Curry Mantra

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Curry Mantra ext

The young man who greeted us and showed us to the lunch buffet at Curry Mantra, a new Indian restaurant, seemed genuinely interested in making sure my lunch guest and I were pleased with the food.

Unfortunately, we weren't. With the exception of a spicy lentil soup, everything was quite modest and mundane. And even worse, much of it was tepid or, like the mixed pakora, downright cold.

Southern Spice

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Southern Spice gobi

When I wrote about Chutneys, an Indian restaurant in Bay Hill Plaza on Turkey Lake Road, I lamented the loss of Memories of India, which used to be in the same plaza. Chutneys, I said in my 2016 review, was OK, but it was not Memories of India.

Well, you might say that Southern Spice, the restaurant that has taken over Chutneys' space, has brought back good memories.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Southern Spice is from the same owner, Sunny Corda, as Mynt, the Indian restaurant in Winter Park's Hannibal Square, and Rasa, the Asian street food restaurant just down Restaurant Row. Mynt offers an inventive style of Indian food, but Southern Spice stays more traditional, featuring foods of South India (mostly), and presents a few items that might be unfamiliar to you if your only experience with Indian cuisine is from Central Florida restaurants.

Tandoori Bowl

Written by Scott Joseph on .

tandoori bowl interior

Next up in the assemblage line of restaurants: Indian cuisine.

Tandoori Bowl is a new restaurant on Alafaya Trail in Oviedo that employs the “one from column A, one from column B...” style of meal construction. Indian cuisine being what it is, however, you can expect more columns.

Here you start with your carb, either white rice or brown, which is simple enough. (You also have to begin by choosing regular or large size bowls; regular is plenty big.) Next you choose your protein, which might be chicken, lamb, paneer, chickpeas, pork or steak.

Pork or steak? Holy cow, what kind of Indian restaurant is this?

Himas Indian Cuisine

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Himas interior

I must say I rather enjoyed my brief visit to Himas Indian Cuisine, a Punjabi restaurant that opened earlier in the year. Despite its Tourist World location, adjacent to an outlet mall and across the street from the now-defunct Artegon Marketplace, Himas offers a relaxed and pleasant dining experience with welcoming service and very good food.

As with most Indian restaurants in the area, lunch at Himas means a buffet. This one is smaller than most, but it offers a well thought out array.

Ataj Indian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ataj with bread

I found myself in Kissimmee the other day, which isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. I mean, it’s not like I was hit over the head and thrown into a trunk of a car and woke up alongside US 192. There was no trunk involved.

But as I came to, I saw a new restaurant called Ataj Indian Cuisine. I dusted myself off and went inside.

Now, there’s no reason for us to get into a discussion of preconceived notions for restaurants in this part of town. Let’s just say that a disappointing number of businesses seem to ascribe to the theory that they don’t really need to try very hard to impress customers because, being in a tourist-dominated area, a new wave of customers comes in every week. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Ahmed Indian Restaurant UCF

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ahmed exterior

A few years ago, I visited an Indian restaurant in south Orlando, along a stretch of South Orange Blossom Trail that has been seeing a surge in Indian, Middle Eastern and other ethnic cuisines. Some are quite good; others are meh. This one was meh.

In fact it was so blah and so dubious in its authenticity — asking how spicy one wants his korma is a clue — that I decided to walk away from it and not waste your time reviewing it. (That happens more time than you might imagine.) Such restaurants, I figure, will eventually fade away.

That place was called Ahmed Indian Restaurant. And you can imagine my surprise when I learned that not only had the restaurant not faded, it was opening a second location, on the east side of town.

Chutneys

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chutneys interior

For many years, Central Florida’s best Indian restaurant was housed in Bay Hill Plaza, a grandly named strip mall that was anything but grand, especially as the anchor tenant, Kmart, became drearier and drearier.

But that’s where Memories of India first opened, in 1999, when much of the plaza was a veritable international restaurant destination, with Japanese, Italian and Chinese (1-6-8, also one of the area’s best at that time). Memories faded. The restaurant I mean, and it finally closed just a couple of years ago. There’s a new Indian in the plaza. It isn’t in Memories’ old space — that’s occupied by a Graffiti Junktion now — but it’s nearby at the address that was Lolaillo until recently.

Chutneys is the name, and it does a good enough job with its variations of Northern and Southern Indian cuisines. Ironically, I enjoyed the food more during my lunchtime visit when the restaurant presents, as most area Indian restaurants do, a buffet of various dishes. The dinnertime visit was less enjoyable.

Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Butter Chicken interior

Butter chicken is a popular dish in Indian restaurants, though you might see it listed on menus as Murgh Makhani. Though I suppose if someone was going to name a restaurant after the dish, they’d go with Butter Chicken.

Which is what the owners of Butter Chicken Indian Cuisine in Winter Park did.

Butter Chicken is in a little clump of businesses on Howell Branch Road behind a 7-Eleven. It occupies a space we’ve been in before, including when it was Bravissimo (when Rosario Spagnolo, now of Terramia, was involved with it) and a forgettable restaurant called the Getaway Cafe. (And by forgettable I mean that I had forgotten about it until I did a search on the address — and I still don’t remember much about it.) It was also Chef Henry’s Tip-Top Bistro, an Argentine restaurant that closed before I could get to it, and a restaurant called Saigon, which inexplicably specialized in Chinese cuisine.

But Butter Chicken. It’s still new enough that the signage out front looks temporary. Or maybe they’re just waiting to see if it catches on better than the Argentine restaurant.

Tabla Indian Chinese Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tabla interior

I’m pleased to welcome Tabla to the flog as one of our approved advertisers. (If you’re not familiar with it, here is a link to the SJO Advertiser Policy.)

Tabla was a new Indian restaurant near Universal Orlando in 2008 and it was one of the very first reviews I wrote post Sentinel. But I had not been back since then. So the owners invited me in to see what’s new.

I think I might had said “wow” when I walked in the front door. And I’m sure I said it a couple of times while trying some of the new dishes. To say they’ve made a few changes would be an understatement.

For starters, there is the interior, which was basically gutted and updated with a modern style that includes white stacked brick walls, tufted white leatherlike fabrics, clear glass globe light fixtures, and a wood-pattern ceramic floor. (Just for comparison, I’ve included a photo of the restaurant in 2008 at the bottom of the review.)

Shaan Indian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Shaan pakora

I’ve had enough negative experiences with Lake Mary Indian restaurants that having a mediocre one seems a move in the right direction.

A recent meal at Shaan was no more nor less than that. It manages somehow to take one of the world’s most complicated cuisines, one that is characterized by myriad spices, multilayered and complex, and turn it into an offering so bland that Darden could market it to the masses.

My guest and I started with an appetizer of the mixed pakora, assorted vegetables frittered and fried using chickpea flour and, according to the menu, “cholesterol free oil.” I’d have been willing to take the responsibility of having my cholesterol spike a point or two in exchange for some flavor. We did have fun, though, trying to identify the vegetables under the breading.