Grill maintains a high level of quality in the food it serves.
The spinach Gota (2.50) appetizer is a great way to start your meal. Yes it’s fried, but the mixture of the spinach and chickpea batter is too good to pass up. Also on the hit list is Samosa, Tikki or Papdi chat ($5.95). This scrumptious app is served with chick peas, homemade yogurt, mint and tamarind chutney. Chutney is an acquired taste, so ask your server for a taste sample before ordering. The servers are happy to accommodate and, I found, very pleasant about any “special dietary” requests. When ordering main dishes, their clay oven choices stand out from many others that offer the same. It all comes down to how the chef prepares the dishes and it is evident he knows the spices to use. Each one is carefully balanced with meats and vegetables that complete the dish. The Taj Grill Special ($16.95) jam packs a feast into one meal. Plated with Chicken Tandoori, Shrimp Tandoori, Chicken Tikka, and boti kebab; this dish is served on a sizzling platter of sautéed onions and green peppers – and your choice of curry. Also served with fresh baked Naan.
For those new to India cuisine, you can’t go wrong with a simple chicken dish. My favorite for those new to this scene would be the Chicken Saag ($12.95), made with tender pieces of chicken and prepared with fresh spinach and a delicate blend of spices. I also like the Butter Chicken ($12.95), which is made with boneless roasted chicken thigh meat specially cooked with butter, sweet tomato sauce, cashews and raisins. It’s a buttery sweet, light dish. Along with seafood and gamey selections; Taj Grill has quite a large selection to choose from. Yet the prices are very competitive compared to most higher end speciality restaurants.
And I can’t end this post without mentioning at least one dessert- and that would be the Kheer ($2.95) at Taj Grill. A aromatic rice pudding made with pastachios and raisins. A delicacy in Indian culture; you feel almost honored when it’s placed in front of you. I have not found to many places that make a good rice pudding. But I can always bank on Taj Grill to get it right every time.
I will end this post with stressing my least favorite Indian restaurants. I hate to do it but it has to be done. Both Bollywood Bistro and Grill Kabab were not only a disappointment in the arena of decor, but the usually blended spices in traditional Indian cuisine was lack luster and pungent to say the least. If your looking for a first time experience, I would not recommend either one of these places.
See you all next week for my Christmas post!