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Good Indian Food in Austin

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So I like Indian food. I used to like airport haven until they closed. Since they closed, I've tried a handful of Indian restaurants but have yet to be wowed. I went to Bombay Express on 135 & Parmer and was extremely impressed with the service, and although the food wasn't bad, I still miss Airport Haven. Anyone have any suggestions?

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  1. I don't have any expertise with Indian food so I asked the question on behalf of a visiting client.

    Here's the link:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394995

    They really enjoyed Chola and Teji!

    1. We eat weekly at the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro. It's in the strip center near HEB at the corner of Braker and 183. It is consistently good and full of variety.

      10 Replies
      1. re: austinfoodie

        Bombay Bistro is amazing, but Clay Pot is pretty darn good too. At the Clay Pit the kabuli chicken is fantastic.

        1. re: ChristineR

          Bombay Bistro used to be quite excellent until the head chef ('Uncle') and co-owner Raj vanished from the scene. Although the lunch buffet remains a popular favorite, the standard of the evening cuisine has deteriorated. As always with BB, beware the service in the evening ... it's among the worst in Austin. The Clay Pit is far superior in this respect.

          1. re: TAF

            We thought the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro was terrible (though recommended by a local) and will never go back. We saw very few Indian people eating there. We are Dallas hounds (who visit Austin frequently) and there are a number of better Indian restaurants here (which are full of Indian people).

            1. re: kuidaore

              Most of my friends from India say Clay Pit is the best Indian restaurant in town. Not the most authentic, mind you, but definitely the most delicious. When their parents come to town, this is usually where they take them; they report (usually) that their parents are delighted by the place, and request to return on repeat visits. Make of that what you will -- I'm less interested in who dines at a restaurant than whether the restaurant is delicious.

              Sadly, lots of Indian customers does not a great Indian restaurant make. For example: last time I went to Shalimar, it was full of Indians and Pakistanis. I watched an amazing cricket match on the TV and chowed down on some pretty iffy food.

              1. re: tom in austin

                Thanks for making this good point, Tom. It's probably applicable to most other ethnicities too (ie. lots of Chinese patrons does not a great Chinese restaurant make). Every town seems to have a "Clay Pit" kind of place -- a nicer cleaned-up restaurant, as opposed to the little Indo-Pak grocer that sells food out the back. And it's true -- alot of Desi's will go to those places, and bring their family to them, to enjoy a dining-out experience of foods they're familiar with. But I have rarely found these places to serve the best examples of the dishes they serve, and more often than not find the better ones at the little grocer. But the "Bombay Grille" kinda places serve their purpose, and more often than not they actually have a real tandoor too, whereas some smaller joints may not be able to afford the installation of one.

                I've been to Clay Pit, and it's alright but it's another one of those places that doesn't seem to take too many chances -- ie. it's rather tame and a little boring for my tastes. I recall the use of overly trimmed and/or boneless meats and such. A common complaint of this cuisine is that it's just way too oily, but the fact is, much of it has to be (although there's a limit/balance - and many places do go beyond this). When you take out too much of that oil, the dish suffers IMO.

                I'm disheartened to hear of your experience at Shalimar, since it's been high on my list for a while now. I've spoken with the owner over the phone and they seem to have several dishes that are not commonly available at most restaurants (or if they are, they're short-cut versions). They have many dishes that are favourites of mine that I grew up with. I'm going to have to check them out, maybe this weekend, especially given the forecast.

                1. re: Nab

                  Cricket isn't the only thing that adds to the charm. For example: Shalimar has a huge dare / wager posted on the wall, offering a large cash bounty if any diner can prove that their meat isn't halal.

                  In my opinion, the food leaves something to be desired. You might have a different experience, and I think you should still go. With your expectations tempered, you might be pleasantly surprised.

                  1. re: tom in austin

                    Ha. Despite already having a set menu for home-cooking, I was in the nabe so I stopped into Shalimar. The charm is certainly interesting. Cavernous room. Seems like the grisly remains of a Chinese buffet restaurant from 1989. Despite this, the host was dressed in a shirt & tie, though he spent his time in one of the booths on his cellphone. Not that it matters, the "manager" was sitting in another booth eating cucumbers.

