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May 4, 2008 07:45 PM

Indian Food in Calgary

Now that my quest for decent Mexican has been deflated :P ...

What are your fave Indian places in Calgary? We like Bombay in the NE in Castleridge, in particular their butter chicken...

What are your faves?

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  1. Taj Mahal on Macleod - it was around when I first came to Calgary, they were having a 7-course 7th Anniversary special and it was really good. They've been around too long for that now (I think it would have to be a 30 course special) but it's still the closest thing to the food I had in my 1-month tour of northern India as a student in the early 80's. I've been to lots of new places that have opened up over the years (I LOVE indian food) but never go regularly other than to Taj.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hsk

      The last time I went to Taj it was so disgustingly dirty that I could hardly eat my food. Have they redecorated recently?

      1. re: sarah galvin

        Don't think so. When did you go? The decor's not that great, I think the last time they significantly redecorated was (maybe 15 years ago) when they put the mirrored Gujurati motifs on the walls and later when they did the mural of the Taj Mahal on the front facade of the building. Other than that there may have been a few touches, furniture and such. That's not what I like about it, I like the food - the spices, consistency, reasonable prices and OK maybe familiarity.

        I've never found it to be dirty, though, maybe a little dingy. I think maybe it's more authentic :) to look a little dingy. There's lots of older restaurants around in cgy (not just Indian) that are perfectly clean with great food (cheap, too) that aren''t redecorated.

        1. re: hsk

          The carpet is disgusting and overall, it was filthy. I couldn't concentrate on the food. I have been to India three times and I have found cleaner places to eat on the street without running water.

    2. I like Bombay too, even more so for their sweets than food. I love Namskar (16 Ave NW), Moti Mahal (14 St SW) and Glory of India (4 Ave SW).

      I really didn't like Taj Mahal. I found the food to be mediocre at best and the service extraordinarily poor. We were waiting forever for everything—from being seated, to menu, water, food and especially the bill—and our server seemed oblivious, edging towards rude. I'll usually give restos at least a second try but this experience was bad enough that once is enough, thanks.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Jasz

        I've never been to Taj Mahal, but I always thought it looked a bit dodgy.

        As for faves, I really like Namskar on 16 ave NW, and Clay Oven in the Sunridge area. There's also a place called Surya near the mid-town Coop that does a decent dinner buffet (only on certain nights though). I used to really like Chutney, but it has since closed. I've heard that one of Chutney's former owners runs a takeout place off Crowchild by Mcmahon called, with the same chef from Chutney, and they are in the process of openeing two new locations. One in Crowfoot and one on 17th ave SW (which will also be sit down). Can anyone confirm this?

        Incidentally, I was in Vancouver on the weekend and went to a place called Vij's on Friday. I must say it was outstanding, not your typical indian menu items (ie no butter chicken or tandoori), but just amazing flavours. Excellent service as well.

        1. re: djdragan

          Green Chili is excellent. Good value and great flavours.

          I think the 17th Ave location was mentioned in a previous thread by John Manzo and that they were planning on opening up by Chianti's. I'm sure he can elaborate.

          Their website also mentions a new location on MacLeod Tr.

          1. re: ajy

            Greetings from Madison Wisc- Green Chili is opening where the Filipino "convenience store" was west of Chianti, but renos have a LOOOOONG way to go from the looks of things.

            My fave Indian places: Moti Mahal, Glory of India, Surya, Mirchi, and Tiffin's. I used to love Anpurna but have not been in a while. Had mixed but generally positive experiences at Ganga. Got take out from Rajdoot last week and it was terrible, never going back.

            There are many, many places I haven't tried in Calgary but thank goodness that unlike with Mex, we're pretty darn blessed here.

            1. re: John Manzo

              I really want to go to Anpurna after reading that they brought a Tamil chef from India.

          2. re: djdragan

            Btw Vij's was one of the places Giada DeLaurentis visited when she was in Vacouver for her Weekend show. They've recieved mixed reviews here but I'm still curious...especially since it's not your typical indian food like you say. Their cookbook is available at Cookbook Company.

            1. re: maplesugar

              I would definately recommend giving Vij's a try if you are in the Vancouver area. We were warned about the long waits and no-reservation policy so wearrived about 20 minutes before they opened and there were already about 10 people waiting. By the time they opened there were about 50 people waiting which is about all the place will hold. Vikram was there and took the time to stop at each table and chat, he even ended up taking our order, and came back a few times to ensure that everything was fine.

