After living in several different states on the East Coast and experiencing flavorful ethnic delights, I moved to Cincinnati and found only a few restaurants that catered to my craving for foods with exotic names and ingredients. I remember being thrilled to learn that Tandoor, a new Indian restaurant had found its way into Montgomery in the late 1980s. I returned again recently for an update.
When we arrived early on a Friday night, only a few people were reveling quietly in the bar, a quick step up to the left from the front door. We were surprised to see so many tables filled -- a group of Chinese with a translator, families with kids embarrassed to be seen with their parents and siblings, and various groupings of couples. The pale pink walls, white tablecloths and burgundy and teal valences with a saw-tooth edge and intermittent tassels seemed somewhat incongruous with the Indian tapestries festooning the walls.
We chose to start with Murgh Pakoras ($4.95), chicken cubes marinated in yogurt and spices, rolled in a relatively thick but light batter and fried golden for a moist and mild savory. I chose the Chef's Special ($18.95), a sampler that begins with Mulligatawny Soup ($2.95). A southern Indian specialty, the ochre-colored soup with lentils, tomatoes and spices was mildly spicy and very pleasing. Next came the Katchumber ($1.75), a chopped vegetable salad with cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes mixed with a spiced lemon and vinegar dressing close to a pickling flavor.
The Chef's Special continued with small portions of several menu items: Lamb Pasanda, cubes of lamb soaked with spiced yogurt and cooked in cream, was somewhat tough and gamey. The Chicken Tikki was moist with a tangy hint. The Chicken Tandoor (thigh and leg meat) was characteristically bright red, prepared moist and mild. The umber-colored Lamb Curry was silky and not as spicy as we would have liked. I'd never tried the Onion Kulcha before and loved the green flavor and look of the spring onions throughout the unleavened, Tandoor-baked bread. Served with Mixed Vegetables of cauliflower, potatoes, green pepper slices, onions and bits of spinach and a large dish of saffron-dotted Basmati rice, this was an enjoyable sampling, but I would have liked to have upped the spice level, an option we weren't offered.
The Goa Machi ($12.95), recommended by the server, was a superb blend of secret spices rubbed into red snapper in a sauce that was slightly kicky and allowed for the right undercurrent of grated coconut throughout the dish. And, of course, the teardrop shaped Nan ($1.95) bread was closely guarded by my partner and dipped into all the sauces.
Tandoor is worth the trip: fast, friendly and efficient. Just remember to ask for the appropriate spicing for your taste.
Go: 8702 Market Place Lane, Montgomery
Hours: Lunch: MondaySaturday 11:30 a.m.2 p.m.; Dinner: MondayThursday 5:309:30 p.m., FridaySaturday 5:3010:30 p.m. Closed Sundays.
Payment: Major credit cards and cash
Red Meat Alternatives: Several seafood and many vegetarian options