Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Early Thoughts On Flavors Of India In Columbia

The newest frontier for Indian food in Howard County is an attempt to take on the entire continent.

Flavors of India opened in Columbia earlier this month.  It's still a work-in-progress according to the comments on a prior post, but it's serving up good food in Aida Bistro's original spot off Columbia Gateway Drive.

This is still a new restaurant so I expect it to change as folks work out the kinks.  But we drove to Columbia Gateway during the first week and certainly enjoyed ourselves.

Bottom line: It's good food.  It's a nice, casual atmosphere.  I'm not sure that it'll pull me away from Mango Grove, but that's just because Indian is one of the deepest cuisines in Howard County.

We ate off the vegetarian part of the menu.  Flavors of India is setting itself apart by serving up an enormous variety -- northern Indian tandoori chicken, southern Indian dosas, Indo-Chinese items like fried rice and chicken or cauliflower manchurian.  That's a smart way to stand out among many good Indian spots, but we stayed vegetarian to get a contrast with House of India in Columbia, one of our favorites and owed by the same people.

Papdi chat was an interesting appetizer.  Crisps mixed with potato, chickpeas and a spicy sauce.  Not that spicy, actually.  It was a friendly crowd with a bartender watching over us and a manager showing photos of his family to other tables.

We ordered a dosa.  A week later, I don't remember which one.  That can't be the strongest recommendation, but I scooped up the dosa, which had the contrast between crispe crepe and warm filing that makes me love these south Indian dishes.  Flavors was a little more oily than Mango Grove, a little less spicy.  Between our dosa, a curry and a naan, we left satisfied, although not convinced that the bread or the flavors lived up to the best Indian around.

Overall, the comments on earlier posts echo my impression.  Folks talk up the spinach pakora, the sambar and chutneys.  But there were some complaints about blandness and some observation about "new restaurant" issues like service.  (Check out here and here.)  As I have said before, HowChow is a hobby.  I don't trash people who are trying to serve good food, so please keep the rhetoric to useful and away from hyperbolic.

I'll go back to Flavors of India because the menu goes beyond the standards.  Recently, I have been trying to find new dishes beyond my take-out comfort zone of a chicken dish, baigan bartha, and a basic lentils.  Flavors has a dish of green chilis simmered in tamaring, peanut and coconut.  One of the commentators highlighted the "chttinadu" style dish that I have never heard about before.

For more, check out Rishoo on Yelp, who works across the street and talks up the ala carte menu, but not the buffet.

Flavors of India
7185 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046

NEAR:  This is south of Rte 175 just west of I-95.  Columbia Gateway is called "Col Gateway" on the Rte 175 signs, and you drop down to the road and then follow a fork sign into a shopping center on the west side of the road.  You can't see anything from the main road.

Flavors of India on Urbanspoon


Zevonista said...

Went last weekend; decent mali kofta. Also a good appetizer, but I can't recall the name of it and now can't find their web site on a goole search!

Service was fine; in itself, that was impressive, since there was a kid's party in the big room.

Only disappointment was the gulab jamun - two small pieces for $4.

Anonymous said...

I've been to the lunch buffet twice. I think the variety is great comparatively - each time there are very different options - the vegetarian selections are good too - there were even two kinds of paneer selections. I asked about gulab jamun (which was on the buffet the first time and not the second) and they brought me out some! So far so good.

Eileen said...

drool. Kikiverde introduced me to the royal taj and I now want to eat their daily. I love Indian food! Thanks for the review! I think my group may try the lunch buffet soon.

Sherri Morisco said...

Speaking of new restaurants, I stopped in Ichiban Cafe today to grab a bubble tea. The mood of the place (empty place) wasn't super pleasant. Well, it wasn't pleasant at all. First off, I asked if there was a trash can to throw out an old coffee cup from my car and was told no, there wasn't. Then when I ordered my thai tea, I felt like I was interrupting the workers from all of their leaning around. In a Columbia world of a million places to go, I really hope they're more friendly in the future. The prices seemed a little high, but add that to the feeling of inconveniencing the staff, I can't imagine that I'll be back.

FischFry said...

Are we talking about the same restaurant? Flavors If India? On Columbia Gateway Drive? I got takeout tonight, because I had a coupon. Big regrets. I am not being hyperbolic when I say it was the worst meal I have ever had from any Indian restaurant, anywhere. Work in progress? Maybe the chef is sick and some incompetent untrained clown took over the cooking this Friday night. Everything we had was awful, from soup, to bread, to a lamb dish identified as THE specialty of the house, and a nasty vegetable dish, breaded and fried something, supposedly cauliflower, in a cloying, unearthly magenta syrup. I do not post restaurant reviews, but I think it's important to warn people before they blow money on a truly bad meal. There is better Indian food in the freezer section at the supermarket. I do better myself with the Patak sauces in the bottles, for a tenth of the price. Seriously. I want more than a refund. I want to be compensated for not having had a better meal from another place. My girlfriend wanted Maiwand Kabob. Wish I'd gone there instead, but I'm usually game to try someplace new. If you're thinking you want to try this place, think again.

Jm S said...

The only problem that I have had with Flavors of India is when either my wife or I order the "popular" dishes that they would have on the lunch buffet. Since we have kids we tend to eat earlier then the majority of Columbia (usually eat around 5:30). You can tell the chicken was most likely used in the lunch buffet. Dried out, chewy, etc. If you order a meal that was most likely not on the lunch buffet it comes out fine. We still prefer Royal Taj, but go here when we know they other places will be to busy to get in.