              Its these little things like someone bringing you a cup of hot chai when you sit down and coming around the dining room with little snacks that really make this place stand out (in addition to the excellent food). Sorry I didn't mean for this to turn into a Vij's thread.

              1. re: maplesugar

                I think Indian food in Calgary is every tiny smidgen as good as in Vancouver or Toronto albeit a bit less common. I also have to say that per capita Calgary pretty well trounces any American city for Indian except maybe parts of the silicon valley and even then we pull our weight. Asian food in general is better than we give ourselves credit for owing to the gravitational pull of Vancouver but we really should give ourselves more pats on the back than we do. Calgary is awesome.

                Sorry, I'm not meaning to give some tendentious lecture here, my partner at at Vij's and loved it and Vancouver deserves its accolades; it's just that being in the US for a few days here even given the bounty of this wonderful college town (Madison) I still have to admit that Calgary really does "walk the walk" when it comes to diversity, in cuisine and pretty much everything else. We really do have a city that we can be proud of.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  I agree, Calgary has really good Indian food. My personal fave is Moti Mahal. I want to check out a long list of food places the next time I'm in Vancouver, Vij's is just one of them. For now I'm busy seeking out local fare - specifically up here in the Hills :)

              2. re: djdragan

                Vij's in Vancouver is in another class on its own, they serve some wonderfully inspired dishes. You are lucky or patient to get in: I usually give up waiting and end up next door at Rangoli when I am in Vancouver. Vij's does novueau Indian: the only in place in Calgary trying that was (maybe is again in their reincarnation) Mango Shiva, but they weren't in the same league.
                It's not much of a surprise that they don't serve "butter chicken" - murgh makhani - this is a westernized punjabi-style dish, it is not found in many Indian restaurants.

                Best in town for me are Moti Mahal and Nawab (same extended family), Skylark for their snacks especially, Delhi Darbar.

                I am looking forward to the opening of the Green Chili in the south on Macleod Trail.

              3. re: Jasz

                Don't miss out on Puspa. It is made with fine ingredents and very tasty. Not your typical Indian place.

                Bombay Sweet House is also a fav but I don't get out that way much.

              4. A couple co-workers introduced Puspa on Northmount to me last week. The samosas were amazing! Each over-sized triangle was filled with fragrant veggies and served hot and crisp. The lunch specials are fantastic deals. $7.99 to $9.99 for soup, curry and salad, dessert (we had kheer), and coffee. My lamb curry was wonderfully spiced though the lamb was a little tough.

                1 Reply
                1. re: aktivistin

                  I went to Puspa for lunch just after they opened. We got there just before 11:30 AM (when the sign said they open) but no one was there to open the door until about 11:50. The food was OK, but servings seemed small for the lunch special. I took my daughter a few weeks later and while I was parking she went in to get a table as there was a bit of a crowd going in at the same time. By the time I had parked she was back out very upset by how she had been treated. Apparently the whole restaurant, which is pretty small, was reserved for one group - no notice on the door or anything to indicate that - and someone my daughter thought was a waiter had been very rude to her, basically ordering her to get out if she wasn't part of the group. Won't go back.

                2. They have a couple of tables I've never seen in use, but for take-out/delivery the food at Masala Express in Ranchlands is delicious and reasonably priced. Especially great considering it's in the northwest Chain Food Only zone, but really think it stands up to anywhere in Calgary for the not-at-all fancy niche.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: ahemjay

                    Is that across from the school/ community centre?

                    1. re: Jasz

                      yes, across from the community park there, in the shopping plaza with the dance school, Al's Pizza, etc.: 735 Ranchlands Blvd NW.

                      1. re: ahemjay

                        Would you have any idea as to its hours, particularly for Saturday? I tried to look it up but couldn't find a website.

                        1. re: Jasz

                          think our takeout menu is fairly new, and it lists hours as Tuesday to Sunday, 4:30 to 10 pm (closed Mondays). If you live close by you may want to stop by for a takeout menu before you order, to get the coupon for the free rice w/ $30 purchase.

