Do you always put mascara on your left eye before your right? Dress your salad then butter your roll? Brush then wash or wash then brush? And while you probably don't even need the first way, you know it's true: There's more than one way to skin a cat. Mix up your daily routine, why don't you? We'll get you started. Here are three new ways to do Indian, all of them delicious in their own individual, wild, and wonderful ways.
Bluefox Indian Grill, the Promising Underdog
An elegant atmosphere is too often the sacrificial lamb when a good Indian meal is the goal. Since much of the best stuff locally comes out of strip malls, skyways, and buffets, our ears pricked up at the first mention of Bluefox, with its promise of a cozy atmosphere, full bar, and full service. But while the cooking shows real potential, those extra bells and whistles are going to require some polishing.
The room could shed its strip-mall tells if they dimmed the lights, which currently make you feel as though you're about to go under inquiry for some misdeed. Big booths and a large bar are wise inclusions, but all the royal blue in the décor makes it feel stuck in the '80s.
Service, too, is going to require a lot more time and training to get right. We waited long minutes for general acknowledgment, and dirty plates and empty glasses stacked up while servers stood in a gossip circle at the front.
Wine pours are mostly budget bottles marked way, way up, and a tight list of local beer selections are served in odd little 10-ounce glasses. Luckily, things looked up as dinner arrived.
Chicken Chettinad is a melt-your-will curry, with delicate, bone-in bird set in a thick stew of slow-cooked onion and tomato sofrito, fragrant with coriander, curry leaf, garlic, and chile. It's profound and tends to provoke wild cravings. Don't try to share.
An egg dosa is a big, toasty, dramatic affair with a delicate smear of egg clinging to its underside. It comes served with a trio of dipping sauces that ranged from bland (onion and chile chutney) to lick-the-ramekin-clean-and-then-order-another (the lively green raita).
Kale pakora split the difference between health food and State Fair grub, but again, condiments — roasted chile garlic and sweet onion chutneys — had underdeveloped and flat flavor. Pea and potato stuffed samosas were done with a pro hand, and mint and tamarind chutneys are yin and yang accompaniments done with classic aplomb.
If their culinary inconsistencies catch up to their successes, Bluefox will have a good thing going. We'd like to see them wipe away all the pretense and go completely forthright before succumbing to their own over-ambition. Otherwise, how will we get our Chettinad?
Pro tip: Bluefox is emphasizing sustainable, organic, and farm fresh sourcing of their ingredients.
5377 W. 16th St., St. Louis Park
menu items: $5-$25
India Palace Uptown, the Straight Dope
Uptown being a bit of an Indian food desert, neighbors were relieved to see India Palace set up its buffet table in an old strip mall on Hennepin, left unoccupied by Baja Sol.
The chain with several suburban locations has a good reputation for its comprehensive menu of classic favorites, but this one is our pick when a $10.72 all-you-can-eat buffet frenzy is the one and only thing you'll accept for lunch.
For little more pocket change than a Chipotle burrito, pile your plates high with workaday samosas, a rich and piquant chicken tikka, cayenne red tandoori chicken, creamy channa masala, turmeric rice, chutneys, and other basics. A little fresh-cut fruit and rice pudding are straightforward sweet-tooth soothers. Table baskets overfloweth with hot, made-to-order naan, including a fragrant garlic bread that stretched the value of our precious tenspot.
The surroundings are no frills, expeditious, and orderly. For the price, there are few better deals anywhere, especially in this increasingly trendy stretch of town. A classic Indian buffet never goes out of vogue.
2546 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
lunch buffet: $10.72
Kadai, the Hidden Gem
The cliché of the best things coming in the most unassuming packages holds true at Kadai. This unassuming skyway space on Marquette has changed owners many times, and we hope that now it remains in these capable hands.
It's not much to look at, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to see. Approach the behind-the-glass chafing dishes and say whether you'd like a vegetarian or non-vegetarian "business meal." We imagine it's called this because the whole thing is quick and efficient to do over an important work lunch, yet you wouldn't be embarrassed to invite your boss. And if you did, you might get that promotion you've been angling for because you're so indispensably resourceful and in the know for finding this place, what else must you be hiding in that big old brain of yours?
A vegetarian lunch is $8.99, with meat just a buck more. You can build your own platter from an abbreviated version of their full menu (which is also available to order). We like these business lunches because they're the grown-up version of a lunchtime cafeteria tray, where you get a little compartmentalized scoop of this and that, but way, way better than Salisbury steak and cherry Jello. Here, it's chicken Biryani cooked with Basmati rice so tender, with grains so individual, they seem like they may have been steamed one-by-one.
The butter chicken is deeply complex and not overly sweet, with the unmistakably soft texture of meat that's been properly marinated in yogurt. Heavily spiced baby eggplants in the curry, scored and rubbed with coriander and cumin and chili, are a delectable surprise. Bubbly and impressively textured naan rides shotgun to it all. This is some impressive home cooking, so quick, so easy, so cheap, it feels like thievery.
600 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis
"business lunch" $8.99-$9.99