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Glorious Cuisine From Around the World

Saturday, January 06, 2007
Tandoori Hut, Calgary
Okay, Kent. You asked for it, and I can't use "I'm too busy" as an excuse, so voila! please note that as a girl from Saskatchewan who was first introduced to Indian food at the age of 21, I may have butchered spelling and flavour identification.

Among my group of friends, it is seriously frowned upon to take a date to a “chain restaurant”. Well, should you find yourself dating one of my friends, please, avoid this faux pas and make a reservation at the Tandoori Hut in Kensington.

Located on 10th Street, the Tandoori Hut seats approximately 40. An intimate and warm space, the Tandoori Hut moved down the street from its previous location in 2004. The new location is decorated with Indian art, tapestries, and warm colours. Our party of three was fortunate enough to be seated at a large table by the window, an area slightly more private than the rest of the restaurant. One caveat: if dining on an unseasonally cool day, try to avoid the window seats near the door. The small waiting area resulted in the door occasionally being propped open.

Initially, our party was essentially ignored. After being seated and given menus, it was at least 20 minutes before a drink order was taken. Two servers were spotted, and it must be noted that our server was working her first shift at the restaurant. Despite her newness, she was comfortable with the menu and her surroundings, and was quite knowledgeable of the food and drinks offered. Previous visits to the Tandoori Hut resulted in the same type of service, so be prepared to wait.

We started our evening with drinks; Kingfisher, an imported Indian beer, was much appreciated after a long work week, but was, in my opinion, no different from a light domestic beer. The mango daquiri, enjoyed by one of my partners in crime, was generously sized and very sweet. A variety of wines, beers and other beverages are available.

While we waited for our server, our party noticed the noise level of the restaurant. The other parties seemed to be enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, with background music playing. The small space resulted in quite a loud room, however, it was easy to hear the people at your table, and difficult to eavesdrop on the next. The Tandoori Hut on a Friday night appears to be a popular place to take a date, as it is perfect for intimate conversations- you may need to lean in close to hear every word.

We opted to skip an appetizer and head straight to the main course. Butter Chicken (12.95) is a Tandoori Hut specialty, and one of my favourite dishes. The Lamb Korma (12.95) and Dessi Chicken (14.95) were ordered, as was the Coconut Rice (3.95), the Plain Nan (2.00) and the Tandoori Hut Special Nan (3.95). The menu was easy to navigate, written in English with descriptions of each item. A variety of items are available, including vegetarian options, seafood, and meat dishes. Despite a lengthy wait for our drinks and for someone to come take our order, our food arrived quickly. The tea-light warming dish placed on the table kept the food warm, but not piping hot.

Arriving in small metal dishes, the Butter Chicken, Lamb Korma and Dessi Chicken initially appeared to be small portions, and our group was sure that we had not ordered enough food. We soon found that though we ran a little low on Nan, we could not finish all that we had ordered. The Coconut rice was a fragrant and generous mound, sweet and delicately spiced with cardamom and saffron. The Nan arrived hot, chewy and soft. The Tandoori Hut Special Nan is a must-try, topped with raisins, nuts, and sesame seeds.

The Butter Chicken was fantastic- subtle layers of flavour and spice, but not overwhelmingly hot. The chicken was tender, moist and not over cooked, and the slivered almonds sprinkled on top added just a little texture variety and crunch. The rich creamy red sauce was excellent, and every last drop was sopped up with Nan. However, I would recommend ordering plain rice with this dish, as the Coconut Rice was too sweet when paired with the Butter Chicken.

The Lamb Korma was indeed the highlight of this meal. The yellow curry sauce prepared with almonds, and cashews, and spiced with cardamom and saffron was the perfect sauce for the tender lamb. Not tough or dry, the Lamb melted in my mouth, the meaty flavour more intense than beef. The yellow sauce was delicious and spicy, with a warmth that mellowed instead of scorched. The Coconut Rice played well with the Lamb Korma, the sweetness of the rice bringing out the nutty flavour and cooling the heat of the sauce.

The Dessi Chicken, however, was a disappointment. The most expensive meat dish offered at the Tandoori Hut, the chicken simmered in a creamy tomato sauce with brandy and mangoes was bland. The mango, definitely canned, was mushy and tasted artificial. The dish lacked the subtle flavours and heat of the other two, and was simply sweet. I tasted a hint of cinnamon, but could not find the brandy flavour anywhere. Pass this dish by when visiting the Tandoori Hut.

The Tandoori Hut doesn’t over-play the exotic in their décor, and is accessible to both the professional crowd and the family. A great place for a special dinner with friends, the Tandoori Hut is also perfect for a casual dinner any night of the week. Reservations are recommended, take out available.
posted by Meg at 10:17 PM


Blogger kent said...

That brought back some memories.

Kingfisher beer...a little more expensive than the other beers that are exactly the same but just have different labels. The company has its own airline, in fact, and the beer is brewed in Goa.

Desi chicken, eh? I have never heard of that, so I'm just going to assume it was a tandoori hut invention.

Interesting note about the tandoori hut...i apparently know the nephew of the owner. I met him in Panchkula, India at a restaurant. What are the chances?

Solid review. Thanks.

3:42 AM  

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