                          By the way, don't know how it compares to previous owners' recipes, but I have not found butter chicken I liked better anywhere else in town--but a number of places were seriously disappointing after eating from Masala Express. If they had restaurant seating, we would be there all the time!

                    2. re: ahemjay

                      I have seen this place mentioned in City Palate in the past.

                      1. re: ahemjay

                        At the risk of playing historian again here, a few years ago this place provided their butter chicken recipe for a feature the Herald used to have where people wrote in asking for recipes from restaurants. The original owners sold the business and the recipe. The butter chicken is still good but I kinda think the original owners did it better but that might be my imagination.

                        Heston Blumenthal did a show on chicken tikka masala in which he talks about the different terms for this dish.

                        1. re: sharonanne

                          I knew butter chicken = chicken makhani in the states, but had no idea that this was what they call tikka masala. I thought tikka masala was drier or something,

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            In British terms (since this dish is British-Indian): chicken tikka is drier...chicken tikka masala is cooked in a sauce. And chicken tikka is near equivalent to "tandoori chicken." except that tikka is cut into cubes.

                            1. re: fmed

                              Yes, I know- what I'm asking is if "chicken tikka masala" is equivalent to what Canadians call "butter chicken" or what Americans call "chicken makhani." I didn't think it was. I know CTM has a sauce but butter chicken is really all about the sauce and lots of it.

                              1. re: John Manzo

                                Ah. Apologies.

                                Technically, butter chicken (murgh makhani) is not quite the same as chicken tikka masala. In a tikka masala, the chicken is first BBQ'd in a tandoor then cooked in the sauce. In butter chicken, the chicken is cooked in a pot in its marinade until it is somewhat dry-fried, then augmented with the sauce.

                                Saying that however, I've seen it used interchangeably on many menus. They do taste very similar.

                                1. re: fmed

                                  hmmm- but the sauce is the same? I've seen some places that use leftover tandoori chicken in butter chicken, so would this in fact be tikka masala?

                                  1. re: John Manzo

                                    >>hmmm- but the sauce is the same?

                                    The sauces are variations of a theme: a spicey, creamy, tomatoey, gingery/garlicy sauce. The spicing is usually a variant of a garam masala mix plus fenugreek.

                                    >>I've seen some places that use leftover tandoori chicken in butter chicken, so would this in fact be tikka masala?

                                    Yes. It is a very common thing to do with leftovers in the myriad of tandoori shops in England, for example. I actually prefer it for that smokey note the tandoor imparts.

                                    Once again...many restos use these terms interchangeably.

                                      1. re: fmed

                                        By way of a heads-up, I recently ordered some Butter Chicken from Rajoot via Waiter's Enroute and I thought it was awful...the chicken was like shoe leather. I was going to order from Glory of India but they were closed on that day (Holiday Monday).

                                        1. re: Hart50

                                          We got takeout from Rajdoot (not my idea!) and the only thing that was passable was the bread. We threw a good $60 of food in the garbage. They have something called tandoori vegetables that my hopeful partner thought would be like the incredible, amazing tandoori cauliflower from Nataraj in Toronto but this was disgusting- imagine plain grilled veggies doused in salt- sickening.

                                  2. re: John Manzo

                                    Unfortunately I've wiped the tikka masala episode from my PVR but it may be replayed as I see many episodes are shown several times. I'll check the channel line-up to see if it is being recast and I'll report back.

                                    Trusting my memory is often unwise but my recollection is that he went to Delhi and after trying a couple of chicken dishes he said that what they call butter chicken in India was closest to what Brits call tikka masala. He didn't give a Hindi (or Punjabi) name for what he was translating as butter chicken. Since I was more interrested in technique than the semantics I wasn't paying all that much attention.

                                    He did make a tandoori type of oven in a BBQ, cooked boneless chicken in it and then combined it with the sauce. There was lots of sauce, it was far from dry. He also proved with an MRI that the marinade needs yogurt to help the spices penetrate. If you watch no other cooking show you just have to watch this one if only to see a man who can persuade someone to MRI a piece of chicken.

                                    Finally, America's test kitchen made tikka masala and they broiled it after marinating in spices without yogurt. There wasn't even any ghee! Oh the horror!

                          2. dehli darbars at the glenmore inn miny mall is awesome ,best ive tried in the city.skylark is no good