                    I placed an order for haleem to-go and sat down to soak in the ambiance. Haleem is a specialty dish usually made during the month of Ramadan. It's a meat/grain type of stew, which is actually more like a thick paste which literally sticks to your ribs. This version was a beef/lentil combination that was pureed to a smooth final texture. I prefer it a little more on the chunky side, and with a combination of lentils and the addition of wheat & barley (theirs used one kind of lentil I believe). It was decently spiced, and certainly a serviceable version of a dish that, for me, even sub-par versions are good eating. It's typically served with garnishes of fried onions, cilantro, ginger matchsticks, lime juice and a sprinkling of garam masala. Eat with naan.

                    Pretty good, especially nice to know that I can find this labour-intensive dish somewhere. I'll move on to the other aspects of the menu next time though.

            2. re: TAF

              The food and service at Bombay Bistro are an insult to Indian food and hospitality.
              The staff talk down to you and if your Indian they blatantly ignore you and are overtly hostile. the food we had today was stale,tasteless and not even made per our request. Stay away from this place and don't even consider it

            3. re: ChristineR

              I like the Clay Pit, although I will assert that the quality of the food seems to be far superior at the dinner hour. I eat there for lunch often b/c of its close proximity to my office, however the sauces all seem to be a bit thinner at lunch. Not sure if this is due to the fact that they have a huge lunch rush and thus less time to work on their reductions, or if it's a case of trying to stretch the sauces on purpose to feed larger crowds. In any case, it's certainly still tasty at lunch, just not AS delicious. My friends seem to gravitate toward the korma (sp?) which is nice, subtle and creamy, but not my cup of tea. My favorite dish there is the CP version of tikka masala, ordered extra spicy. The amount of red curry is balanced (flavourful, but not overwhelming), the acidity of the tomato is nice and it is pureed but you can still feel the "juicy burst" of tiny little tomato particles, there's a very good amount of heat when ordered XS, and just a splash of cream (not too much) which I enjoy in this dish. I also enjoy their plain naan, chewy, crisp around the edges. Personally I find the garlic or "cheesey" naan bland and a bit gimmicky... give me the old fashioned stuff. Their lunch buffet is quite popular, but since I loathe buffets, I tend to order off the "lunch portion menu." For around $6.95 you can get a nice curry dish with your choice of meat, paneer, or veggies plus a side salad, basmati rice, and plenty of naan which may be eaten in house or taken to-go; a pretto good deal. At dinner you will receive a much larger entree portion of the curry dishes with no salad for $3 or $4 more. TAF is correct in stating that the service at Clay Pit is fairly good. The hosts/hostesses are all pleasant and well-groomed, and waitstaff fairly knowledgeable. Expect to receive less attention from your server if you go during lunch; at night my table has never been neglected, water glasses always full. I also had a nice experience there when I went for happy hour with a large crowd. There were no tables left at the bar area, and they don't allow "happy hour prices" in the dining area. The bartender and host were very accommodating and let our large party eat and drink on the lobby area sofas, and the server still gave us plenty of attention. Alcoholic drinks are overpriced, though, and I found the samosas on the dry side, so happy hour may not be the best time to go. Try dinner first.

              1. re: femmenikita

                I have had the buffet at CLAY POT several times and would like to say that, while the food was tasty enough, it lacked selection - just not enough offerings, unlike BOMBAY BISTROS's or MADRAS PAVILIoN, and - even worse - the service was almost non-existent. The last time I ate there - sitting at the table astride the entrance to the kitchen - our waiter completely ignored us even as he passed our table many times. Is the service better at dinner time?

          2. ok, so i'm indian, and for the best indian food in town (punjabi indian food) is the clay pit. and that is the consensus from all my indian friends although a few have said bombay bistro is good too. but clay pit buffet sucks. only eat there at night. swad is excellent gujurati street food, a totally diffferent type of indian food. they do have some punjabi plates though)

            1. swad is right around the corner, so i often find myself there. what it lacks in decor and service, it definitely makes up for with the excellent dishes. if i don't feel like squeezing into their little tables, i just get it go and enjoy it at my own table. their south indian street food is def different than offerings one finds at places like clay pit or madras pavillion, but you should try as many cities can't boast of a restaurant featuring such great treats. if you've never been, i suggest a thali platter which allows you to try a little bit of everything...

              1. I love Madras Pavilion at Research and Burnet. It's all vegitarian and it's inexpensive. I suggest ordering off the menu rather than having the buffet.

                4 Replies
                1. re: porkmuffin

                  i've also heard that its kosher! i like their dinner for two, which last time i had it, was way more food that dinner for two...

                  1. re: kitchenknife

                    IF you like buffets: I suggest the Star of India on Anderson just east of Mopac. It is $9.95 for dinner, and has a very good selection of tasty choices; plus lots of choices for my vegetartian husband.

