Taste of India

According to Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Seattle foodies vocal behind their online personalities, Taste of India is the go-to place for the most original and friendly Indian food this side of Delhi.

The authentic mecca, located at 5517 Roosevelt Way NE on the edge of the U-district, serves up a country-wide assortment of flavors and spices slid across glass-covered tables in a low-lighting bungalow tinkling with music. And if the lines twirling outside the door even on weekday nights are any indication, Taste of India’s cuisine is enough to get even the online ravers out, and bring in new converts.

The family-owned restaurant offers a full range of traditional Indian offerings, from a perky brown curry infused with tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs to a more exotic coconut curry, creamy with nutty coconut, ginger, garlic, and a blend of spices that makes the mouth hum with warmth.

Curries and sauces are cooked with a choice of chicken, lamb, beef, fish, prawns, or, in some cases, tofu. They’re served steaming in shallow dishes and come with complimentary Basmati rice, fluffed with light spices.

While it’s certainly kosher to spoon curry on rice, it’d be a mistake to pass up Taste of India’s infamous nan bread. The size of a small pizza or elephant ear, this golden flat bread is crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. It’s worth the investment to indulge in the garlic nan, brushed with extra butter, a heavy helping of garlic, and spiky herbs.

Taste of India also serves to dispel the common complaint that all Indian food tastes the same. Creamy Tikka Masala, sparkling on the tongue with the fresh tang of cilantro and sweet curl of ginger, is pleasantly contrasted with the hearty Shimla Paneer—crunchy and colorful bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes sautéed in a rich and bold arrangement of spices studded with curdy soft cheese.

But what makes it all go down is Taste of India’s bottomless chai tea, a onetime investment that yields a whole evening of attentive refills of this subtle and velvety libation—buttery on the lips, musky in the back of the throat, and warm all the way down.

Attentiveness is the byword of service here, where hovering waiters seek out empty water glasses and dwindling cups of chai with an almost frantic energy. Even a small wait is compensated by free appetizers and tardy service should never be a concern. Taste of India also serves orders to go and they’re more than willing to package the last of the bottomless chai for the road.

Vegetarian options abound and the more adventurous might venture beyond Indian cuisine to sample a Mediterranean flafill or gyro plate. The truly tastebud-ambitious might merely ramp up the spice level of a traditional dish. Taste of India provides an American-friendly guide to spicy flavors and consistently achieves the desired palate.

Rarely is a locale so deserving of the hype. While Taste of India’s cuisine has in some ways been adapted to a foreign clientele, the restaurant has maintained a level of authenticity—in the curious and painted faces peeking out from brightly-colored murals, the red and gold embroidered table-coverings, the relentlessly polite service—that makes it both an enjoyable culinary and cultural get-away. Take a wealth of food snobs’ word on it—you’ll come for a taste and leave with an addiction.

Published 26 February 2014 in The Falcon as “Taste of India lives up to the hype”

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