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Restaurant Files: Dazzling Flavors of Tawa in Stamford, Connecticut

May 3, 2016 3 comments

Tawa Restaurant LogoAs a self-proclaimed foodie, I pride myself with having no favorite cuisine or a type of restaurants – when asked “which restaurant would you prefer for dinner”, my typical answer is “I eat everything”. It is true, of course, but may be not entirely. One example – Indian cuisine. This might be on the subconscious level, as one of my very first encounters with Indian food happened on the “Indian hot” spiciness level, which leaves some unforgettable scars on the uninitiated, but an Indian restaurant would not likely be my top choice given a list of possible dinner options.

But again, as a foodie, I feel almost obliged to work over my own limitations, and keep trying different cuisines. Thus when I was invited to visit Tawa Indian Cuisine restaurant in Stamford, I saw a great opportunity to deep dive into the Indian cuisine once again and see what I might be missing.

I loved the decor at Tawa – quaint and sophisticated, very tasteful. Nothing is really glaring at you that you are in an Asian restaurant, not even aromas in the air.

Once the dinner started of course there was no question of what kind of food is in front of us. I will give you a detailed account below, but to describe the experience as a whole, I have to mention the perfect balance. The food had brilliant colors, and none of the dishes where shy on flavor – this is why I called this post “dazzling flavors” – but all the spiciness was balanced, it was like a perfect dance, where you mesmerized by the perfection of movement and forget the time. This was also explained by the Chef Kausik Roy – his goal was to present the variety of flavors of the cuisine of the vast country without overwhelming – and this was clearly showing in the food we had an opportunity to taste.

This was my second encounter with Chef Roy, and I love the fact that I get to learn something interesting from him. Last time I was learning about curries, this time it was cilantro. It appears that cilantro is used in the 95 out 100 Indian dishes, so it is a very important herb. But what is interesting is how you use it. When I use cilantro, I would chop mostly just the leaves with a bit of the stems, and add them at the very end of cooking. But to extract the deep flavor, you need to use whole stems and simply cook with them from the beginning.

Okay, let’s talk about our dinner. We started with the cocktails (yep, in Indian restaurant), and they were tasty. I generally don’t like overly sweet cocktails, and from the description I was a bit concerned that they might be – but both Watermelon Ginger Margarita (Tequila, Ginger, Watermelon Syrup, Dekuyper Triple Sec, Lime Juice) and Tawa Madras-Tini (Ketel One Vodka, Mango Juice, Dekuyper Triple Sec) were just excellent, not very sweet; Watermelon Ginger Margarita had very nice level of spicy heat with it.

Tawa offers somewhat small, but well thought through wine list. We had 2013 Saint M Riesling Germany, which had a touch of sweetness and bright acidity, excellently complementing many dishes. We also wanted to have a red wine with the dinner, and I was very happy to find 2013 If You See Kay Red Blend Lazio IGT, Italy on the list – one of my perennial favorites, with great concentration of the dark fruit and good acidity, this was definitely an enjoyable wine.

We started our dinner with Tawa’s Signature Tropical Mango Salad (Tropical mango, baby greens, Mango onion seeds dressing), served with a crispy naan – fresh and light, good way to start the dinner. Next up was Mulligatawny Soup (Yellow lentil soup, finished with coconut cream and fresh lemon), made with the vegetable broth and finished with a touch of yogurt. Mulligatawny actually means “pepper water”, so it is supposed to be very spicy, but this is not how Chef Roy does it. Soup was delicious, and a double treat considering cold and rainy weather outside.

Next dish was Aloo Tikki Chaat (Indian spiced potato patties topped with garbanzo beans, tamarind chutney, raita & roti crisps) – great spices, delicious and then Coconut Pepper Shrimp (Lightly battered  shrimp, smoky black pepper, chutney mayo), with that chutney mayo been pretty spectacular. Last one of our appetizers, Indo Chinese Lasuni Gobi (Crispy cauliflower florets  tossed with tangy tomato garlic sauce and spring onion), not only had an amazing crunch, but also texturally was indistinguishable from nicely cooked meat. Wake me up at any time and offer me this dish – I would be super-happy.

