Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mango Grove Is Back, And You Should Check Out The New Location For All Kinds Of Indian Food

The open kitchen where you can watch dosa-making.

Mango Grove is back, and you should be there as well.

The Columbia restaurant closed last year when they knocked down its building to build a drive-through Starbucks.  They have reopened just off Dobbin Road, and they're back at full strength -- offering both a vegetarian menu and non-veg dishes that they used to serve at Mirchi Wok.

As I have said before, Indian is one of Howard County's deepest cuisines.  But Mango Grove offers a unique experience that makes it perfect for people who already love Indian food or who want to give it a try.

In fact, Mango Grove lets you mix and match your table across three different experiences -- meat curries and kababs like other Indian restaurants, a vegetarian menu that runs down the subcontinent into southern specialities like dosas, and an Indo-Chinese selection that shows how Calcutta merged the two cuisines.

Chicken korma and aloo baighnan
The meat dishes hold their own against Mango Grove's top notch neighbors like House of India and Royal Taj.  Each kitchen uses different spices mixtures and cuts of meat, but Mango Grove offers standards like tandoori chicken, chicken korma, and even fish curries.

When you want to branch out, work the Indo-Chinese menu.  The wok dishes were the focus when Mirchi Wok opened in the old location, but the chicken lollypops, Szechwan chicken, and cauliflower dumplings are now more of a supplement.  The Mirchi fried rice is a fun way to see how Chinese cuisine gets translated -- in the same way that Americans inspired General Tso's and Koreans inspired black bean noodles.

Then push into the separate vegetarian menu, the curries and dosas that make Mango Grove a place that we visit as much as we eat out anywhere.

Start with a curry or two -- for example, smokey pureed eggplant in bainghan bharta, rich lentils in dal makhani, or tender potatoes paired with cauliflower, spinach or cubed eggplant.  Jazz it up with bread, the plain naan most of the time but a whole wheat roti or a raisin-spiked Kashmiri naan for a break.

Then pick a dosa (or "dosai").  At the open station right at the entrance, chefs create platter-sized rice and lentil pancakes and then roll them around mixtures of potato, onion and vegetables.  You break off pieces of crispy pancake and scoop filling as you go.  I'd start with a masala dosa with its basic filling, but you can come back for variation like the Mango Grove Special, which was more like shards of crispy batter than the simple dosa pancake.

If you go with a kid who has gotten past chicken nuggets, take them up to watch the dosa being made.  That open station is a great place to show off that the south Indian standard is familiar enough to be like a pancake, but different enough to be some new.

The beauty of new vegetarian food is that you can explore without fear of what you're putting in your mouth.  At the core, dosas are rice and lentil crisps wrapped about mashed potato.  The oothappam are variations that you can top with cheese and all kinds of vegetables.  The idli appetizers are mild, steamed rice and lentil cakes that were perfect our family who can't eat spicy food.  These are all friendly foods, warm for the winter but light enough to enjoy all year.

If anything, Mango Grove has improved in its warm, earth-toned new space.  You get many of the friendly faces who used to work at the old location, but the updated dining room offers an enormous lunch buffet and a back-window view over the development's pond.  They'll get their liquor license soon, and it will be full steam ahead.

Two practical notes.  First, I recommend that you stick to curries and idli if you order takeout.  The dosas are crisp and delicious right off the griddle.  But they will soften in a takeout container.  Second, this is a great place to mix vegetarians and meat-lovers.  You each get a whole menu.  They actually set up two kitchens -- one vegetarian and one for meat.

Mango Grove
8865 Stanford Boulevard
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is the shopping center that faces Dobbin Road south of Rte 175. You enter by turning from Dobbin onto Standard Boulevard. This has Pub DogHanamuraRiverside CoffeeNoodles Corner and YogiPop.


Jimmy in Columbia said...

Mr. HowChow,

I agree with all your comments on the fine food Mango Grove produces and the new space is also very nice but would add one comment, their service does not match the quality of the cuisine. While I admit we came in with a larger than normal crowd (we were ten in all) we sat down around 6:40 on a Friday and finished with tea at about 9:35. We were all planning on attending a movie that evening which went by the wayside when our dinner order wasn't taken until sometime around 7:45. They had served several samplers from their appitiser list so we weren't starving but the pace could have been picked up a bit. Their Curries are fabulous, the Tandoorie Chicken is well seasoned and cooked to perfection, the Dosi are great, and the other vegetarian dishes are a treat... no doubt about it, the food is fabulous, but they just can't get it out in a timely fashion. Dinner shouldn't take 3+ hours even with a large group.

I will still continue to go because the food is fabulous but will only go if I don't have any other plans that evening....

Anonymous said...

Can anybody confirm if they have chicken tikka masala? That's my wife's goto Indian dish and if I take her there I want to make sure they have it.

Also, bonus point for them having a kids menu. To often we have to order our Indian medium spice so our son can share.

Deb said...

We went to the new location before the full menu was available and had a delicious dinner nonetheless. The curries and dosas were especially good, and we had excellent service.

Our only problem was that we ordered our food "medium spicy" which was not spicy enough for the 4 of us. So next time we'll ask for the next level of spice.

Rebecca said...

My husband took me there for my birthday on Thursday. (based on your recommendation.) It was our first time there, so we decided to have the buffet so we could try a bit of everything. I loved everything I tried! It was not as spicy as I had expected, which was okay for me. They do have chicken tikka masala, and I like it. I agree that the Tandoori chicken was perfect, even in the buffet chaffing dish.

Penny said...

I have gone at least three different Saturdays now for the lunch buffet. So delicious! Even their papadum seems especially good. I have never looked at the menu (i'll have to go back for dinner) but I want to add that chicken tikka masala has not been part of the lunch buffet EVERY time I've been there -- I did see it there the last time, but the time before there were other meat entries. IF that's a deal breaker for the buffet, I would call first. It is likely on the dinner menu, but I don't know.

If you go for the lunch buffet, the meat servings are all the way at the far end, by the windows. I didn't even notice them the first time we went (i wasn't disappointed without them anyway, the vegetarian food is plenty satisfying and tasty).

K8teebug said...

Please also note that they no longer accept the restaurant.com coupons. This site continues to sell them even though the owners have requested they not.