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India Garden brings spice to South Bend

Ankur Chawla | Tuesday, January 24, 2012

While it really is unfortunate that the South Bend area only has one Indian restaurant ofnote, that may be a byproduct of India Garden having some of the best Indian food made in the state of Indiana outside of my mom’s kitchen. Only a short drive east of campus on Edison St., I highly recommend this place for seasoned Indian-food enthusiasts and those new to the cuisine alike.

The menu at India Garden is extensive, featuring traditional dishes and chef creations that cater to any palate. The meal starts with complimentary papad and chutney, the Indian equivalent of chips and salsa. Some of my preferred appetizers include its fish pakoras (marinated and deep fried cubes of catfish) and vegetable samosas.

One of the best things about Indian cuisine is its appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters with unique, delicious dishes. Starting on the vegetarian side, the saag paneer (curried spinach with cheese cubes) is one of my personal favorites, and it’s hard to overlook the dal makhni (traditional lentil soup) as well. A few of my friends new to Indian food enjoyed the Aloo Gobi (a dry dish of seasoned potatoes and cauliflower) and chana masala (spiced chick peas cooked with ginger and garlic).

For the meat-eaters, don’t be discouraged by the onslaught of vegetarian options. For every vegetarian dish, there is an equally delicious dish on the meat side of the menu. The tandoori chicken is a classic choice that comes out on a hot skillet, served alongside sautéed onions with a deep red spice rub on the tender meat. I also recommend the chicken makhni (chicken in a butter cream sauce) and the chicken mango (kind of self explanatory, but chicken in a mango sauce). The seekh kabab and lamb curry are also pretty good options.

To go with these main course options, many of you might jump to the traditional naan as your accompanying bread item. While that’s not a bad choice, I’d say take a chance with the garlic naan or onion kulcha. Admittedly, those don’t sound like they’d be the best for your breath, but the added flavor is well worth it and you’ll thank me later.

No Indian meal is complete without dessert, and the gulab jamun (the equivalent of Indian donut holes in a sweet syrup) at India Garden is a must. If dessert isn’t your thing, I’d still recommend the mango lassi (essentially a yogurt-based mango smoothie) to wash down your meal.

Now, I am very partial to Indian food and understand if this review is taken with a grain of salt, pun intended. Still, with complete impartiality, I still highly recommend India Garden, as it is one of my favorite restaurants in the area. It does have a lunch buffet every afternoon, but I would order off the menu for fresh dishes. Enjoy and let me know the next time you’re going, because I will probably want to join.