Many different Asian cuisines have flourished as our city’s restaurant scene continues to expand. Indian food is not one of them. There might be Thai or Vietnamese or Japanese restaurants in practically every neighborhood, but you have to hunt to find good Indian food. Once you do, stick with it.
Lots of locals and tourists did just that as regulars at Gaylord, a fine dining establishment that has called the Rio home for nearly seven years. The owners closed it for a remodel last year and, three months ago, brought it back to life as Royal India Bistro. The menu hasn’t changed much—it’s still loaded with familiar northern Indian dishes. But the restaurant is much lighter and more casual, with added booths and new windows overlooking the pool. There’s also a small bar and lounge area, a private dining room and a lunch buffet ($14) served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
The refreshing was necessary, according to Phulpreet Singh, who owns and operates the restaurant and five others with his father, Harjit Singh Sodhi. The older Singh opened the family’s first restaurant, India Delhi Palace, in Phoenix in 1985, and it’s still going strong. There’s also Curry India Bistro in Diamond Bar, California, and three other local spots—India Masala and Big Burger in the Riviera food court and India Masala Bar & Grill on Flamingo Road near UNLV, where Phulpreet went to school. Here’s a tip: India Masala at the Riv is the only 24-hour Indian restaurant we’ve ever heard about.
Their Flamingo restaurant is for locals who want to avoid casinos, but getting in and out at the new Royal India Bistro is an easy and enjoyable experience. It’s off the main casino and away from the craziness, a peaceful retreat, and the portions are large and hearty and always well-spiced. It’s easy to order too much, but this stuff will become some of the best leftovers to ever hit your fridge.
An order of raita ($4), the house yogurt dip, is a wise move and goes great with everything. Other starters include spiced chicken wings, deep-fried onion bhaji or samosas. Get serious with samosa chaat ($9), vegetable samosas topped with chickpeas, cucumbers, onions, yogurt, cilantro and chutney, and you may be too full for much more.
The 500-degree tandoor clay oven offers a variety of chicken, lamb and seafood dishes and kabobs, as well as producing some of the best, most bubbly naan breads in the city. Chicken tikka masala ($23) is the most popular order, tender meat marinated in yogurt and served in a creamy-rich tomato-based sauce. Get the same dish with lamb ($30) or go the vegetarian route with fantastic, flavor-layered saag paneer ($17), with creamy farmer’s cheese and spinach.
Royal India Bistro’s biryani (rice) dishes also stand out with perfect tenderness and subtle flavors. For something a little more special, try goat masala ($24) or the royal grill plate ($35) with different cuts and marinations on lamb, chicken and shrimp. That one’s a feast, one that still feels fitting even if this restaurant is a bit more easygoing.
Royal India Bistro Rio, 777-2277. Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.