Quick Bites: My Introduction To Indian Cuisine

I have a confession to make. When it comes to Indian food, I’m not much of an expert. According to food-india.com, the fare is a “diverse collection of cuisines of many ethnic and cultural groups in India.” The thali, which is “a large plate with small bowl dishes, typically consists of rice or flatbread, vegetable in curry sauce or dry rub, meat for those who eat it, chutney or achar, and some form of green saag and/or salad such as raita.”

Now that food-india.com has helped me with my word count and made me look a little more knowledgeable, let me tell you about Tandoor in the Lake Square Mall in Leesburg.

Many have fallen victim to rumors that Indian food is spicy. It’s not—at least not all of it. On my visit, I enjoyed the daily buffet. On weekdays, the buffet is just $8.99 and then just two dollars more on weekends. The price includes a soda or tea.

The buffet featured various chicken dishes including my favorite—the only spicy one—Chili Chicken with coriander, turmeric, ginger, and red and green chili powders to slightly torch my tongue, which I’ve grown to like. The milder dishes were Butter Chicken and Chicken Curry. The naan bread, similar to pita bread, stole the show. None of the entrées, ladled with their gravies, could be finished off without a piece of soft, airy naan.

The a la carte menu also offers lamb and seafood. Just don’t ask for pork or beef. Many Indians are Hindu or Muslim and do not eat these meats for religious reasons.

The restaurant is a roomy 5,500 square feet and will easily accommodate business affairs or parties. Most of the furniture is directly from India and very ornate thanks to the craftsmanship involved. Up front, a large horseshoe bar features happy hour all day, every day. The yogurt and cheese is made in the restaurant for the authentic recipes.

Tandoor has many vegetarian dishes available that are cooked separately from the meat dishes. For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert choices at Tandoor make for a nice variety. Try the Rice Kheer, which is similar to rice pudding and made with basmati rice (a thinner, smaller, non-stick rice), milk, sugar, nuts, and raisins, or the Mango Ice Cream, made with real pulp and Pistachio Kulfi, traditional Indian ice cream with pistachios. Another sweet treat is the lassi drink. I ordered the Mango Lassi of mango pulp, yogurt, and ice. It was so good that I was embarrassed by how quickly I finished it off.

For directions to Tandoor at 10401 US Highway 441, visit their website at tandoorusa.com where you can also view the extensive menu of chutneys, appetizers, and entrées. For large parties, call ahead at (352) 323-0078.

Kudos are in order for a little coffee shop in Mount Dora that is going green. Akhtar Hussain, owner of the Village Coffee Pot, is omitting Styrofoam from his inventory and opting for recycled paperware instead. The first coffee house in this little town—opened in 1998—Village Coffee Pot serves Boar’s Head sandwiches, lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, ice cream, and gelato.

Visit The Village Coffee Pot on Donnelly Street in downtown Mount Dora or call
(352) 383-3334. A big thanks to Akhtar. I hope to see more restaurants follow his lead.

Nibbles:Gables Restaurant and Sunrise Bakery in Mount Dora have closed. Athens NY Style Diner has opened in Mount Dora on the corner of Donnelly and 441 as has Sidelines Sports Eatery at 315 N. Highland Street. More about these restaurants in future issues.

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