Gold India a delicious outpost in concrete jungle

by Brian Clarey

I’m not one of those well-known food reviewers who feels the need to don a disguise when I check out a restaurant. For one, I don’t write true restaurant reviews – meaning that I don’t visit the requisite amount of times in order to ascertain a place’s true potential and I don’t use a star rating system. And most people either don’t know or don’t care who I am, though it might be fun to go out to eat in an astronaut costume or something.

Still, I don’t go out of my way to hide the fact that I’m paying close attention to the food, décor and service to the extent that I’ll openly jot down notes and take pictures of everything.

Here’s what I did on a recent visit to Gold India: I just sat at my table, flipped open my notebook and set my camera down. The staff, attentive and helpful as always, were too polite to ask my intentions.

They’re no strangers to press at this little outpost near the transition between High Point Road and Lee Street. Framed reviews and “Best Of” awards hang on the walls next to fine examples of Indian poster art. The restaurant is consistently given high ratings for quality and value, and when you speak of Indian cuisine in these parts its name will invariably come up.

But you might be surprised, if you pay a visit following a tip from a knowing insider, when you see that one of the city’s best Indian restaurants lives in a battered strip mall in line with a pawn shop and an auto detail concern along a commercial/industrial stretch of one of our least scenic boulevards.

The interior is crafted from cheery white walls and deep red flourishes, with no less than five ceiling fans and three chandeliers overhead. The buffet line is two steam tables set at an angle in the corner.

There are, of course, à la carte dinner and lunch menus, but it’s a good bet to go for the buffet.

A word before you head over: Indian food is spicy, pretty much without exception. A deep and lingering heat infuses most dishes, a product of chilies and garam masala, an intricate mix of cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and other spices in proportions that are often passed down in South Asian families and is commonly referred to as “curry powder.”

And much of the food at Gold India is loaded with it.

On my first pass through the buffet line I pile up the chicken tikka masala – cubes of chicken with peppers and onions julienne smothered in a buttery orange sauce – and the chicken saag, which features cleaved hunks of bone-in poultry bathed in a spinach and cream sauce. I get a few sheaths of nan, chewy flatbread, to slather with leftover sauce.

There are 12 types of bread on the full menu, from the fluffy poori to flatbreads like tandoori roti, and one is always featured on the buffet.

On another pass down the line I score some chicken kofta, dense and well-seasoned meatballs in an ethereal orange sauce, and channa masala, a spicy chickpea stew. Some tiny fritter-like pakora. More nan.

One more lap: a hunk of tandoori chicken, though I don’t generally like this dry-cooked dish, more chicken saag, more chicken tikka masala. More nan.

Dessert is kheer, a thin and sweet rice pudding about which I am crazy, and gulab jamun, fried dough soaked in syrup and rosewater, which I do not care for.

And that’s fine – with my mouth tingling and head buzzing gently from the curry-induced heat, I’m ready to call it a day.

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