Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tandoor Grill Brings A Different Indian -- And Offers Up The Chili Naan If You Dare

Vegetable vindaloo and the chili naan
There are few more troublesome dishes than half-hearted Indian food.  It's a cuisine of spices, and a chef worried whether you will like hot-pepper spiciness can deaden a meal by cutting back on all flavor across the board.

Tandoor Grill delivers the flavor.  In fact, it delivers a different flavor than the spices of other Indian restaurants around.  With that, it creates a nice lunch and takeout option on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29.  It also creates a bit of a holy grail for people who crave heat, although we'll pursue that later.

Tandoor Grill replaced a sandwich joint aimed at the Applied Physics Lab crowd, and they have maintained the casual seating area, a sandwich menu, and an array of coffee drinks.  But I have only eaten the Indian food (and the garam masala chicken wings).  The short menu runs through a bunch of kebabs and other meats cooked in the tandoor oven through two dozen curries, both meat and veg.

Mrs. HowChow and I split on the curries.  I think they're delicious -- often ordering a mixed vegetable dish like vegetable saag or vegetable vindaloo to keep my takeout on the healthy side of a splurge.  Mrs. HowChow just prefers House of India or Royal Taj.  She enjoyed the chicken korma and chicken tikka but she just prefers H of I.

I think it's a question of familiarity.  H of I is a comfort food, and, after a busy day, it's just what the doctor ordered.  But a billion people cook Indian or Pakistani food every night.  I think Tandoor Grill's curries just have their own flavors.  They're certainly full-flavored.  A dish like vegetables saag comes with tender vegetables in a spinach sauced spiced beautifully.  Not hot pepper spice.  It's that mix of spices that fill your mouth and make Indian food stand out.  Like Bon Fresco, this is counter service that has the appetite to serve restaurant food.  And I'm not alone.  My friend Josh pretty much waxes poetic about Tandoor Grill.
Chili naan
Why do I love Tandoor?  a) Because the couple who run it are about the nicest people you will find. After three times there they knew me and started throwing in extra sides etc.  b) The samosas are awesome. they pull off a light feeling to deep fat fried dumplings which is incredibly tough to do. 
c) They offer an array of Indian dishes that are simply hard to come by.  I worked near Heritage India in DC, and we would frequent the buffet where there was always a seperate line made up of Indian people dining on some sort of "off menu" filled with Indian street food.  Tandoor has those dishes.  d) To further the Heritage comparison, quite simply Tandoor's food is better. 
Finally e) Chili Naan.  As a lover of spicy food, this is simply my "are-you-a-man-or-a-mouse" spicy food. There are pretend spicy foods, real spicy foods, and spicy foods that drives sweat from a lover of habanero peppers like myself.   Chilli naan is the rare restaurant made spicy food where they have not dialed down the spice for Anglo pallets.
Ah, yes.  The chili naan.  It's a $4 extra on the Tandoor Grill menu.  A naan literally baked with dozens of hot peppers in the bread.  Josh says he has felt the spice the next day.  I ate my chili naan with the spicy vegetables vindaloo.  I drank water, and I pulled a yogurt from the fridge to cool down my mouth.  But I thought it was a complete success.  Spicy and exciting with enough bread to give it heft and a crunchy bite.  It's a dish, not a gag, and it's certainly something new to me.

If you go to Tandoor Grill, check out the weekend specials.  I haven't had them there, but I love gol gappe -- semolina puffs that you crack and stuff with chick peas, potatoes and a minty, sour sauce.

Tandoor Grill 
7500 Montpelier Road 
Laurel, MD 20723 

Near: Tandoor Grill is in the shopping center with Kloby's Smokehouse, La Palapa Too, Facci and a bunch of other restaurants. It is on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29. The post office calls that area Laurel. In the only political statement on the HowChow blog, we keep pointing out that's not Laurel.

Tandoor Grill on Urbanspoon


Steve Earley said...

Guess "Tribeco" never caught on?

Anonymous said...

I love this place. The lunch platter is a huge amount of food for $7. But the couple who runs the place are really what makes it all work: they are exceptionally intersted in their food and their customers.

S. said...

We like this place too. The recent lunch chicken kabab special was delicious and very filling: three types of chicken, plus rice and two veggie sides. The salmon kabab is is tasty as well. We'll have to try the chili nan next time.

fultie said...

Chicken 65. You will perspire.

J said...

Having had lots of Indian food, I agree that this place fills its own niche nicely and has its own brand of tastiness. I love the chicken tikka and the side dishes, and the samosa is one of the best I've had. Great naan. The flavors here really pop and are well balanced. I love Royal Taj as well, but this place definitely is delicious in its own way, and the owner is very personable.

EastCoastMatt said...

question, is there any indian place in hoco that has phall (or phaal)? You talking about the chilli's made me think about the super spicy curry.

S. said...

Had another nice lunch at Tandoor Grill and can report back about the chili nan: it's super hot. Only one of us likes spicy food and tried it (while the other stuck to plain nan!). The chili nan really burns the mouth and was nearly too spicy to eat though it did get finished. Conclusion for us, at least, is to stick with plain nan or perhaps try the garlic variety.

Avram said...

I love Tandoor Grill and eat lunch here probably 4-5 times a month. I just had a special that has been intriguing me for a few weeks: Lamb Burger. For $8.49 you get a really juicy and nicely seasoned lamb burger topped with fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and a bunch of "fries" that are steak fries on steroids. Probably about 1/8th of a potato coated with spices and fried nicely. The whole thing was great and they are very friendly. I highly recommend.