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Impressive South Asian flavor now on display at the new Bhansa Ghar in SLC

Bhansa Ghar - chicken dum biryani (Gastronomic SLC)

The cuisine of South Asia holds a particular place in my heart stomach. Born into a land of pies and pudding, white pepper was as avant-garde as the spice rack would allow in the wilds of 1970s Northern England.

It wouldn’t be until my university years that I’d dive fork and fingers first into the flavors of Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and more. Ejected from cloistered student residences (as was the practice for sophomore students), Manchester’s infamous curry mile was where we would land; a blazing neon strip advertising keema, kebabs, and kheer. Eager pitchmen would loiter the doorways of endless businesses, eager to lure passersby with larger-than-life promises of within. Two years spent waking to those fenugreek-laced streets – let’s just say – it tends to make a mark on the old amygdala.

Why the meandering navel-gazing? As I cast my eye over the menu at the recently opened Bhansa Ghar in Salt Lake City (250 W 2100 S), I was jolted back to those foundational years. What’s this, do pyaza? My goto curry of many a moon ago. It’s a dish I’ve never encountered in Utah until this moment.

Bhansa Ghar then translates to “kitchen home” in Nepali. “We chose this name to evoke the warmth and comfort of home-cooked meals.”, Pawan Kandel, co-owner of the new restaurant tells me. Together with Roshan Shah, who also operates Logan’s Himalayan Flavor, the duo’s menu is an expansive one featuring the familiar, and perhaps not so.

Bahnsa Ghar - chicken dopiaza with garlic naan
Bahnsa Ghar – chicken dopiaza with garlic naan
Bhansa Ghar - chicken jhol momo (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – chicken jhol momo (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar - chicken jhol momo interior (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – chicken jhol momo interior (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar - gobi 65 (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – gobi 65 (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar - malai kofta (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – malai kofta (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar - lamb kadai (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – lamb kadai (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar - achari kebab (Gastronomic SLC)
Bhansa Ghar – achari kebab (Gastronomic SLC)

So where to start? Gobi 65 ($10.99) is a strong contender, a cruciferous reconfiguration of the more commonly seen chicken-based appetizer. Coated in chickpea flour and a dazzling spice blend – the fried crisp finish yields satisfyingly soft cauliflower. I know of few better ways to enjoy a vegetable.

Like much of the menu, the dish is offered through a spectrum of intensities. Tread carefully. The kitchen at Bhansa Ghar will duly oblige your bidding. Things become noticeably balmy around the midpoint, veering into scorched earth territory should you mumble something about hot. I’ll leave the hot+ end of the scale for those better equipped than I am. All too often restaurants in Utah (and I do concede somewhat sensibly) will moderate to the local palate paucity when it comes to capsaicin. Not here, I’m a fan.

The chicken stuffed jhol momo ($14.99) was a first for me and also another solid selection. Pinched-perfect curves, stuffed with ground chicken, seasoned gently with garlic, ginger, and spices. The dumplings are steamed before being served with a thin sauce – achar – a tangy terracotta of a thing. Dunk your dumpling or spoon, both work.

Notable at Bhansa Ghar are the distinct hues, consistencies, and flavors between dishes; as well as they should be. Malai kofta ($14.49) leads with a blended almond-luxuriant sauce, supporting a trio of soft paneer kofta; meanwhile, a lamb kadai ($18.95) is a diametric opposite, well-butchered cubes of lamb (everything is halal by the way) in a nuanced and richly seasoned gravy. Both dishes are excellent and demonstrably cooked with care and craft.

Oh, that do pyaza by the way? Another cracker as we say in the U.K. The name refers to the way onions are used repeatedly in the dish – cut and cooked distinctively, each method delivering layered sweetness and lustrous thickening. There’s a lot to geek out on here, from the cumin-flecked basmati to the perfume riot of biryani with a side of slender yogurt sauce.

For those interested in getting to grips with as many dishes as possible, Bhansa Ghar offers a lunch buffet, Monday through Saturday; one I should mention, that I have yet to sample myself. Kandel (also a US Army Reservist and student at the University of Utah) tells me the team has “been experimenting with different options for our buffet, featuring off-menu items that customers love for their authentic taste. Our kitchen team is capable of preparing almost 120 dishes.” I’m keen to see what develops.

Before I sign off, be sure to keep your eye on the business’s social media platforms for their event schedule; live music, karaoke, trivia, and Bollywood nights are all on the cards. In June the restaurant will host watch parties for the T-20 Cricket World Cup. Cricket? Try as I might I’ve failed repeatedly for twenty years to explain that curiosity to a perplexed American audience. My advice would be to start with the rich flavors at Bhansa Ghar, and maybe just maybe, get to grips with silly mid on at a later date.

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