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best Indian food

Realizing that every place has its ups and downs, here's my rough ranking of Indian restaurants in the Austin area:

*** Teji's

** Sarovar, Shalimar, Swad, Tandoori Hut,
Star of India

* Chola, Curry in Hurry, Madras Pavilion,
Bombay Bistro, Bombay Express, Clay Pit ("contemporary Indian"), Rangoli, Taj Palace

Indian Palace, Masala Wok ("Indian Chinese")

[don't remember trying]
? India Kitchen, Bombay Grill

[no longer in business :-( ]
***Rushi--for everything, esp. daal variations and homemade ice cream
***Hyderabad House--esp. jeera rice
***Airport Haven

Even though there are definite regional tendencies in Indian cooking [north--breads, goat/lamb, dairy incl. paneer; south--rice, vegetables, seafood(?)]. Many "Indian" restaurants include dishes from different regions, so I'm including all Indo-pak restaurants here. So, what are your favorite dishes, at which restaurant, and (preferably!) why?

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  1. hmmm... interesting topic... i totally agree with you, every place has its ups and downs. unfortunately, there are mostly downers as far as indian food is concerned in austin... but i'll bite. :)

    Teji
    i've posted on this before. didn't like the vegetarian combo plate, wasn't seasoned to my liking. the bhatura portion of the chole bhatura was very good. it was flaky but not excessively oily. the chole portion, on the other hand, was just okay. again, it wasn't seasoned to my liking. overall, the place still tasted americanized to me... but as you're hinting, maybe it has to do with what you order...

    Shalimar
    probably my top pick. but this one is thoroughly a hit-or-miss, like you're saying about ups and downs. sometimes it's SUPER oily, other times right-on. when fresh, the paratha and naan are good . there's an okra masala dish that sometimes shows up on the buffet that's REALLY good, but i think it's really pointed gourd or tinda, not okra. i like it because it reminds me of the pointed gourd dishes i've had growing up. i'd ordered the saag paneer one time off the menu, and it came out ragingly spicy. very odd, i'd thought, as it really shouldn't be an overtly spicy dish. the rest of the stuff is just okay, but not bad...

    Swad
    probably has my second vote. i only like the appetizer/chaat dishes here, not the main entrees/dosas. i'll order the aloo tikki and chole bhatura when i have a craving for chaat. it can also be hit or miss depending on the day, but usually not bad. they basically use the same chickpea curry element in all of their appetizer/chaat dishes. the bhatura tends to be on the oily side, so i prefer the one at teji. but the chole element is definitely better seasoned here. the aloo in the aloo tikki is way too dense. not a fan, but still has that chole element poured all over it, so i'll still eat it happily... i usually order extra lime and jalapenos on the side and pour it all over everything also, to adjust the flavors to my liking...

    Bombay Bistro
    this place is super american/modernized. i like that they have a wine list though, cuz i'm a wino. hehe... but for some reason, if you take the food to go and leave it in your fridge, it actually tastes authentic the next day. can't explain it. i have to say though that their aloo papdi chaat on the weekend lunch buffet is AMAZING and worth going for. they make it on the spot for you, but i usually steal the utensils and make it myself to my liking.

    Sarovar
    their saag paneer used to be really good, except they threw in random mixed vegetables into it (probably from the frozen mixed veggie variety). last few times i'd had it though, it was too runny. so i gave up on the place. everything else was just okay, not terrible though.

    Madras Pavilion
    they make the BEST green chutney. unfortunately, that's mostly what they've got going for them. i'll definitely eat a dosa if you pour the green chutney all over it, but otherwise not sure why i would... the gobi manchurian dish used to be REALLY good, although it's really an indian-chinese hybrid. it had that fried goodness aspect that you typically can't get in a vegetarian diet. but lately, the dish has lost its way...

    Clay Pit
    nice atmosphere, but the (vegetarian) food tastes bland to me, too americanized for me. didn't like anything here...

    Taj Palace
    another mediocre indian restaurant. some of the stuff is okay, but mostly too americanized for my liking...

    Chola, Star of India, Indian Palace and Bombay Express
    i don't like these at all... i might throw Masala Wok into this category, but i can't compare it to "normal" indian food because they are specifically indian-chinese.

    OH WHY did you have to bring up Rushi? i LOVED that place. it was the only authentic place in town and they closed. :( Tried to get everyone to go there, but my efforts weren't enough, just like what happened with my favorite addis ethiopian restaurant.

    Airport Haven wasn't bad either actually. definitely had the right flavors for me. but could be really oily at times. too bad they're out of business though, i'd go there more often than the other mediocre indian restaurants that are still around...

    2 Replies
    1. re: abidonfood

      abidonfood,
      I haven't been to Shalimar in some time, so I forgot that they have cool vegetables
      like tindura (sp?), which was somewhere between okra and bitter melon from I remember.

      By the way, maybe a silly question, but do you like fairly spicy food?
      Please try the Stuffed Baingan at Teji's. I was enamored of it for weeks!
      ( notes posted at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/369779

      )

      Yeah, I tried to get all my friends to eat at Rushi, too.
      I believe they were doing well, but the owners said they were just too tired.
      Very nice people, too!

      1. re: budgethound

        yeah, the tindora isn't always there, but i'm especially ecstatic when it is. i guess its texture might be considered a cross between okra and bitter melon, but i think they're more a cross with cactus/nopales than bitter melon. it's not bitter at all though, like bitter melon is... i personally LOVE bitter melon though, my parents used to grow it in our garden growing up....

        hehe, to say i like fairly spicy food is a severe understatement. :) (extreme chilihead here) sure, i'll give the stuffed baingain at teji's a try, at your request... might take me a while though, it's kinda far up north... i'll try to reply to your other post once i give it a try...

