India Cafe
7826 Portland Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 55420

This weekend, Jake was itching for a Bucket List Chronicle adventure.

These last couple of weeks in the Twin Cities have been grueling, filled with moving responsibilities, weddings, and farewells.

As I have previously mentioned, I enjoy shopping at the well-stocked TBS Mart and noticed India Cafe a few doors down the strip mall.  I have never seen a blogger mention this tiny restaurant and my curiosity was piqued.

Jake and I visited India Cafe’s website and called in an order for pick-up.  As I placed our order over the phone, I noticed the restaurant’s deafening background noise.  Could it really be that busy on a Sunday evening?  The online menu does not list prices and woman who took my order said she was not able to provide a total or price estimation.

I am always annoyed by restaurants that put the effort into posting their menus online or in a pdf format, yet do not include prices.  Just post the damn prices.

We arrived at the tiny restaurant and struggled to remain out of the way, as it was packed with customers and quickly moving staff.  It was nearly eight p.m. on a Sunday evening and we were shocked by the large amount of take-out and dine-in customers.

Finally, we received our order and our bill was approximately $37 for Bhindi Masala, “fresh okra cooked with garlic, ginger, cilantro, etc.” Navaratan Korma, “vegetables with nuts in a spiced sauce,” garlic naan, and raita.

I had thought I ordered boneless chunks of lamb tandoor, but believe we received the Seekh Kabab instead, described as “finger rolls of ground lamb, chicken, goat spiced with fresh ginger.”

We also received two small containers of steamed basmati rice.

The okra and Navaratan Korma were packed in quart-sized containers.  India Cafe’s version of bhindi masala was coated in a slightly creamy tomato sauce.  The okra was tender, however I wished it was more plentiful.  The sauce was well-balanced between creamy, acidic, salty, and sweet.

Overall, I enjoyed the creamier variation of this dish but wished the okra-onion balance leaned more in favor of the okra.

My favorite dish of the evening was the Navaratan Korma.  The gravy had an addictive quality and also tasted well-balanced.  Although the gravy wasn’t fiery hot, it was pleasantly spicy in a tummy warming sort of way.  The gravy tasted creamy without feeling overly rich, and the vegetables were tender.  I am guessing India Cafe did not just simmer mixed frozen vegetables into this fantastic gravy, based upon the uneven cuts of carrot and silky potato.  
When I tried the lunch buffet at Sambol earlier this summer, I was disappointed that the dishes seemed to contain the same frozen vegetable mix.  This was not the case. 

The dense finger rolls of ground meat in the Seekh Kabab were heavily spiced, spicy hot, and a little dry.  The meat was also coated in a creamy sauce and tossed with a lot of cooked onions.  A spritz of the lemon went a long way.

The order of garlic naan came with two slices of bread.  The bread was pungently garlicky and perfect for mopping up the delicious sauces, however, the bread was soft and a little soggy, lacking any char.

The raita was as runny as water, salty, and accented by translucent shards of vegetables.

Comparing and contrasting with Surabhi
Since the inception of this blog, I have written about my fondness for Surabhi multiple times (my most recent visit is here).

Overall, I found India Cafe to be a tasty option and was most impressed by the Navaratan Korma.

I still feel that Surabhi offers spicier entrees, however, I did not specifically request extra spicy at India Cafe.  Although our India Cafe tally was slightly less than our typical Surabhi tally, I feel Surabhi offers larger portion sizes and their Thali meal combinations can not be beat (you get lots of rich, blistered naan and many condiments).

India Cafe also offers southern Indian specialties such as dosas and I would be curious to try their Kerala fish.  As we were picking up our food, I noticed the cafe had a small buffet station.

Lazy chapati
Naanless in the morning, I decided to make a quick batch of chapati to eat with the leftovers.  I usually wake up ravenously hungry, ready to consume the previous evening’s leftovers.  The spicier the better.  Jake is rarely hungry for breakfast and is often stunned to find me eating spicy Indian leftovers at 7 a.m. on weekends.

Due to my ravenous morning hunger, I quickly found Aarti Sequeira’s recipe for chapati and cut the recipe in half (in the past, I have used the recipe from Extending the Table, which has been packed into a moving box).

I quickly mixed one cup of whole wheat flour with a pinch of sea salt and half a cup of water.  Then, I kneaded the dough until elastic.  I briefly rested the dough for about 10 minutes and brushed with oil.

Next, I divided into little balls, and rolled into flat rounds on a floured surface.

Lastly, I placed the flattened dough rounds into a grill pan heated to medium high, with some ghee, until bubbly.  As I flipped the chapati, I pressed some course sea salt into the dough.

If you read Aarti’s original recipe, you will notice I took some shortcuts but the finished product was good enough.