For the past year,I've been eating my way up and down Havana Street in Aurora. With that mission accomplished, I'm moving on to more suburban surroundings; I'll be tackling the diverse eats and drinks of Arapahoe Road from Parker Road to Broadway. Here's the next stop in what promises to be a long but tasty adventure.
While Indian restaurants have been a staple in Denver for years, the suburbs have recently started seeing them pop up in former Chinese buffet joints, abandoned bars and vacant strip-mall shops. Though Mexican restaurants still rule the strip malls and shopping centers around the city, Indian cuisine, with its strong spice profiles and upbeat flavors, is just as satisfying as the fare from your favorite taqueria.
Take India’s Kitchen III, an Indian and Nepali restaurant that recently took over the old Dusty Boot American Bar & Grill at the corner of Arapahoe and Parker roads. Inside, there’s not much evidence that you’re actually in an Indian restaurant, since much of the decor from the previous eatery is still hanging on the walls. But once you open the five-page menu, it’s clear you’re going to get something more exciting than the hamburgers and fries that were once served here.
Many of the offering at India’s Kitchen are familiar, but there are plenty of choices for those looking to delve deeper into Indian cuisine. Rookies, though, might feel intimidated and overwhelmed, so the restaurant offers a rotating lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day for $10.99, with new selections each day. “While it’s not very beneficial financially to have a lunch buffet,” comments owner Ashok Neupane, “we offer it for our customers who want to try a little bit of the classic Indian dishes so that they can see what they like before they order a whole entree.”
Neupane, who was born in eastern Nepal about ten minutes from India’s border, grew up attending yearly Hindi festivals in India with his parents and fondly remembers the indulgent street snacks served. “The street foods from festivals are the foods I grew up with, and I’ve always wanted to share these flavorful foods from my culture with others,” he explains. When Neupane was 22, he came to the U.S. and honed his culinary skills working in Indian restaurants for years before finally purchasing his first restaurant, India’s Kitchen, in Parker, followed by India's Kitchen II in Centennial.
“The reason I like having my restaurants in the suburbs is because I can find large enough buildings with space, large windows and good ventilation,” he comments. “I like my customers to smell the curry on the foods they eat, but not have to smell it on their clothes for the rest of the day after leaving my restaurants.”
Neupane is right; there's not a trace of spice in the air, which automatically had me worried. However, a plate full of buffet items calmed my initial trepidation.
I filled my plate several times to get a feel for the the various appetizers and sauces, and was impressed by the quality and variety, as well as the immaculate condition of the buffet line. Crisp, pillowy veggie pakora (fried vegetable dumplings), creamy curry stews such as dal tadka, spicy rajma and navratan korma were all fun to try and proved a nice dipper for the dry-ish tandoori chicken. The most decadent item on the buffet was the classic chicken tikka masala. With a creamy tomato-garlic-curry sauce, the chicken was a bit dry from sitting in the heated buffet container, but the sauce was a velvety, buttery treat and was even better spooned over the cloud-like basmati rice. Chutneys in gold, emerald, bronze and snow white were as flavorful as they were gorgeous on the homemade, baked-to-blistering naan (which comes free with a buffet purchase).
The buffet is great for sampling, but you'll eventually want to graduate to the dinner menu, with dishes that range from $12 to $22 and come in your choice of spice level (mild, medium, hot or very hot). There are also Nepali specialties from the owner's homeland, such as momos, dumpling-like street snacks filled with meats or vegetables and served with a tomato chutney for dipping. Neupane urges customers to try his signature dish, tandoori murg; instead of traditional chicken, Cornish game hen is slathered with the signature house seasoning and slowly roasted in a clay oven. The crimson hen is served butterflied on a sizzling skillet atop roasted veggies. For wheat- and meat-shy folks, India’s Kitchen offers pages of gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Drinks and desserts, while typically seen as extras, could help shape your opinion of the cuisine of another country. It’s for that reason that India’s Kitchen III serves several imported Indian beers as well as signature cocktails like the Captain Mango, where a traditional mango lassi (a tangy yogurt smoothie) is given a boost with a splash of Captain Morgan rum. The bar has also created a spin on the margarita, called the tamangrita, by infusing it with a sweetened tamarind sauce. Desserts can also be sampled on the buffet during lunchtime and are also served during dinner ($4.99-$5.99) and feature Indian standards such as keer, a mildy sweet rice pudding; gajar halwa, a sweet-as-candy carrot pudding; and gulab jamun, doughnut-like pastry balls that taste even better when dragged through both above-mentioned puddings.
India’s Kitchen III is a safe bet for those looking for a unique and saucy experience. Take a break from the typical chips-and-salsa routine with cilantro-imbued chutneys, housemade naan and clay-oven roasted meats — without going back to the office in a cloud of curry.
India’s Kitchen III is located at 16270 East Arapahoe Road in Foxfield. Call 720-361-4554 for takeout orders or reservations for large parties. You can also order online on the restaurant's website, which includes a 15 percent discount. The lunch buffet is served seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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