Spicing up the suburbs
Henderson’s first Indian restaurant has goat curry—and so much more
Thu, Jan 15, 2009 (midnight)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
Where does one go for a decent goat curry? I hear you cry. Taza, Henderson’s first Indian restaurant, has one every day on its bountiful lunch buffet, which becomes an even more lavish spread on weekends.
This large space, formerly a location for Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, sits in the middle of a large shopping plaza already home to several restaurants, including Fado, Steeles and a ritzy Italian job called Le Golosita. The space has been embellished with understated art and a faux waterfall, but what stands out for me is a pastry case by the front door, stocked with besun barfi, dhoda and kaju pista, all homemade sweets based on milk and sugar.
The restaurant belongs to the elegant Puninder Nanar, from India’s Punjab, where the specialty is a meat-rich cuisine. But Nanar has included south Indian fare on her menu, such as masala dosa, a long, cylindrical crepe stuffed with curried potatoes, and, on weekend buffet spreads, uppuma, spicy semolina-based pancakes, and dhokla, a steamed cake of garbanzo flour topped with mustard seeds.
Most people get acquainted with their local Indian restaurant by making a pilgrimage to their buffet, so that’s the logical starting place. The buffet includes the obligatory tandoor-style chicken, in this case one that is redder than a UNLV basketball player’s uniform.
- Restaurant Guide
- 9530 S. Eastern Ave., 898-8292.
- Lunch buffet daily, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Dinner 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
- Suggested dishes: garlic naan, $3; bhindi, $13; tandoori lamb, $19; kheer, $5.
Now, if you think eating goat curry is a dodgy proposition, relax. Goat tastes quite a bit like lamb, although it is occasionally gamier, and the ribs can have more cartilage. This is a mild, rich curry, ideal for spooning onto hot basmati rice. But if you’re more inclined to the vegetable dishes, Taza serves several of them, including dal, a thick lentil gravy; saag paneer, or spinach with cubed farmer’s cheese; and channa, spiced garbanzo beans.
Personally, I prefer à la carte dining at Indian restaurants. Evening meals begin with a complimentary plateful of papad, crisp lentil flour wafers flecked with black pepper that you are advised to dip in side dishes of tamarind or cilantro chutney. If the spices get to you, cool your palate with a bottle of Indian beer such as Kingfisher or Taj Mahal, which were originally crafted by German brew masters.
But spices do not faze me, and in fact, I find the buffet cooking too mild for my taste. (Although you can always ask for a side dish of chili, or even achar, tumeric-marinated, oil- and chili-soaked pickles, usually mango, onion or green chili.) At Taza, the food has a bite unless you ask for it mild. If I had to put the knock on an aspect of the cooking here, I’d say the chef tends to be overly liberal with his use of salt.
A hot appetizer called Vegetarian Sampler combines samosas, potato-stuffed pastries, with the lentil flour vegetable fritters called pakoras, and also paneer pakoras, which are basically pieces of batter-fried cheese. The samosas are pint-sized with a flaky crust, but the pakoras are about as subtle as a knock on the head, leaden and tasty.
Similarly, Assorted Sizzler, the big-deal tandoori meat platter, is a flat metal dish that has been crowded with delicious lamb chops, the cylindrical sausage called seekh kabab (which is heavy on the ginger and cardamon), tandoori chicken and chicken tikka. These are very good meats, but when they say sizzling, they are not kidding. Our plate was red hot, and the meats we didn’t eat immediately were blackened to a frazzle in no time.
Everyone liked bhindi, spiced, stewed okra, which we asked to have without gravy, and a rich chicken curry, served mild, full of large chunks of white-meat chicken. Saffron rice pilaf and naan breads, also from the clay oven, rounded things out nicely. Garlic naan has enough garlic to ward off a vampire, but the paneer naan skimps a bit on the cheese.
The pastries are delicious. I especially like the besun barfi, a dense, pale yellow square that is about as close to fudge as you’ll get from India. Other desserts, such as gajar halwa, a carrot pudding, or kheer, a traditional rice pudding, you can probably get on the buffet. If you insist on goat, though, you can get it anytime in here.