Entertainment Corner: Add a Little Spice to Your Dinner with Some Indian Food
It seems like any time anybody I know goes to an Indian restaurant, the story must be relayed to me personally: "Hey Aneesh, I went to this Indian restaurant when I was back Montana." I'm never quite sure what to say. "Uh, thanks, I have no affiliation to that place, but thanks." I also feel compelled to respond in kind, "You know I went to Olive Garden." That's usually followed by the question, "So where do you go to get Indian food?" It's really a quite simple answer: "Everywhere." Because any food I eat is by definition Indian food. Sometimes my Indian food is Mexican-flavored, Italian-flavored, sometimes even Wawa-flavored. But I fear that is not as helpful an answer as people would like.
There is actually a large selection of Indian restaurants in Philly. Mumbai Bistro opened on 9th and Locust, and I recently discovered a great little spot for late night noshing in University City called Sabir's Market, which is open 24 hours and has samosas and other Indian treats. The owner of Tiffin is planning a new high end restaurant over at the 777 Broad building, and Philadelphia Chutney Company is slated to open later this year.
When I go with friends to Indian restaurants, I notice they usually stay in their safe haven of Indian food - the tikka masalas or biryanis - and other foods hailing from the Punjab region of India. However, Indian cuisine offers a diverse tastes for the palate from other regions of India. For that reason I offer the following suggestions.
Desi Chaat House. Located in University City, this restaurant serves chaat, a popular Indian snack food that you'd typically find at roadside carts or huts in India. Usually, it involves some sort of fried vegetable along with sides of yogurt, green chutney and tamarind chutney.
Tiffin. Indian food lovers may have long been aware of Tiffin, which appears to be opening a new restaurant around various areas of Philly every month. But did you know that Tiffin recently unveiled a South Indian menu? Because it's not as widely known as the standard fare, usually you have to ask for this menu, but I'd highly recommend trying the masala dosa, which is a giant rice crepe filled with seasoned potatoes. On the side, you have a coconut chutney and sambar. Alternatively, you can try the uthappam, which is rice pancakes with fresh onions, also served with sambar.
Sitar India Cuisine. This restaurant offers not only south Indian food, but one of my favorite dishes, bhel puri (sometimes referred to as just bhel) which is a dish made of puffed rice and noodles made from chick peas flour along with a tamarind chutney. I personally like to mix in a little sour cream as well.
I'm not sure if it's an acquired taste, so if my recommendations are a complete failure, at least you can impress an Indian person by saying, "You know, the sambar there is not up to snuff."
Aneesh Mehta is an associate at Volpe and Koenig that often enjoys taco-flavored Indian food for lunch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.