Our guide to Indian and Indian-influenced fare
Published: July 6, 2011
Royal Indian Cuisine 3877 S. Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-743-0223; myroyalindiancuisine.com; $: In the old days, an Indian menu specializing in (or, heck, even offering) regional cuisine would have been an unusual exception. But that trend is changing. And so it's not amazing anymore that Royal Indian offers an extensive menu of Indian food from both the north and south, or even those Indian-Chinese dishes we're hearing more about. But Royal's emphasis on quality and the hard work of the Nepali family that operates it do make a difference. The 120-plus-item menu has old standbys, as well as plenty of vegetarian fare, but the lamb dishes got our attention. This is more than rogan josh: They offer lamb sagwala, curry, masala, jalfraize, vindaloo, korma and kadai. As usual, to sample cheaply, hit the lunchtime buffet. Uses authentic spices, house-mixed.
Ruchi Indian Cuisine 29555 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-352-3200; ruchidetroit.com; $$: The vibrant colors and flavors that characterize Indian food are abundant here. American customers may be puzzled about why it takes some time to get entrées, but that's because each dish is cooked to order. Chicken biryani features dark meat in basmati rice ranging in color from yellow to gold to orange and is served with a yogurt sauce. Lamb shahi korma is served in a small copper dish raised up on little brass feet. It is served in a creamy sauce that incorporates coconut, almonds, eggs and spices and tastes heavenly. The chicken tikka is cooked in a tandoori oven on a skewer. The round clay oven used for Indian tandooris gets very hot, giving a nicely grilled flavor to the seasonings of masala, yogurt and lemon juice on the chicken. Big chunks of breast meat are served on a sizzling hot platter with strips of onions and peppers. The same dish ordered with lamb, medium spicy, is also delicious. Open daily for lunch (buffet) and dinner. Banquet facilities are available. Full bar.
Star of India 180 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-546-5996; $: Star of India offers an Indian menu that hits all the usual points, though generally with less spice and milder curry than many other Indian restaurants, which may make it a good restaurant for Americans who are just getting used to the pungent aromas and incendiary spices of really authentic Indian cuisine. Among better dishes are two variations on korma, a creamy, yogurt-based sauce with a mild blend of spices punctuated by yellow raisins and slivers of almonds. Loaves of naan, a flatbread baked in a clay oven, are great snacks.
Udipi 29210 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-626-6021; $$: Located along a stretch of Orchard Lake Road that is home to several Indian restaurants, Udipi is the only vegetarian one. It's remarkable just how unusual and delicious these vegetarian dishes can be, especially the appetizers, which include idli (steamed-rice-and-lentil patties soaked in different sauces), vada (a savory donut made of lentil flour and dotted with bright green cilantro), and vegetarian bhaji (fried vegetables coated with flour). You'll also find a dozen takes on the dosa, the Indian crepe made of rice flour, filled to overflowing with such items as tomatoes, potatoes and onions, and more than a half-dozen takes on the uthappam, an Indian pancake that comes with various vegetable toppings. In addition to house-made naan, you'll also find other breads: poori, paratha and batura. Eleven kinds of rice specialties (flavored with everything from tomato and spices to coconut and seasonings) await your order. These choices and more make Udipi the finest South Indian vegetarian restaurant in town. For a cheaper taste, hit their daily lunch buffet.
ZamZam 11917 Conant, Hamtramck; 313-893-9902; zamzamcafe.com; $: Situated north of Caniff on Conant in a building previously occupied by another Indian restaurant, ZamZam offers a full menu of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian cuisine from lunch through the late evening. Value is a term that gets tossed about often, but ZamZam could easily find itself pictured next to the word in an illustrated dictionary. There isn't an item on the menu more than $10, the portion sizes are significant, and the food is enjoyable. Our three-person party has been able to leave on more than one occasion with bags full of leftovers and bellies bursting with joyfully obtained discomfort for less than $40. The bulk of the menu consists of a lengthy list of entrées covering the breadth of the region. Interestingly, ZamZam serves halal food, but they also serve a much higher percentage of meat dishes than do most area Indian restaurants. Herbivorous folks shouldn't be too disappointed though: The vegetable entrées are as delicious and inexpensive as everything else. Each meal comes with either rice or naan, though given the low cost and large portions, it's easy enough to enjoy both in a sitting, especially if those at the table share. ZamZam serves no alcohol, but they offer plenty of beverages, including teas, soft drinks and both sweet yogurt and mango lassis. Open 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
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