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With Masala Xpress, Ashim KC returns to the Denver dining scene

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When we noticed that a restaurant named Masala Xpress had set up shop in the Aurora Mall, our first hope was that it might be a quick-service outpost of Masalaa, the restaurant on South Parker Road that serves an all-vegetarian menu and landed our Best Vegetarian Indian Buffet award in this year's Best of Denver. Not so.

Masala Xpress is definitely a fast-casual joint, but it's not related to Masalaa -- and there's meat on the menu here. It was opened two months ago by Ashim KC, who has owned a string of Indian spots over the years, including the long-closed Maruti, which earned Best Indian Restaurant honors back in 2003. He closed that spot because it was in a bad location, he says, then operated mostly in the mountains. He still has an eatery in Frisco, but when he decided to re-enter the Denver scene, he decided to go in the direction of fast-casual, although Masala Xpress is located outside the food court in the mall.

"We have a place to sit and dine," he says, "but it's more like a fast-food-type spot." A fast-food-type spot that happens to serve up an array of northern Indian offerings, including vindaloo, biryani and saag paneer, offered for under $10 a plate.

Since Ashim hails originally from Nepal, there's also a wide offering of Nepalese food on the list -- momo dumplings, for example, "the most popular dish in Nepal," he says, and Nepalese noodles.

And you can wash everything down with a mango lassi -- which will have to do since, like most fast-casual spots, Masala Xpress doesn't serve booze.

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