Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mango Grove in Columbia

Mango Grove is one of the restaurants that is worth visiting a second time -- and again, and again, and again.

The Columbia restaurant stands out from the strong Indian restaurants in Howard County because it serves southern Indian dishes like dosas and uttapam. Mango Grove was one of my first HowChow posts because its one of our favorites, and I'm coming back because it might be overlooked in the archives.

Mango Grove does all the great vegetable curries that you would find in a standard Indian restaurants -- chickpeas, dals, baigan bartha, palek paneer. Start with the samosas or the tikki channa chaat, which are fried potato patties served with curried chickpeas and topped with chutney. Or, if you have a group, buy the pani puri and crack open the shells to stuff themselves.  Don't pass up the yogurt-based lassi drinks -- mango or rose water. But don't go looking for meat. It's a vegetarian kitchen, so you won't get chicken or lamb.

But you will get dosas -- the thin crepes wrapped around potato and onion that make for a spectacular meal. A warm, spicy filling at one side of the dosa, soaking into the crepe. Crisp pieces of crepe at the other end, perfect to scoop up filling or to just pop in your mouth. It's the type of contrast that you'd get in a great "soup-in-a-bread-bowl" where some bites of bread are soaked with flavor and others are crispy with crust. Start with a masala dosa. That's standard fare and comes out rolled with the filling inside.

On a later trip, try something more exotic like the mysore masala dosa, which is folded into a triangle and has a spicy red sauce spread between the layers. (Not that spicy. Just different.) Or try the special Mango Grove dosa, which is lacy and different enough that I have ordered it with the masala dosa on the same table.  With any dosa, you'll get chutneys -- often made with coconut -- for dipping and a small bowl of soup for dipping or spooning on its own.

This is a kitchen that wants to serve complex food, but it's a casual place. At times, there are specials like a jack fruit curry that we order any time it is on the menu. Firm pieces of fruit that had a meat-like consistency, but a tender feel and the spicy flavor that makes Indian food so exceptional. More like perfect potatoes than the sweet, ripe jack fruit that you can buy in a can.

This is also a kitchen that is literally connected to Mirchi Wok, the Indo-Chinese fusion restaurant next door. You can ask for the Mango Grove menu at Mirchi Wok, which would be wonderful if you had a table with a vegetarian and someone who demands meat on their plate. You can please everyone.

Click here the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County or for my overview of Indian restaurants in Howard County. The Indian newcomer is India Delight, which offers a buffet -- including dosas -- on McGaw Road near Apple Ford.

Mango Grove
Mirchi Wok
6365B Dobbin Center
Columbia, MD 21045

Near: On Dobbins Road just south of Rte 175. It is in a outbuilding of the Wal-Mart shopping center next to the McDonalds and the Chik-Fil-a.

Mango Grove on Urbanspoon


Ken Oh said...

Mando Grove was recommended to me by an Indian fellow as authentic cuisine. It took a little searching to find the place, but it was well worth it. This is some of the best food I've had in a while.

Kattrina said...

I love this place. I'd go once a week if I could. There is a woman who works there and she always suggests great foods to try - for a long time all I got was Channa Masala or Palak Paneer because I didn't know what anything else was. I highly recommend it.

Sarah said...

I was left underwhelmed by Mango Grove. I prefer Udupi Palace on Rt. 193 in College Park? Takoma Park? Laurel? It all runs together down there. Granted, that goes outside Howard County (I think it's in PG County), but it's worth the drive. The menus read very similar, but Udupi Palace is better in my opinion, and actually cheaper.

dzoey said...

Along with Dhosas, you can get Oothappam which is like a savory pancake. I usually get the onion and pepper one. I rarely see Oothappam in Indian restaurants so it's a real treat.

The Tikki Channa Chaat appetizer is also worth getting and like oothappam not usually seen in Northern Indian restaurants.

Spork said...

A billion years ago, the Baltimore CityPaper deemed Mango Grove the best reason to drive to Columbia. I believe this is still true, and will continue to be even after the Wegmans opens. :]