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Old Bridge Observer
Good Eating Section

October 01, 2005

By Rose Murphy
Observer Staff

Taste of Tandoor named for special oven used to prepare delicious fare

If you're tired of your everyday fare and want to experience a food that's delicious, exotic and reasonably priced, you'll want to dine at taste of Tandoor at 13836 Smoketown Rd. in Smoketown Plaza.

Dave Mathur, owner/manager, shops for the groceries himself. His brother, Anil, came from India three years ago and is the chef. Dhan Bgurung, a Nepal native, is in charge of the dining room and also is a chef.

Mathur explained his restaurant features Northern Indian cooking from the area around New Delhi, the nation's capital.

On a recent visit he sat with my husband, Jim, and me and introduced us to a sampling of food from his country. The menu lists the various offerings and includes a helpful description of the dish for those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine.

Our meal began with mango lassi, a creamy vanilla-colored beverage made from yogurt and mango pulp and served in a goblet. Cost is $2.95. Delicious is an understatement.

For an appetizer we tried the assorted platter, which included vegetable samosas, murg tikka and mixed vegetable pakora. The samosas are vegetable turnovers filled with potatoes, green peas, cumin and spices. Murg tikka is pieces of boneless chicken breast, which have been marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices. The vegetable pakora is fresh vegetable fritters.

The assorted platter is priced at $6.95, but the items are available individually for $2.95 or $3.95 an order. The menu features several entrees under tandoori specialties, Chicken specialties, vegetarian specialties and lamb specialties. All are served with basmati rice pulao.

Mathur explained that most entrees are "normally spiced. But if the customer prefers, the chef will be only too happy to make the selection mild, hot or Indian hot."

He said the tandoor is a clay oven, and that all meats, poultry and seafood are put in special marinades then skewered and broiled in the tandoor. The oven also is used to make the fresh bread served in the restaurant.

Next we got to taste the reshmi kabobs and the salmon tandoori. The kabob platter features boneless pieces of white chicken. Lemon juice and herbs are added and then the chicken is charbroiled. This entree is priced at $11.95.

My husband said the salmon tandoori was probably the best salmon he'd ever eaten. It is two fresh filets of salmon, marinated in yogurt and spices and charbroiled in the tandoor. I tried the fish, and it literally melted in your mouth. An absolute delight at $12.95.

Mathur also had us try the butter chicken and the palakb paneer. He explained the butter chicken only has a little butter in the traditional tomato sauce. "It's called butter chicken because of the consistency of the sauce," the owner said. It is a chef's specialty at $11.95.

The palakb paneer is a combination of fresh spinach and homemade cottage cheese cooked with ginger and rare spices. It also was a delicious choice and priced at $9.95.

The rogan josh lamb specialty at $12.95 was also a winner. It featured tender pieces of boneless, fresh lamb cooked in a yogurt-based creamy curry sauce, and finished off with a blend of spices.

Mathur explained that no Indian meal is complete without bread. We tried the naan, a fine flour bread, and puri, a whole wheat bread that's deep fried and puffed.

And then came the desserts. We sampled the gulab jamun and the gajar halwa. The gulab jamun is a milk dumpling soaked in honey. The gajar halwa is a carrot dessert flavored with cardamom and laced with pistachio nuts and raisins. Both were excellent. Each was priced at $2.95.

We finished off the meal with chai masala, which was the best and most flavorful tea I've ever tasted. Mathur said it includes green cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon "and other spices." it is served hot at $2.

There are several other interesting looking entrees I have my eye on for next time. And a dessert I want to sample is mango kulti, described as a traditional Indian ice cream flavored with mango and cardamom. If it's anything like the mango lassi drink, it will be a wonderful treat.

The Taste of Tandoor also features a daily lunch buffet al $7.95 Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 until to 3 p.m.

Dinner hours are Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Mathur also owns and operates two other Indian restaurants with a third to open in the Spring. There's a Guru Indian Cuisine at 1320 Central Park Blvd. across from Funland in Central Park shopping center in Fredericksburg and another Guru Indian Cuisine at 315 Garrisonville Rd., suite 109, Stafford. For information call 703-897-7200.

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