                    1. re: travisleroy

                      I second this reccomendation - although it is a lesser known Indian buffet in Austin, it is definitely a hidden gem that has actually been around for several years and is owned by the same owners of Bombay Grill. There's not a huge selection, but all the basics are there and the quality is definitely there too.

                  2. re: porkmuffin

                    I like Madras Pavilion too. Nice atmosphere, excellent idli & sambar and in general excellent buffet.

                  3. Disclaimer: I'm no expert on Indian food

                    ...but, I've been to Sarovar at 183 near Burnet once and had a really tasty lamb vindaloo. The mulitple side dishes were all very well done too. It was late on a weeknight and there were probably 5 or 6 Indian families there. Good sign?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jwynne2000

                      Sarovar can be hit or miss for me. I find their dishes too greasy at times. (This is especially true of Sarovar Express in the Dobie. The food is often swimming in grease and largely inedible.) And, on one visit (although I can't remember the exact dishes) the food was taken to a spicy extreme. When asked by the waiter how we wanted the dish cooked we told him regular to less spice (we knew it shouldn't have been a super spicy dish) and what we received was hard to eat (and I like spice). Tears ran down my face (and not the good kind) until I gave up. I took the leftovers home but no amount of added yogurt made the dish edible.

                      I prefer Clay Pit, Madras Pavillion, and Curry in a Hurry.

                      1. re: ashes

                        Agreed, ashes on the grease factor of Sarovar. Also just thought I should mention that the Indian joint in Dobie is no longer a Sarovar Express. About a year or more ago they changed it to "Student Biryani" and I believe it is now owned by different folks. Student Biryani is the worst Indian food I've ever had. I.E. nothing is spicy at all, and once when I asked if they had any sauce or something I could use to up the spice factor, and they handed me some creole seasoning (Tony Sauchere's or something) that was chock full of salt. And when I ordered the Saag paneer, they gave me a huge ladle of spinach and plopped TWO pieces of paneer in it and charged me $4.99. Yeah. As Austin Bear said below, "to each his own" but I still think CP and yes, Madras are some good choices.

                    2. Unfortunately, Austin has some decent Indian food, but nothing great. I agree with others, Swad is good. I also like Bombay Grill on Bee Caves.

                      Whatever anyone tells you, don't go to the Clay Pit! Or, if you go, go for the location and ambiance, but not for the food. My two cents...

                      I'm absolutley astonished to find that people like it (to each his/her own). I ate there three times, once for lunch and twice for dinner. I kept thinking I'd ordered the wrong thing, got them on a bad night. Each time it was equaly bad. They use frozen, crinkle cut vegtables for goodness sake. Tell me you like the atmosphere, but don't tell me the food is either good or authentic! While some have said their Indian friends, family or selves think Clay Pit is the best in town, those of Indian heritage to whom I have spoken merely scoff at the place.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AustinBear

                        The food at Clay Pit isn't authentic at all, but I've got to disagree about it being disgusting. They're very consistent at dinner time, and offer lots of tasty dishes.

                        Instead of making vague statements about how good it is or arguing about which one of us have more Indian friends who like or dislike the place, I'll throw out some specific dishes. If you give this place another shot, try 'em. If you don't like them, it tells you that we have intractable ideals for "contemporary Indian" (whatever the heck that is).

                        First and foremost, the seafood in garlic & red wine is a rich slurry of fish, shrimp, mussels, and calamari that has been cooked in garlic, red wine sauce, and cream. Rich and layered, this dish pairs well with red wine. (This brings up one of Clay Pit's worst aspects: their overpriced wine list.) I love this dish.

                        Their other curries are good too: I've had great experiences with the mirch masala and korma; the tika masala and vindaloo, very good; the jeera saag and coconut curry only OK, but definitely not offensive. I prefer the saag paneer at a couple other places in town to Clay Pit, but that isn't overall a knock on their capabilities. I think their chicken is usually great, and the lamb is pretty good (although you can do better as far as depth of meat flavor at other places in town as well). Finally comes beef, which is just OK really.

                        A further note on their chicken! While many meats can be of dubious origin and quality, yet still achieve deliciousness through preparation, I am not of this opinion when chicken is considered. Perhaps this is where Clay Pit best shines over other Indian establishments -- their chicken is lean, juicy, tender, and not littered with the typical inedible and slightly-gross chunks you'd otherwise find. I recognize that this may remove dining charm for some. For me, it is a plus.

