But it's there, just a samosa's fling from Cool River Cafe, Il Fornaio and palatial estates with 15 bathrooms and 30 closets, where you'll find Mirch Indian Grill, a spectacularly fragrant, comfortably informal, bright-tinted chaat house serenaded by Bollywood music videos softly droning from the TV propped to the wall.
Mirch (the name is Hindi for chili) is owned by Jesse Singh, a Canadian, and his wife, Rashmi, a jovial woman from Mumbai (formerly Bombay), whose menu is a compilation of Indian snacks accompanied by short, personal travelogues of her food memories back home. Of the bhel puri, Rashmi writes, "At 3 p.m. sharp every day, the Bhel Puri Wala would pass our neighborhood ringing the bell on his pushcart. He would serve this zesty mixture of rice puffs, potatoes, onions and chutneys covered with sev (crispy noodles) in a recycled newspaper."
"What should I order?", I asked Rashmi. She grinned and pointed to the bhel puri, which turned out to be a tangle of textures and vigorous flavors: spicy, tangy, salty, crunchy, sweet, crackly, crispy and utterly hooking.
"Our whole idea was to open a restaurant where we could serve the street foods of India -- the foods that millions of people in Mumbai and Delhi eat every single day of their lives," says Jesse, who also works in the IT business. "We couldn't find an Indian restaurant anywhere in Denver that served the kind of dishes that we serve, so we knew we had a unique concept," but even more important, explains Jesse, is the way in which chaats bring people together. "Everyone eats street food in India, whether you're a millionaire or a white-collar worker. Street food connects people, rich and poor."
And, according to Jesse, the street food at Mirch is connecting Indians from all around the state. "We've only been open for a month, and already we've had people coming from Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Aurora and Denver, most of whom are Indian, which says a lot." But word of mouth, he insists, is spreading throughout the suburb, too, with more and more Caucasians stopping in to feast on Bombay frankies, griddled rotis smeared with a thin layer of scrambled egg, rolled with cubed lamb, chicken or potatoes, chaat masala, cilantro, vinegared onions and chutney and wrapped in tinfoil, just like a handheld burrito.
Like the pushcart vendors in India, Jesse and Rashmi also peddle khati rolls; dahi batata puri filled with tamarind chutney and yogurt; aloo tikki, somosa chaat surfaced with yogurt, chutneys and chick peas; chicken and fish pakoras; and minced lamb rotis. And while they're not on the menu, the couple swears by the masala fries, which they'll happily prepare if you ask.
"We really do serve food that you can't find anywhere else in Denver," reiterates Jesse, whose next move is to offer an Indian à la carte brunch, followed, he hopes, by a beer and wine license.
Mirch, 8000 East Belleview, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday until 10 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. For more information, dial 303-221-1123.