A World of Indian Flavor with Taaza Bistro
Kristi Maier | @triadfoodies
Food adventurers have a new place to play and it’s getting such great reviews we just had to try it. Taaza Indian Bistro opened last June in the Bridford Shopping Center near Target. Taaza is the second restaurant for the owners who already have enjoyed success for the last 12 years under the same name in Burlington.
Here’s the thing, my kids, who don’t eat much, love Indian food. They are quite quick to tell me when they’ve got a craving for it. And I don’t mind it one bit. My hubby and I love it too. I find it strange that so many people haven’t tried Indian cuisine. The flavors of curry, spices and the sweet heat are quite soothing and homey and to me, more comfort food than mac & cheese. It’s another thing not to like it…which, being honest, I can’t figure that out either.
Owner Mohan Chinnathambi says business has been steady since their summer opening and that they are quite happy with the new space. Taaza means “fresh” and the last five months have gone something like, “best Indian food I’ve ever had,” “Reminds me of Bombay,” “Incredible” and “The Most Amazing Buffet.” We had to see for ourselves.
We were the first in the door on a recent Wednesday night. I figured the emptiness meant that we’d just gotten a jump on things. Once seated, you’re greeted with a small platter of papadum, a crispy cracker served with various sauces. We looked at the menu, which was a few pages long and separated into vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. We decided our first course would the Non-Veg Platter which featured an assortment of chicken lollipops, kababs and fritters. A great start, especially if you like your appetizers meaty.
For our entrees, we knew we had to order Tikka Masala with Chicken …it’s the baseline test for most Indian restaurants in my family. And it’s my kids’ favorite. Silky tomato-based sauce with Indian spices and a hint of smokiness. It was amazing. I don’t know what they do to make Tikka Masala so perfect. I have never been able to replicate that flavor at home no matter how hard I try. From now on, I’ll leave it to the professionals.
We wanted to try a lamb dish so we ordered from the Charcoal Clay Oven section, the Mughali Seekh Kababs. It’s ground lamb served with onions and it comes out sizzling and smelling amazing. We also love Vindaloo so we ordered it with chicken. Both dishes come with fluffy basmati rice so popular at these restaurants and lentils or veggies. A couple orders of naan bread …we love it so (garlic was the winner), and we thought we were done.
But Mohan decided to help us eat outside our comfort zone and sent out Gobi, a fried cauliflower dish that has a hint of Asian to it … kind of reminded us of General Tso chicken. It could almost pass for it except it was a bit crispier and lighter in texture. So delicious.
Mohan told me, “We’re trained professionals from Indian culinary school. And we’re the first South Indian restaurant in the Triad specializing in South Indian crepe and curries.” They’re called Dosa on the menu. It is beautiful to see and would be a great starter for a table. The dosa is meant to be pulled apart and enjoyed in a communal or family style. The one we tried was slightly earthy in flavor and had a very thin layer of lentils spread inside with flecks of cumin throughout with potatoes and lentils for filling. You can order your dosa in a variety of ways, from plain and ready to roll, to butter or ghee, cottage cheese, eggs or potatoes. Mohan suggested for the future or any skeptics, “Try the pancake topped with chopped onions, tomatoes and fresh chilies. It’s called Onion Tomato Chili Oothappam and it’s to die for.”
And then we thought we were done. Again. But then Mohan sent out a sampling of what they offer for dessert … a pistachio ice cream made in house called Kulfi. The ground pistachios inside this green tinted ice cream gave it an interesting, almost cake like texture. The winner of the dessert sampling was the Gulab Jamun, a deep-fried dumpling served piping hot and soaking in saffron, honey and rosewater syrup, as described by one of our servers. Very decadent, sweet and luscious. We also tried a tiny bite of a coconut cookie and a mango pudding that was very pleasing. I’ll have to try the rice pudding next time as it’s one of my favorite treats.
By the time we wrapped up our meal, business had steadily come in and the restaurant was about three-fourths full by the time we left. Always a good sign.
We enjoyed Taaza and I’m looking forward to going back soon to try their lunch buffet. That’s always the very best way to explore if you’re new to Indian cuisine. It’s actually the best way to go if you have a hard time deciding. The favorites like Tikka, Vindaloo and Tandoori Chicken are most always on a menu as well as rice pudding and a few of the desserts. But sometimes the real way to go is to put yourself at the mercy of your server. Ask them, and they can point you in the direction of putting something on your plate that will delight your senses and tastebuds. And depending on the establishment, and you if can stand the heat, go for “Indian Hot.”
I asked Mohan what other inspirations he’d encourage us to try from his menu “You’ll find the typical Chettinad cuisine on our menu. We also do Northern Indian from Moghalai, Punjabi and cuisine from Central India and the Taaza special menu emphasizes the wonder of our cuisine all over the states of India.” He says, “People really enjoy the curries… Cilantro Garlic Chicken, Punjabi Bhuna Ghost with Goat or Lamb, Tandoori Salmon, Lamb Chop Masala, Spicy Prawn Balcho, Karaikudi Varutha Curry, and Chettinad Curry.” I’m very unfamiliar with most Indian cuisine and like to be nudged by people in the know to try things. I am an adventurous eater, but asking the server takes some of the overwhelmingness away.
And that brings us to the exciting notion that Taaza will be an upcoming Chef’s Table in the New Year. We’re thinking late-February where we’ll let Mohan and his cooking team surprise us. Stay tuned to the triadfoodies Facebook page for the announcement.
Wanna go? Taaza Indian Bistro is located at 1216 Bridford Parkway, # M in Greensboro and 579 Huffman Mill Road, Burlington. They serve buffet at lunch, A la Carte at dinner. taazabistro.com