                        If you're not into their whole seafood with garlic & red wine as an entree, you have an option to start with their usually excellent curried mussels. I used to go this way until I discovered the larger and more diverse seafood dish.

                        Their creative fancy naans are really pretty good. I like them all, really. With a large party, we'll usually get a diverse sampling of several of these.

                        Describing a meal there doesn't sound like going to an authentic Indian restaurant at all. No daal, mulligatawny, or rasam soup? No vadas, bondas, samosas, dosas, pakoras? I haven't mentioned many items I'd get from a robust buffet or even just a kebap house. Clay Pit offers some of these things, but I've found that they aren't their strength. Why go to a fusion restaurant and order only authentic dishes? This is like going to Uchi and judging them solely on the quality of their rice -- you'd be missing the point completely. I tend to try to focus on their strengths: creative, delicious, rich sauces; delicious seafood slurry and chicken.

                        I'm surprised at your comment: "While some have said their Indian friends, family or selves think Clay Pit is the best in town, those of Indian heritage to whom I have spoken merely scoff at the place." My experiences are obviously easily victimized by the fallacy of the small statistical sample size, but I assure you that more than a few Indian citizens (and by that I mean 'people were born and raised in India, live there now, and are visiting family in the US'), in addition to Indian immigrants and first-generation Indian Americans, have assured me on this exact subject that Clay Pit is their favorite Indian restaurant in town.

                        I was shocked to discover this to be true, actually. I was discussing the subject of "Best Indian in Austin" several years ago with an Indian friend while at Shalimar, and he said Clay Pit. I was shocked, and like you I protested that it wasn't even really Indian food. He insisted that it was his favorite place, and that when his parents visited from India, they always wanted to go there as well. This provoked a phone call to another friend, who (shock!) reported the same thing. I persisted in asking this question to Indian friends, and was surprised by how often this was the answer. Their favorite lunch buffet was almost always Sarovar, Madras, or Star; their favorite dinner restaurant was almost always Clay Pit.

                        I should repeat that I don't personally think that just because someone is Indian that they have superior taste buds. Thusly, I don't think the fact that my Indian friends usually prefer Clay Pit to mean anything about Clay Pit's quality. I only mention it because people usually seem so shocked (just like I was) that this is the case. Well, that and I often hear folks slamming it based on the ethnicity of the patrons. "How often do you see Indians dining there? They obviously hate the place." To me, that argument is a worse fallacy, and one easily refuted. I'd also argue that Indians can enjoy fusion / contemporary riffs on traditional Indian cuisine just as much as non-Indians.

                      2. I went to Curry in a Hurry on Parmer yesterday for the first time, and for a simple, delicious and VERY affordable meal I suggest you check it out. If you're looking for ambience, go elsewhere. If you want to dig into a delicious plate of Indian food, check it out.

                        http://www.gandhibazar.com/page3.html

                        1. I'm not Indian food expert, but I'll give my vote to the clay pit

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: redraidertl78

                            Gotta say that I really disagree on the Clay Pit. Their buffet is really not even close to being on par with Indian Kitchen or Shalimar's. I'm particularly fond of India Kitchen. I've never ordered from Clay Pit's menu and never will based on my experiences with their buffet. Clay Pit's buffet has trays filled with unrecognizable slop going under the guise of Indian food. It's cheap, but it's not worth half what they charge.

                          2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Taj Palace off I35: http://www.tajpalaceaustin.com/
                            It's my all time favorite Indian in Austin and I think it is an order of magnitude beyond Clay Pit. Clay Pit used to be great a few years back but they revamped my favorite dish, beef vindaloo, and it's just not the same anymore.

                            Now, the service tends to be slow but you'll never wait for a table and you'll never leave hungry.

                            1. Teji's in Round Rock (tejifoods.com). With a bullet. I am completely addicted to their dal makhni and samosas. As I say to people (and I have introduced a good number to it)--it's not posh, but it is authentic. Chola seems fancier and I know those who like it also. I have no opinion because if I want authentic Indian (and my Indian food cultivation is Devon Avenue in Chicago) --I point my car to Teji's. They also have a little grocery for those expats looking for Smarties and McVitie's biscuits. And true Fanta. Tamara

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: narodsobe

                                Second the vote for Teji's in Round Rock - no buffet and I hope they keep it that way. The food is mildly spicy and the decor is well, to put it kindly, meant for take out. They do have seating if you like but most of their business is To Go. Teji's also is a indian market so you can gather ingredients or snacks to take home. The owner is very friendly and helpful and will direct you to the best snacks.

