The Spice of Life
By Allan Borgen
Locate a few doors down from Albertson’s Market on Redlands Blvd. in Redlands is a neat Indian restaurant called Naan Café. This small eatery offers a variety of Southern and Northern Indian dishes that are both delicious and very reasonably priced.
As you enter, you are greeted by a nice deli counter featuring nine hot items that you can order in various combinations from one to three entrées, each including rice and Naan (Indian flat bread). You can also order food from their a la carte menu where each dish is made fresh upon ordering. Once you order, the kitchen staff jumps into action to create some of the best Indian food around.
Before I get into the food, I must tell you that of all of the cuisines that I have encountered—and that includes a lot of them—the foods of India has to be one of the most complex and misunderstood cuisines there is. Despite what many think, not all Indian food is deathly hot and spicy. Rather, each dish is bold and assertive in its seasonings and features exciting flavor profiles from the use of such ingredients as cardamom, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, turmeric and many more. Remember, you can order any of your dishes as hot or as mild as you wish so don’t be afraid to tell your server before ordering.
Let’s start our culinary journey around India. I ordered the popular Samosas ($3.49), two pastries stuffed with mashed potatoes, peas, cilantro (and a few other spices they would not divulge to me). The appetizers were seasoned with cumin and fried until the pastry was crisp and flaky. The unique Bhel Puri ($4.99), a mixture of popular tasty Indian snack food mixture made with crisp noodles, puffed rice, boiled potatoes, onions, green chili and cilantro tossed with a tangy sweet tamarind sauce and mint chutney. Both of these items were delicious while the Bhel Puri was outstanding.
Next dish, the exciting Karahi Lamb ($9.99), tender chunks of lamb cooked with tomatoes, bell peppers, ginger, garlic, onions and a rich gravy with a mildly sweet tomato based sauce. I loved this dish since the sauce was perfectly paired with the lamb which was very tender—oh so good!
For you veggie lovers out there, the Vegetable Korma Curry ($7.99) is one of many delectable vegetarian dishes, consisting of carrots, onions, broccoli and peas cooked in delicious rich creamy yogurt tomato sauce with raisins and chopped cashews. The sauce had a great creamy tomato flavor and like all Indian dishes, is meant to enjoy with basmati rice. Speaking of rice, the Biryani Chicken Rice dish ($7.99), is yet another incredible dish that Naan Café offers. Imagine a large portion of basmati rice cooked with chunks of tandoori chicken, raisins, onions, chopped cashews and a really tasty but complex sauce. This could easily feed two to three people and was a real treat!
Other dishes worthy of your choosing include the juicy and delicious classic Tandoori Chicken ($8.99), a dish everyone will love, the mildly zesty Chicken Tikka Masala ($7.99), chunks of tandoori chicken with a rich velvety cream based sauce with bell peppers, chili, tomatoes and onions and Popeye’s favorite, Saag Paneer ($7.49), spinach, roasted spices, tomatoes and Paneer cheese that is slowly cooked, releasing all of the wonderful essence and oils that the seasonings and ingredients have to offer.
For a beverage, I recommend the sweet Mango Lassi ($2.99), a rich sweet fruity drink made with sweetened yogurt and mangos. In addition to tasting good, this drink will also help to coat your throat and stomach if any of the dishes you order are too spicy for you.
In closing, I was extremely happy with all of the food and I hope all of you, even if those of you who have never eaten Indian food before, would give Naan Café a try. Remember! Supporting small locally owned restaurants is a must if want the Inland Empire to continue to attract quality restaurants and new cuisines to our area. Happy Eating!
Naan Cafe 700 E. Redlands Blvd., R3, Redlands, (909) 307-3900; www.naancafe.com.
Watch Allan on Friday nights at 6:30pm and Saturdays at 5:30pm on the New Let’s Dine Out Television Show on Ch. 24, KVCR. Allan can be heard every Saturday afternoon from 3pm-5pm on the Let’s Dine Out Radio Show on KTIE 590am. Contact Allan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 910-3463. Visit his websites: feedme411.com and letsdineoutshow.com.