    2. Been to Swad, Curry in a Hurry, Sarovar, Shalimar, Clay Pit, and India Kitchen. As for the buffets, I gotta put India Kitchen as #1 hands down. Always fresh with a good selection of vegetarian and meat dishes with some nice chai and desserts to boot. I also think that they have the best made to order dishes too, but I'm a little impartial b/c the owners are very accommodating and are just nice people. My favorite dishes are the Baigan Bartha, the Palak Paneer, and the Bhindi Masala. The thought of the Baigan Bartha makes my mouth water, but it can sometimes be a little too rich, in which case the Bhindi Masala is a great option. The homemade pickle adds to all the dishes.

      1. Bombay Grill in Westlake is close, and I always enjoy it, but I must confess that based on the preceding posts my knowedge of Indian food is at a much lower level. I love their pakoras, the onion kulcha, anything shahi korma, the baigan berta, and the mango lassi. I am also a fan of lamb vindaloo. I am not a huge fan of the Clay Pit, and I have found the food at Taj Palace tasty in general but some a little on the greasy side (which tastes great, mind you, it is just visually unattractive)

        1. I vote for Teji's. It's where I head to when I need Indian food. I like the Bhindi Masala. Shalimar comes second to me, but for some reason, my wife and friends don't like it there.

          Airport Haven was really good, but man, they were badly run. Had to wait forever for the food to arrive the last few times I was there, and then they closed. The food could be really good though.

          Clay Pit is not Indian. Indian inspired, but it doesn't satisfy when I get the craving for Indian food.

          1. You're the only one who mentioned Rangoli so I'll respond to you.

            I know that it received terrible reviews when it first came out mostly due to service, but I was pleasantly surprised when I ate there several weeks ago at the Sunday lunch buffet. It wasn't spectacular, but compared to most of the stuff that passes for Indian food in Austin, it was a very welcome change. Rangoli is about as good as Houston average in terms of food (i.e. anglicized). Veggie items were very good, the two fish items were not-so-good, and the goat curry was quite nice.

            I detest the rest of the one * places on your list so you might give Rangoli another try. Maybe they are simply inconsistent or have come along way recently?

            Is Teji's really that good? I've never been able to convince anyone to make the drive with me.

            "Non-traditional"/Indian inspired doesn't necessarily mean bad as evidence by Kiran's/Indika of Houston. Most of what is cooked at home in America these days would also fall under this category.

            Houston >> Austin for Indian food especially. :/

            6 Replies
            1. re: nk.

              aren't Rangoli and Taj Palace owned by the same people? for some reason i thought it was, so never gave it a try...

              i just really had to reply in response to your Indika comment. you're ABSOLUTELY right. Love that place, and it's actually GOOD Contemporary Indian. I really didn't care for their brunch offerings at the time (though it's changed now), but their dinner menu was quite exceptional. Been wanting to try Kiran's also, but never had the chance. i used to LOVE the Indian restaurant that used to be in that space. what was it, bombay palace? NEwho, figure i should stop talking about Houston places on the Austin board...

              1. re: abidonfood

                nk.,

                My guess would be that Indian food in Houston >> in Austin, but I don't believe you've made a case for that yet. What is good for Houston? I remember what may have been the best bargain in Houston, Standard Sweets' buffet ($1.99 vegetarian, $2.99 incl. meats) was quite good, actually. Since then, the only place I've tried is Sri Balaji Bhavan, which was good, but I would say Swad is comparable with a less extensive menu.

                Have y'all been to La Sani or Himalaya, which both have good reviews on b4-u-eat?
                By the way, we can start a topic for Indian food in Houston on the Texas board.

                1. re: budgethound

                  budgethound,

                  I'm not even sure to begin making a case for the assertion. I can only suggest that you make a several day trip down to Houston and experience the food for yourself. Don't get me wrong, there are some good places in Austin, but even something middle range in Houston would be considered good in Austin. I have yet to have a particularly memorable or striking Indian/Paki experience in Austin.

                  I've not heard for La Sani, but I used to frequent Himalaya at least a couple of times a week when I was living in Houston. Himalaya really does live up to its reputation. Kaiser's specials really stand out. His food is truly perfectly spiced/prepared (most of the time) and I enjoy the spicy kick (though this has seemed to wane as Himalaya has become more popular). I regret not attending the Houston Chow get together last week, but ce la vie. The best special in memory was a roast beef curry that I've only ever seen once. It was topped with a mustard heavy Indian pickle (homemade?) that was the perfect compliment to the rest of the flavors. Crowd is mostly Indian/Paki at night or during the weekend. More diversity at lunch.

                  Kirans and Indika are in a class of their own. Most memorable thing at either was a Watermelon Seabass Curry at Kiran's. I ordered that special because I couldn't fathom how it could work, but had had excellent experiences in the past. It was perfect and the small amount of coriander (citrus notes) brought it together very well.

                  La Sani is on the list of places to hit during my trip back next week.

                  I haven't done Houston's Indian food seen justice--go experience it for yourself!

                  1. re: nk.

                    if u r talking about indian restaurants in austin, you have got to have London Sizzler!!!!!!!!

                    1. re: nk.

                      sorry, i meant london sizzler in houston! wish there was one in austin!!

                      1. re: nk.

                        I've been to Kaiser's twice and it really is exceptional. A notch above my favorites from Dallas, and miles ahead of what's here. I told him both times to open a place in Austin!