Adventurous Triangle gluttons are familiar with the array of ethnic fare available to our palates whenever we please. And Indian cuisine isn't hard to come by. So it seems like our curry bases are covered, right? Not quite, my friends ... until now. This month, two new places fill voids while an old favorite takes on a revamped look.
It's what Raleigh was missing: an Indian restaurant downtown. Taste of India (126 Salisbury St., 833-5076) sits above the Subway downtown at a space formerly occupied by Baba Ganouj. Only open for lunch, it serves a buffet with all the favorites from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A few of my downtown lunch break friends reported back pleasantly comatose and with full bellies, as most of us are after an Indian buffet. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, korma, vegetable pakora and sweet rice dessert are a few of the available items. Endless trips to the buffet cost $7.95 through the end of October.
In RTP, a very new kid on the block serves up Indian and Bangledeshi fare along with specialty cuisine that spans the Middle East and the Mediterranean. But the main objective behind the Clay Pit (4853 N.C. 55, Durham, 806-2100) is to serve everything halal (a designation of food as seen permissible by Islamic standards). Owner Jaffery Mubarak, a native of Pakistan, says it's difficult for area Muslims to find halal offerings outside of their homes. And with the variety of ethnic offerings at Clay Pit (a concept he proved successful in Austin, Texas), Mubarak hopes the restaurant, only a month old, will become an inviting place for everyone.
"I wanted a restaurant for the whole community to enjoy," he says. The menu includes Greek gyros (made with specially ordered Kronos brand meat from Chicago), traditional Indian biryanis and tandoori favorites, Middle Eastern salads and even American-style burgers, sandwiches and fries. He makes it a point to mention that these burgers are not fast-food style. They come with freshly grilled tomato and onions for a bit of an ethnic twist. Clay Pit is open daily for lunch and dinner.
With the distinct scent of cardamom and ginger wafting through the air, Tandoor Indian Restaurant in Chapel Hill (1301 E. Franklin St., 967-6622, www.tandoorindian.com) has always greeted customers with a homey embrace. A reincarnation of this local favorite includes a new, even more inviting atmosphere. The redecorated space is filled with vibrant colors inspired by owner Binda Bhupal's homeland: mango orange, Kashmiri hot pink, Bombay yellow, peacock blue. The same traditional Punjabi menu items are accented by a new selection of tandoori specialties, including salmon cooked in the clay oven. And a new Bollywood Thaji is a house specialty, a silver platter with an assortment of dishes to try, accompanied by Bollywood movie screenings on Wednesday nights. There's also a new children's menu, with mild curry for beginners and tandoori chicken tenders.
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