                              2. Has anyone tried the new Indian restaurant they smushed into the Whip In?

                                1. A group a friends and I went to the clay pit last night which was my fifth visit. I love the place. We had about a quarter of the dinner entress and they were all good. I got the curried goat and loved it. I reccomend the buffet though. They have it during lunch excet sundays, with saturday maybe being a bit larger than the weekdays. And they post the menu of the buffet online. The food gets eaten pretty quicks so it's pretty fresh on the buffet, but of course not as fresh as if you order a single dish. If you want kabobs and meats on the tandoor however, they're usually not on the buffet except for chicken somtimes. I think the buffet is about $9 and most dinner entress are around $15. An added bonus is that the dog and duck pub is accross the street.

                                  1. Ahhhh, Airport Haven! There's a place I haven't heard mentioned in a long time. It broke my heart when they closed.

                                    1. There are quite a few other indian restaurants now in Austin...Austin is growing in Indian community...Clay Pit, Bombay Bistro, Teji are real good Indian foods...here is list of other restaurants...

                                      http://www.austindesis.com/IndianBusi...

                                      1. Anyone try G'raj Mahal yet?

                                        http://grajmahalaustin.com/

                                        I've heard rave reviews of their garlic naan.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: addicted2rice

                                          Bombay Express at Parmer and Lamar!! All vegetarian-gets my vote. Tons of indian customers and hard to find a seat at lunch. A different kind of indian than most-no buffet. Just get the daily special and you will be craving it daily.

                                          1. re: addicted2rice

                                            I like like it. Each time I go, I really enjoy my meal. As time goes by, I begin to think maybe it was not as good as I remember. Then I go back and find it is. Mostly well done, not overly spicy dishes (though I do like very spicy). I also like that it it BYOB.

                                            Garlic naan is good, but so are many of the dishes. I would not say it is spectacular, but very good, very solid. It's a little more subtle than many. Like I said above, not overly spicy. But as you eat, the taste builds as you realize the layerd flavors.

                                            For those that have not been, be aware that it's an all outdoor place (think trailer/tent/restaturant). I'm going Wednesday, so I'll comeback and comment on some specific dishes.

                                            1. re: addicted2rice

                                              I've been several times and liked it every time. I think it's some of the best Indian food in town. The naan is terrific. My favorite dishes so far are the lamb chops (cooked in their tandoor oven and FANTASTIC) and the beef kashmiri. They don't do the lamb when it's super busy, so it's best to try to hit the at an off-time.

                                            2. This thread should be long dead. Chow saints, forgive me for kicking it up.

                                              Last night, I was at a bar w/ a coworker. This young Chinese lad (Shanghai born, as it were) was making conversation with our Indian waitress. Their discussion progressed to food tips - he sought guidance on Indian cuisine from her, and she pursued the inverse.

                                              She dropped the bomb that her and her parents prefer, amongst all Indian they've tried in Austin, Clay Pit.

                                              I normally would turn a blind eye to my coworker's gametalking and let him seek his own happy ending, but as the topic within earshot had turned to chow, I now had a pressing interest.

                                              I asked her if she had been to All Those Austin Indian Places. Yes, those. I've been to them too. She assured me she had, although her parents had not been to nearly as many. And Clay Pit was both her and her parents' preference.

                                              I haven't been to Clay Pit in what seems like a dozen dog's years, probably more! It may be the worst place on earth today for all I know. Still, the Indian preference lies with Clay Pit. Weird. Especially considering how the food hipsters seem to despise the place.

                                              -----
                                              Clay Pit
                                              1601 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: tom in austin

                                                I actually really like The Clay Pit... the service is friendly, good atmosphere, and the food has never disappointed. My only gripe with the place is that it's a little overpriced.

                                                In all honesty though, G'Raj Mahal is a helluva lot better. Better food, better vibe, and BYOB.

                                                1. re: popvulture

                                                  It could be because I'm not familiar with Indian food myself, but my husband and I just went to Tarka in the Ikea shopping center, and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. For all I know it could be what Taco Bell is to Mexican food, but I enjoyed everything I hate and had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. The Chai on the other hand, not so great.

                                                  -----
                                                  Tarka
                                                  5207 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78745

                                                  Tarka Indian Restaurant
                                                  5207 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78745

                                                2. re: tom in austin

                                                  my co-worker and her indian husband bring his family there when they come to visit from louisiana.
                                                  they love it.