With more than two dozen Indian restaurants along the Wasatch Front to choose from already, why would anyone consider opening up a new one? One answer is that we Utahns are going the way of Londoners, whose city now boasts more Indian takeaways than fish-and-chip shops. If you build a tandoor, we will come. And as is the case with pizza and sushi, we just can’t seem to get enough curry. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier! So let’s add a couple more spicy eateries to the inventory: India Fusion and Taste of India.
India Fusion at Jordan Landing might, at first look, more properly be called India Confusion. It’s certainly unique: the only Indian restaurant I’ve ever encountered with chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers and French fries on the menu next to saag paneer, shrimp vindaloo and chicken korma. But, remember, this is West Jordan; it might not be a dumb idea to hedge one’s bets and assume that not everyone at an India Fusion table is going to be interested in Northern Indian cuisine, which is the chef’s specialty.
So, why not put pasta with Alfredo sauce ($7.95) on the menu, just in case? I’m told that Northern Indian cuisine features gravies that are thicker and somewhat richer than down south, typically incorporating dairy products such as milk, cream, yogurt, ghee and paneer (sort of an Indian cottage cheese). But I didn’t really find that to be the case at India Fusion, which offers up pretty much the typical array of pan-Indian dishes, from chicken biryani ($11.95) and boti masala ($13.95) to mushroom mattar ($9.95) and, yes, creamy Northern-style chicken korma ($11.95). The latter, however, typically has subtle coconut-cream notes, which seemed to be missing in India Fusion’s preparation. A much more pleasing poultry dish is murg mussallum ($10.95), which is tender and boneless chicken chunks prepared Mughlai-style in a sexily-spiced curry redolent of ginger, onions and garlic. It tastes terrific washed down with a big (22 oz.) Taj Mahal lager.
I found the tandoor-roasted chicken murg ($12.95) at India Fusion more tender and juicy than at most Indian restaurants, where it tends to be cooked to death and so often winds up dry and stringy.
Although, like much tandoori chicken, it was also a bit bland—a problem easily remedied with the incendiary green chili sauce, just one of the standard components of the $8.99 lunch buffet at Indian Fusion. The lunch buffet regularly features curries like chicken tikka masala and vegetarian navaratan korma, along with raita, kheer, chana dal, nicely charred naan, aloo papri chat and, of course, basmati rice, which seemed a little heavier and more starchy here than normal. For your entertainment dollar, there’s also belly dancing at India Fusion on Friday and Saturday evenings.
When I asked Taste of India owner and Punjab native P.J. Singh how he settled upon Layton as the site of his new restaurant, he told me he took the advice of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., whose daughter Asha was adopted from India. Huntsman—who is quite knowledgeable about both Chinese and Indian cuisines—mentioned to Singh that there were oodles of Indian restaurants in the Salt Lake Valley, but a dearth of them farther north. So, Singh and his brother Johnny opened Taste of India in Layton, and business has been thriving since they opened a mere month ago. I can see why. I’ve eaten in a lot of Indian restaurants—including my training ground in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens in New York City—and I’ve never had Indian food that to my palate is better than Taste of India’s. If you live in Davis County, consider yourself lucky. If not, it’s time for a road trip. Despite the fact that I ordered it “very hot” and it almost knocked the enamel off my incisors, the chicken tikka masala ($13.99) at Taste of India was simply superb. I noticed right off the bat that the Indian sauces and gravies were more complex than any I’d previously tasted.
And according to P.J. Singh, that’s because they cook their master sauces very slowly, allowing the spices, herbs, onions and other ingredients to mingle and for the oil to separate from the sauce before adding proteins like chicken, shrimp, lamb or veggies. The result is magnificent.
Even a simple dish like daal makhani ($9.99) at Taste of India is something extraordinary. Makhani means “with butter,” and so this vegetarian dish of red kidney beans and black lentils combines subtle butter notes with ginger, garlic, tomato and onions—all coalescing to make a rich, creamy sauce that’ll make you want to lick the bowl. Since great care and finesse is put into every Taste of India dish, you won’t find the standard lunch buffet. However, to sample a range of what this wonderful restaurant has to offer, I recommend the Thali lunch special ($9.99): two entrees served on large silver platters with raita, kheer, rice and naan. Something else you won’t find at Taste of India: gaudy Ganesh elephants or Taj Mahal posters. Round out your meal with homemade mango ice cream ($2.99) or gulab jamun, and it’ll be a long while before you wipe the grin off your face.