Our dining extravaganza continued with selection of Naan, an Indian bread which is one of my absolute favorites (I have to always stop myself from devouring the whole “basket”), following by Kebab Platter. Grilled pieces of chicken, lamb and salmon were colorfully presented on the wooden board, and the taste was on par with the presentation – tender and flavorful.

The main selection of our dinner (like what we already had was not enough, huh) consisted of the various Curry dishes – both traditional vegetarian and meat dishes were included in the selection. Everything was perfectly cooked, and all the sauces were absolutely delightful. My favorite meat dish was Signature Lamb Dampak (Tender lamb cube cooked in a sealed copper vessel), starting with the “opening ceremony”:

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We also had Chicken Sahi Korma (A true Mughlai delight, lightly sweet and spicy with flavor of cardamom), Shrimp Madras (tomato coconut curry tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds) and Goat Roganjosh (Tender Bone in goat meat cooked in onion & tomato gravy flavored with spices), followed by equally traditional  Sag Paneer, Crispy Okra (my absolute favorite!), Yellow lentils and Matter Paneer:

The trio of desserts nicely concluded our deep immersion into the Indian cuisine:

That’s all I have for you, my friends. This was a great journey into the world of Indian cuisine, and with the masterful execution by Chef Kausik Roy, I can’t recommend Tawa highly enough. Definitely a deviation from the every day food for many people here in the US, but I’m sure your taste buds would appreciate a different flavor, and you will enjoy the experience. And if you are already accustomed to the flavors of the Indian cuisine, come and taste what the Tawa has to offer. Cheers!

Tawa Indian Cuisine
487 Glenbrook Rd
Stamford, CT 06906
Phone:(475) 299-9973
http://tawaonline.com

Tawa Indian Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian Cuisine Deep Dive, At Aladin Indian Bistro in Norwalk, CT

November 3, 2013 8 comments

DSC_0539Do you know what is curry? Well, may be you do, but it appears that I didn’t. To be more precise, I thought I knew – and I didn’t. Anyway, the explanation is coming down below – keep reading and looking at the pictures.

Aladin Indian Bistro located at the busy intersection in Norwalk, CT, literally around the corner from one of the best food stores in the area, Stew Leonard’s. Despite the busy intersection part, there is plenty parking in the back, which definitely helps. I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about going to the restaurant, parking is probably one of my very first concerns – I need to know if I will be circling around the busy street for half an hour or not, so again, I’m talking about important stuff here.

The Aladin’s interior is nicely appointed, with wood and leather, with enough space between the tables, and comfortable and inviting lighting.

DSC_0540As we got situated at our table, the neverending array of food started to appear. First, it was Papadum, the thin crisp flatbreads, made out of yellow lentil flour right at the restaurant – very tasty on its own and with the sauces. By the way, as I consider this visit more of a personal learning of the Indian cuisine, I will include here the links to the relevant articles on Wikipedia – here is the one for Papadum. We were also served a trio of accompanying sauces – Mint sauce, Braun Tamarind sauce and Onion Vinegar relish – all worked very well with papadum.

Our first dish was Spiced Sea Bass Pakoda (Sea Bass Fritters. Chili Yogurt sauce) – tender pieces of fish, deep fried in a special batter. This dish was quite successful in texture and had very mild spicy profile. I also really liked the presentation. By the way, continuing our education here, Pakoda ( often spelled as Pakora) is the common name for the deep fried snack in India and other Asian countries – here is your link to Wikipedia to learn more.

Next dish was Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda (Roasted eggplant Tamarind  aioli). Unfortunately, it was really dry and chewy – it looks pretty, though.

Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda

Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda

Ahh, almost forgot – of course we were drinking wine. The wine list at Aladin is small, but I found it to be quite appropriate for the type of cuisine the restaurant is serving. There is a good selection of the both light whites and reds, also the prices look quite reasonable. Overall we had 3 different wines during the course of a dinner. For the white, we had 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Saint M Riesling, Pfalz, Germany – very nice, simple, some honeydew notes on the palate, with a good amount of acidity and touch of sweetness, very refreshing – and most importantly, working quite well with practically all the dishes. Our first red was 2012 Gougenheim Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – simple red, with some good acidity and light raspberries profile. Later on we switched to the 2012 900 Grapes Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand – nice Pinot Noir profile, with some plump cherries both on the nose and the palate, may be a touch too sweet, but working well with the dishes.

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Our dinner continued with the trio of Chicken Kebabs – done in three different styles, all pieces perfectly tender, moist and juicy. When I cook myself, I generally avoid chicken kebab, as I typically have a hard time trying not to dry it out. The kebab which we were served, was probably one of the very best I ever had.

Chicken Kabob

Chicken Kebab

The next dish was probably one of the most favorite in the group – it is probably enough to say that we asked for the refill a couple of times. The dish was Karari  Bhindi (Crispy okra with red onion, cilantro and green  chili), as we called it a “crispy okra salad” – a perfect combination of spices and crunchy texture, very tasty.

Appearing next were a few dishes. Bagar Dal (yellow lentil flavored with cumin, curry leaves, fresh garlic and dry chili) was very tasty, and so was Rogan Josh Traditional (Goat with tomato curry with a hint of Yogurt):

Just to go on with our overall theme of learning, here is the link for Dal (a thick stew made out of dried legumes) and Rogan Josh – an aromatic lamb or goat-based stew. I don’t get to eat goat all that often, so it was an interesting experience and overall a very tasty dish.

Next up – Signature Lamb Dampak (tender Lamb cubes cooked in a sealed copper vessel) – this was a bit more familiar than the previous dish, very flavorful and aromatic, perfectly going over the jasmine rice, an excellent dish overall:

And then we had bread! Well, if you are familiar with the Indian cuisine, you know that I’m talking about Naan. It is generally served hot, and it is one of my very favorite types of bread you can get in the restaurant. It perfectly accompanies all of the stew-like dishes, and it literally melts in your mouth. We went through quite a few baskets of Naan, as you can never get enough of it.

Remember I asked you if you know what curry is? This was the question which Chef Roy, the Executive Chef and Owner of Aladin, asked us during one of his appearances:

Chef Roy talking to some of our dining crew

Chef Roy talking to some of our dining crew

I felt that the question is probably not as straight-forward as it seemed, but nevertheless, my answer was “of course! it is a spice!”. Well, this is exactly where I was wrong. Curry is a way of cooking with multitude of spices, but not the spice on its own! There all sorts of curry spices, all widely used in the cooking throughout the Asia, and they often share some common ingredients, like coriander and cumin, but overall, all those curries are different depending on the country and the dish which they will be used for. Apparntly “curry spice” as a nomenclature, was created a few hundred years ago, to sell a common blend of spices to the Westerners, as Asian-style cooking was becoming popular in Europe. And again, I have to refer you to the Wikipedia if you want to learn more.

Just to share my personal learning with you, I also learned that coriander is a seed of… cilantro! I love cilantro in everything, and I use coriander quite often, especially when it comes to the Fall cooking (roasted butternut squash soup is one example) – but I had no idea they are related! Live and learn…

Anyway, there are still a few dishes worth mentioning. We had Tawa “Surf n Turf” (combination Tandoori kebab platter of meat and seafood), very tasty:

There were more dishes, but I honestly lost track at that point of what was what, so here are the pictures (but I remember that everything was tasty!):

And, of course, the desert! Traditional Rice Pudding, nice, creamy, may be a touch too sweet for my taste, but still very refreshing after such an extensive meal:

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

All in all, this was an excellent “deep dive” into the world of the Indian cuisine, very unique and different. And as usual, the last thing left to do is to thank Chef Roy and his staff for the excellent meal and great education. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.

Aladin Indian Bistro
36 Westport Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
Phone: (203) 939-9040

http://www.aladinindianbistro.com
Aladin Indian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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