Tandoor Indian Grill revisited

It’s been five years since I first reviewed Tandoor Indian Grill. In the intervening years, the options for Indian dining around SLC have grown and grown. Recently, I started to hear noises about the great food coming from Tandoor Indian Grill. It was definitely time to go back, and see what’s been keeping patrons happy for half a decade.

The restaurant still isn’t much to look at from the outside, lying as it does in a fairly basic strip mall – parking is usually decent though. On entering the restaurant I was pleasantly surprised with the change in decor. I’m not sure when the interior was reworked, but it certainly felt sleeker, lighter and less fussy than I recall from years ago. Seating is a mix of booths and tables, which are elegantly dressed and topped with fancy tableware. I might even be moved to venture that this brighter, cleaner space is now one of my favorite Indian restaurant spaces in town.

Things progressed nicely, as my staple beer Taj Mahal (22oz, $7.00) came served in an ice-cold glass. It might not sound like much, but I really appreciate such attention to the little details, it speaks volumes. Subsequent refills all came with the offer of a new frosty glass from the consistently friendly. In addition to the Taj Mahal, Tandoor Indian Grill also serves up a selection of other imported beers (King Fisher 12oz, $4.00), domestic beers and a small, albeit unremarkable, wine list. For abstainers, a creamy Masala Chai ($1.95) always hits the spot too.

The menu appeared to be largely unchanged from my previous visits – a mixture of Northern and Southern (more on that later) Indian food. On one visit Vegetable Samosa ($3.95) and Cut Mirchi ($3.95) started the meal well:

The samosa were as good as any I have sampled around SLC – a crispy fried shell with a fluffy, mildly-spiced potato filling on the inside. While the Cut Mirchi didn’t seem to be quite as described on the menu (chilli bajji refried and sprinkled with chat masala, onions), the de-seeded jalapeno wrapped in soft pastry shell was appetizing enough. On a second trip, I sampled the Assorted Appetizer Platter ($7.95):

The vegetarian platter featured Pakora (vegetable fritters dipped in garbanzo flour and fried), more Samosa, Bajji (dipped in lentil batter and fried) and Bonda (pastry balls made of lentil and rice flour, then fried). Thankfully nothing was greasy, under or overcooked, and the accompanying tamarind and mint chutneys helped offset any overt dryness, from what is effectively a big ol’ plate of fried food.

Main courses were also good, much better than I recall from years past. Kadai Lamb ($14.95) had a generous portion of meat, that was mostly well butchered (only a couple of pieces verged towards fatty). The curry had a deep, rich flavor, perfect for the gamey lamb. Paneer Makhani ($10.95) was well executed too. A vivid orange, creamy dish packed with hunks of fresh Indian cheese. As with many Indian restaurants, vegetarians are well served here, with over 20 options to choose from.

I was slightly less impressed with the Lamb Sheesh Kebab ($15.95), one of my regular choices when a tandoor oven is on the cards:

Ground lamb is seasoned with spices and then cooked up in the clay tandoor oven, coming to the table sizzling on a metal platter with seasoned vegetables. The eruption of smoke and fury certainly makes for a crowd pleaser as the server makes their way through the restaurant to your table. Sadly the kebabs were fairly bland to my tastes, very under seasoned. To compound matters, the lamb itself was gristly and chewy in parts.

Meals come with fairly basic basmati rice, and naan is served optionally ($1.95). There is no need to stop at plain naan though, Tandoor offers a selection including other unique breads such as the Onion Cheese Utappam ($6.95) – a thick, chewier bread – plenty to share amongst a table or a meal to itself.

Earlier, I mentioned the Southern Indian specialties of Tandoor Indian Grill. Ever since Tandoor opened, I recall the menu highlighted something completely new to me – Dosa. For the uninitiated, Dosa are a staple of Southern India – crepes made from rice batter and lentils. The resulting thin, cripsy pancakes are generally served rolled up and stuffed with a range of different fillings.

I have to confess that I’d never been overly compelled to try dosa in the past, but on recent trips to Tandoor Indian Grill I discovered their wonderful new Thursday night dosa special. For the paltry price of $10.95 you can sample unlimited dosa from a set menu that changes weekly. Each diner also receives a side of mild, lentil soup, and two dipping sauces: one tomato based and the other coconut. With dessert (spiced rice pudding) thrown in for free, it was hard not to try.

Dosa and sauces:

Thus far I’ve visited Tandoor twice to take advantage of the Thursday night special. Over those visits I’ve eagerly sampled a swathe of dosa, including:

Chicken dosa – filled with a handful of cooked chicken chunks
Pesarattu dosa – moong dal filling
Masala dosa – spiced potatoes and onions
Spring dosa – mixed, crunchy vegetables
Andhra Khara dosa – smeared liberally with exceptionally hot chilli paste
Mysore dosa – tons of garlic with a hint of chilli sauce
Molgapodi dosa – medium spiced dosa using a simple chilli powder throughout
Paneer dosa – fresh Indian cheese filling
Egg dosa – lightly scrambled egg
Kothmali dosa – flavored with rich cilantro sauce
Soft dosa with chicken – differing from the other selections – this came as a soft, fluffy, pancake like bread. On the side came a dipping soup of sorts loaded with chunks of chicken

By and large, I found most of the offerings great. The crispy, wafer thin dosa is delicious enough in itself, and the experience of working through varying fillings is a fun change of pace; especially when you get set in your ways, ordering the same curry or tandoor grilled meat week in week out. The only two let downs were a seriously undercooked egg (liquid almost) dosa and andhra khara dosa that was so hot, I managed to get half way through then was unable to feel my tongue, or anything else, for the rest of the evening (even spice lovers beware of this one!). Two recent menus for the dosa special evening:

Overall, I was very happy with what I discovered on my return to Tandoor Indian Grill. Unlike so many restaurant’s that sit on their laurels, the business has clearly taken steps to evolve and grow over the years. The restaurant space is relaxed, the staff are endlessly amiable and affable, and the food for the most part is good to great.

Tandoor Indian Grill
733 East 3300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
(801) 486-4542

Website: www.tandoorindiangrill.com

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