That little freestanding building at 1375 S. Semoran Blvd. in Orlando has been home to a wide array of international cuisines since it started life as a Captain D’s seafood joint.
Let’s see – it was Thai Chili in the late 1990s; a Scandinavian restaurant called Two Fat Chefs (at the time, there was a popular BBC cooking program called “Two Fat Ladies”; three successive Mexican restaurants – Las Carretas, Casa Rene and Casa Mexico; a Church’s Chicken franchise (the long-abandoned drive-thru order stand, still bearing the chain’s brand, still sits out back); then back to Mexican with A Taste of Yucatan; Coba Coffee & Bakery; and Amor, Amor Latin American cuisine.
So why not give Indian a try?
Friends Indian Cuisine opened in May. The interior has been altered some since I last visited, during the Yucatan period. There is no longer an ordering counter – Friends is a full-service restaurant – and a bar has been added to one side of the room. The decor is minimal – few wall decorations – and there is a bit of mix and match furnishing. Someone at least was design savvy enough to match the bright blue wall paint to the color of some of the chair seats. The side plates served with our appetizer were cupless saucers. Not a place you would come to for its atmosphere or fineries.
The food is good enough. The menu, which boasts halal certification, is extensive and hits all of the usual Indian greatest hits. I liked that goat and lamb entrees were separated under different banners instead of grouped together as mutton. (It’s also nice that they specify that the goat meat is served on the bone.)
My companion had the lamb tikka masala, which had a tomatoey gravy with several delightfully bone-free chunks of meat. It also, oddly, had several whole pods and seeds of the various spices and seasonings that probably would have worked better after going through a grinder. On the other hand, fresh spices!
I chose the vegetarian aloo gobi, which had hunks of potatoes aloo) and cauliflower (gobi) in a mildly spiced curry. (I had ordered both dishes with medium-hot spicing and they were fairly tame; specify higher heat if you want more bite.)
For an appetizer we had the mixed assortment with chicken samosas and chickpea-coated, deep fried veggies.
Entrees, by the way, come with a choice of basmati rice or naan. We each chose rice and got a side order of butter naan. But we discovered that there was plenty of rice for both entrees, so a better plan for two entrees is to get one with rice and one with naan.
Service was minimal but friendly, which is appropriate for a place called Friends.