My first taste of Indian food was at a little hole-in-the-wall on Glendale Avenue in the early ’90s—blink and you’d miss it. I was hooked after one bite of murgh korma with naan—yogurt curried chicken with flatbread. Other places have come and gone, but the kitchen at Flavors of India is producing food reminiscent of that first, wonderful taste.
Located in what was, for years, a motel coffee shop, the ambiance doesn’t evoke much of a subcontinent vibe. Still, TVs are tuned to Bollywood music videos and the aromas coming from the kitchen offer plenty of enticement. There is an $8.99 lunch buffet seven days a week, but we chose to try the dinner menu.
Shortly after being seated, we were served complimentary papadum with sweet tamarind sauce and a spicy mint chutney. The tasty lentil and cumin crackers were about the size of a tortilla and were very thin and crispy. When we ordered our meal the server asked if we wanted it spicy or “Indian spicy.” Bring it on.
Pakora ($3.99 each) are small appetizer bites of chopped vegetables, meat or cheese, coated in batter or flour and deep-fried. We chose plates of paneer—fresh, unaged cheese—and fish pakora. The chickpea batter coating the paneer was good, but the cheese was dried out and a bit tough. The fish bites’ coating of corn flour and spices was very good.
A pair of meat samosas ($3.49)—a crisp, pyramidal turnover stuffed with minced lamb, peas, and spices—were full of flavor and one of the best examples I’ve tasted. We followed this with hara bhara kebab ($10.99), which is a mix of minced veggies that are formed into the shape of a little cigar, coated in seasoned flour and deep-fried.
The navrattan korma ($10.99) made me wish I’d requested a double order. Mixed garden vegetables and paneer are cooked in a yogurt sauce with almonds, cashew and spices. The cheese was perfect, and the sauce had a creamy start with a spicy finish. I want this dish served at my wake.
Saag paneer ($9.99) is spinach—or whatever leafy greens are available—cooked with more spices than I have room to name and cubes of that simple, wonderful Indian cheese. This was the second Indian dish I fell in love with way-back-when, and Flavors’ rendition did not disappoint.
Murgh makhani ($11.99)—also known as Indian butter chicken—is the gateway drug of Indian cuisine. If you don’t swoon over this dish, we just can’t be friends. Boneless tandoori chicken—so-called because it’s cooked in a cylindrical tandoor oven—is prepared in a rich, creamy sauce of ghee (clarified butter), tomatoes, cashews and spices.
The Seekh kebab ($11.99), a skewered and grilled blend of minced lamb, spices, ginger-garlic paste, green chili and herbs was awesomely spicy. Similarly, the mushroom tikka ($11.99) included bell pepper, red onion, and white button mushrooms coated in a spicy tandoori paste. Last but certainly not least, the Flavors of India special chicken ($16.99) was a healthy serving of tender chicken breast marinated with cream and “secret ingredients,” served on a sizzling cast-iron skillet with onions and peppers. The chicken was moist, and the spices were hot and scrumptious.
All this gooey food was supported by plenty of basmati rice, as well as naan and garlic naan (white flour flatbread, $1.99 and $2.49).