Weekend takeout adventure: Surabhi revisited. Bloomington redeemed.
517 West 98th Street
Bloomington, MN 55420
This week marks the near end to my summer trimester and I madly scramble to complete final papers, projects, and applications. I long for my short break between the summer and fall trimester, but can’t help but mourn the fact that transition also signifies the ending of a summer I feel I was hardly able to savor or explore.
This past weekend, Jake initiated a return to Surabhi for takeout. Our last visit was Jake’s first time trying Indian food and I was thrilled he liked Surabhi enough to return. At that moment in time, I was still recovering from my Mexican trip to Puebla and Queretero and found Surabhi’s spicy dishes strangely soothed my stomach. On a different note, nothing especially strange happened to me this week. Which is. . . strange.
Naan: Our meals came with several pieces of plain naan and Jake requested an additional side of garlic naan for $2.50 which included two pieces. I loved the naan’s charred blisters, chewy texture, and slightly oily quality that lent richness unlike the dry version I tried at Sambol’s lunch buffet. I did not find the garlic naan to be overwhelming pungent. Who am I kidding, though. Would I ever consider a food to be overwhelmingly garlicky?
Samosas: Fresh in my memory were recollections of Surabhi’s perfectly fried vegetable pakoras that were expertly packed to-go in a way that preserved crispiness. To try a new item, Jake ordered his first taste of samosas for $3.95. This order consisted of three large samosas in a paper bag, accompanied by a sweet and tart tamarind dipping sauce. The samosa wrappers were crispy and chewy and filled with a slightly spicy mix of mashed potatoes and peas.
Boti Kabob, “lean cubes of lamb marinated in spices”:
Jake fondly recalled the tandoor lamb from the Tandoor Mix Grill that we ordered at our last visit so he ordered the tandoor lamb, only.
The lamb was chewy but tender, slightly charred, and flavorful with the rich tandoor marinade. Although I enjoyed the flavorful lamb, I felt it was slightly dry and charred on this visit. The amount of meat we received was significantly smaller than all of the meats combined in the Mix Grill. The lamb rested on a large amount of thinly sliced onions and garnished with fresh lemon wedges. Diagreeing with Scott Conant, I feel that raw onion compliments meat in the most delightful way.
We ordered this entree with the Thali Dinner for $16.95.
Bhendi Masala: For my entree, I ordered the Bhendi Masala, “okra cooked with onion, ginger & tomato” as a Thali meal for $12.50. The last time I ate Bhendi Masala was at Bombay 2 Deli which used to be located on Central Ave in Northeast Minneapolis. The food was so spicy I felt some kind of heartburn, which practically never happens. May I add that I was too impressed to be mad? What on earth happened to those wonderful women and their addicting food?
Surabhi’s version was flavorful, although less spicy than I had hoped. Next time I will request “extra spicy” and be more careful to stifle any wavering in my voice. The okra pieces seemed like they had been deep fried which resulted in no slime and a little oiliness. I remember Bombay 2 Deli’s version had slightly more of a saucy quality. Every so often, I also crunched on some hard bits that were either okra seeds or spices. Of all of our meal components, Jake liked this okra dish the best. I did enjoy the okra, however, I was still reminiscent for the rich, spicy gravy from the Palak Paneer I ordered at the last visit.
As pictured above, from the top moving clockwise, our Thali meals came with a slightly spicy lentil daal raitha, and Rasam, a “thick spicy tamarind soup.” Not pictured is a container of Sambhar, a “thick vegetable soup.” Our favorite accompaniments were the lental daal of which Jake considered his second favorite aspect of this meal and the yogurt raitha. Unlike other versions of raitha, Surabhi’s version is more liquidy and sweet which actually complimented the food in a compelling sort of way.
I found the other two soups decent, but not as remarkable or as addicting as the daal and yogurt. The soups’ textures were thinner and the flavors were slightly spicy. However, they were tasty enough that I bought ingredients to make chapati so the leftovers wouldn’t go to waste. As a disclaimer, the Thali meals come with a lot of takeout containers so be prepared for them to take over your fridge. Chinese takeout has nothing on the Thali meal.
As dessert, we received a sweet pudding that tasted like mango, studded with bits of fruit cocktail. It sounds gross but was actually addictive. It reminds me of the surprisingly delicious mango pudding dessert served at Sambol’s lunch buffet, except thicker. On our last visit, we received a rice pudding that we fought over. I don’t usually even like rice pudding.
I am thrilled that Surabhi’s Thali meals have become incorporated into our takeout rotation. Sometimes I feel like we live within a dearth of restaurants, except for a few exceptions. I still maintain that Surabhi has one of the most flavorful and spicy buffets for under $10 and am relieved that it’s in my backyard.
Next time, I will order “extra spicy” in a confident manner. The samosas and tamarind sauce were delicious, however I am still reminiscent for the mixed vegetable pakoras. I will also order an entree with a rich and spicy gravy. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the okra, but that I am really craving the gravies. We will be back.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for the SPICIEST Indian food in the Twin Cities. And I mean Bombay 2 Deli spicy.
Lastly. . . a carnivorous word from Mitchell and Webb.