More praise for Banjara
I dined there last night with my wife and our good friend, Jimmy Z. of this very board. We were all very happy with our experience. Banjara has received a lot of comment here, most very favorable, so I will be brief.
The chicken dumpakht, which one may liken to Indian chicken pot pie (I know I'm going to get flamed for this. "Asher, you ignorant American, dumpakht is nothing like chicken pot pie...."), was very good. The soft, sweet pouri-type raised bread was like a canopy over the succulent chunks of chicken swimming in a rich, creamy sauce.
Although not on the menu, my wife's favorite dish is chicken tikka masala, which the chef cooked mildly, to her liking. Unlike many other restaurants, the sauce was neither too creamy, nor too tomato-y. But I was actually glad not to see it on the menu. One can walk ten feet down Sixth Street to get such ubiquitous dishes. There are far more interesting items on the menu.
I ordered the salan chicken curry, which was very good as well. It had a perfect amount of garlic, ginger and onion, ingredients which can, if not prepared correctly, overpower the dish. The chicken meat in the salan curry, like in the tikka massala, was very high quality and perfectly cooked.
Jimmy Z. ordered the lamb palak ghost (boo!), which consisted of boneless lamb in a puree of spinach, tomatoes and ginger. Again, the quality of the lamb was superb - two inch thick pieces of lean meat, perfectly prepared, with a pink center and dusted with rich but not overpowering spices on the outside. This was one of the best lamb dishes I've had in a long time.
Downsides: The garlic naan was unexceptional. Then again, we're talking about bread here. Very rarely am I moved by bread. The wine list could use some work. The chef, clearly very talented as well as friendly (he came to the table to chat), is a sommelier as well, so it shouldn't be too difficult to strengthen the wine list with a few more better-quality selections that can match up to the complexities of Indian cuisine. But the beer list is quite nice, with a few dark beers and a few draft selections, and an argument could be made that beer is better suited to Indian food than wine, anyway.
By the way, the prices were extremely reasonable. Appetizers - $3-7; entrees $8-19.
In all, I highly recommend Banjara.
no one should flame you for comparing the dish *they call* dumpakht (authentic dumpakht i've not tasted) at banjara with chicken pot pie. on my second visit i tasted this and it was really delicious and had the qualities that make a pie so satisfying. creamy gravy, lots of starch (pastry/bread) and meat. scrumptious.
that said, my second visit (around 2 weeks ago)had a few downs. the eggplant with seafood, wasn't top-notch like before, though still very good. The marinated lamb chops didn't grab me, but the lamb was of very good quality (very much in agreement with you here about the quality of meats and poultry). I liked the lamb pasanda better. the achar ghost was quite tasty, but very pickle-y.
Me too, I think the beer selection is rather good, and they do serve it good and cold.
re the chef being the sommelier! Was this the original chef: jolly fellow, modestly approaching the table--no obsequious small talk or manner evident? I think his name is Tuhin Dutta, and he was on when i had my first meal there, and it was great. then I heard he was sick and out of state. i put down his absence to my second meal not being as good as the first. Here's hoping he's back.