Orlando has a new Indian restaurant with an all-vegetarian menu that includes some vegan selections and even some that follow Jain dietary restrictions that exclude vegetables grown underground (potatoes, garlic, carrots) as well.
The Madras Cafe is part of the family of restaurants from Sunny Corda that include Mynt in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square and Saffron, which is just a couple of doors down from Madras on Restaurant Row.
The menu, which focuses on the cuisine of southern India, is extensive and may be intimidating to some, but Corda’s crew is knowledgeable (and patient) and happy to make recommendations.
I left the ordering to one of Madras’s managers and brought home a veritable feast of tastes and textures and myriad spices.
It included my first thali to go.
Thali, of course, is a service of several small dishes served on a silver platter of the same name. Madras didn’t send a silver platter home with me – I probably could have fashioned one out of the aluminum foil that wrapped my dosa – and the dishes were little foam containers, but the enjoyment of being able to taste an array of foods was the same.
It included rasam and sambhar soups, both moody and hot, vegetable korma, chana masala, dal tadka (lentils tempered with onions, garlic and turmeric), poori bread (naan breads are more of a northern thing), basmati rice, pickle, papadum and payasam for dessert. The chana masala with its well spiced chickpeas was a favorite.
Another favorite was the Malai Kofta, whose name translates to a precise description: creamy, buttery balls, the balls here fashioned out of potatoes and paneer. The sauce was thick and rich, and I suppose it is meant to be eaten alone but I loved putting the sauce and balls over rice.
I also liked the Tofu Chilli, one of the vegan dishes from the Indo-Chinese section of the menu. It had hefty strips of tofu sauteed with bell peppers, onion, ginger and garlic in a slightly thickened soy sauce. The Chinese flavors were definitely present but the whole was more than just that.
Mutter paneer had green peas in a thick curry with chunks of cheese, another good one over rice.
Samosa Chaat, a sort of snack food popular in Mumbai, featured broken up pieces of fried samosas topped with yogurt, sev noodles and coriander leaves.
As I mentioned, I also had a dosa, which I was a bit leery of ordering because I didn’t think it would travel well. But the large rice pancake was sent with the spiced potato filling packaged separately, which was a thoughtful thing to do and a success on the plate.
By the way, the prices are quite reasonable with most dishes priced in the mid to lower teens. I’m sure it helps that the price of meat doesn’t have to be factored in, especially with it being so expensive now. So it’s a good time to start exploring more vegetarian options. Madras Cafe will not disappoint.
Madras Cafe is at 7730 W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily for limited dine-in seating, takeout and delivery. Contactless curbside pickup is available. The phone number is 407-203-4191.