Dining | Indian Winter: New Indian eateries Tandoor and Kasbah offer grilled goodies and more 

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A recent report on KUER pegged Utah’s South Asian Indian community at approximately 9,000 people, about half of whom are Hindu. At South Jordan’s Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple last month, more than 700 Utahns of Indian descent attended the Festival of Light celebration Diwali, and construction of the new Indian cultural center is scheduled to begin next March, adjacent to the Hindu temple. So the profusion of good Indian restaurants in our area should come as no surprise. Just recently, two new ones entered the fray.

Tandoor—The Indian Grill is located in the space at a 3300 South strip mall that previously housed Bombay Express. Unfortunately, the place hasn’t changed much visually. There are the usual South Asian art and trinkets here and there (including a hookah about my height in the restaurant’s office), but the dining room overall has a “too spacious” look about it. There’s room to get a cricket match going between the tables in the center of the room and the booths and tables that line the perimeter. During a recent lunch ($10 buffet) at Tandoor on a chilly, dark day, it also was chilly and dark inside. No lights were lit, and it seemed the owners were doing their best to save on the heating bill. We ate with our coats on. Just as disappointing, the food from the lunch buffet was lukewarm, too.

It’s a shame, because the flavors at Tandoor are enticing and the service is friendly, if not exactly top-notch professional. But it’s a wise idea to skip the lunch buffet and visit Tandoor for dinner, when the food emerges hot and fresh from the kitchen. Even kids will eat their veggies at Tandoor if you start them out with the Indian vegetable fritters called pakoras ($3.95)—julienned vegetables dipped in chick-pea flour and deep fried until light and crispy. And although I found the tandoori chicken ($10.95) at Tandoor a tad overcooked and bland, it’s another dish that less-than-adventurous kids and adults can handle.

In addition to the typical curries, masalas, biryanis and kormas (the tender lamb korma is outstanding, by the way), Tandoor also offers some items more rarely seen in Utah’s Indian restaurants—like Hyderabadi bagara baigan ($9.95), for example. This is a dish of baby eggplant stuffed with a peanut and sesame-seed paste, cooked with tamarind and onions, and served with a scintillating red curry. Another special at Tandoor is dosa, a large Indian crepe typically made from rice flour, moon dal and/or lentils, then stuffed with various combinations of vegetables, meats and potato. There are seven different dosa varieties at Tandoor, including the popular chicken dosa ($9.95) and my favorite, dosa stuffed with minced lamb and peas called keema dosa ($9.95).

The tandoor clay oven-baked breads at Tandoor restaurant will leave a smile on your face, from the basic nicely-charred naan ($1.95) to paratha methi, which is a multilayered whole-wheat bread with dried fenugreek ($2.95). I wish I’d been warned, though, that the garlic naan came sprinkled with an abundance of fresh coriander (cilantro), which made it inedible for me. Be sure to try the little brown balls called gulab jamoon ($2.95)—golf-ball-size fried wheat and milk balls, macerated in sugar syrup—for dessert. No booze at Tandoor, sadly.

Out in Layton near Hill Air Force Base, the new Kasbah Grill has a fully stocked bar and an atmosphere atypical of an Indian eatery—no saris or sitars. The large, well-appointed dining room looks like it could as easily be an Italian trattoria as a South Asian restaurant. In fact, Kasbah Grill combines Indian and Moroccan cuisines. Owners Mahesh & Indera Kumar are from India, while their partners Omar & Nouzha Korich emigrated from Morocco. For the consumer, that means more than the usual Indian restaurant options.

For example, there’s a heavenly bastila ($10.95) on the Kasbah Grill menu. It’s a large “pie” of crispy phyllo stuffed with minced chicken, raisins and almonds, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It’s a bit rich for just one person to eat, so plan to share. An appetizer of falafel ($4.50) served with grilled naan could easily serve as a full lunch, and the Kasbah kebabs—chicken, kofta (ground beef & spices) and garlicky minced lamb—are great choices for either lunch or dinner.

With apologies to my foodie friend Rebecca, who’s dismissive of Kasbah Grill’s Indian fare, I’ve found it quite appealing. My incendiary serving of lamb vindaloo ($12.99) was the real deal: Goan-style chunks of boneless lamb and potatoes bathed in a fiery sauce of vinegar, red chilies, cumin, peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and star anise. You’ll need lots of naan to sop up all that spicy sauce. At the other end of the heat spectrum is Kasbah Grill’s saffron shrimp curry ($13.99), which is a dish of tender medium-size prawns in a mild lemon-colored gravy made from cashews, saffron and curry. Equally satisfying was a lunchtime serving of basic chicken curry: tender, boneless pieces of chicken simmered in a curry of roasted spices, tomatoes and onions with basmati rice ($7.99). The chef will make it as hot or as tame as you’d like.

Yes, there are chicken nuggets, spaghetti and even a Philly steak sandwich on the Kasbah menu, but I’m proud of our kids for diving into the bastila and kofta. With all the good Moroccan and Indian fare to choose from at Kasbah Grill, you will, however, be severely penalized for ordering penne pasta Alfredo ($12.99).

TANDOOR—THE INDIAN GRILL 733 E. 3300 South, 486-4542. Lunch & Dinner Monday-Saturday

KASBAH GRILL 2672 N. Hill Field Road, Layton, 779-0330. Lunch & Dinner Monday-Saturday

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