This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of hot and spicy restaurant reviews on this site. Whenever I travel (which isn’t often) I always seek out Indian restaurants. It’s my favorite cuisine, by far… and you can almost always get it spicy!
I’m in Columbus, Ohio for a few days for a seminar at Ohio State. Thanks to Google maps, I was able to plug my hotel in and have it tell me if there were any restaurants close. Lo and behold, Indian Oven was only about 3 blocks away!!
According to its website, Indian Oven offers “both traditional Indian and Bengali dishes, as well as modern takes on cherished recipes…” Their menu was relatively extensive, although maybe not as thorough as some other Indian restaurants I’ve been to.
I was greeted and seated by the very friendly owner, and was brought fresh papadums and an amount of mint chutney within a minute of being seated. Papadums are hard to review, but needless to say, these were fresh, crispy and yummy. The mint chutney was very bright, sour, fresh, and wonderful… with a hint of heat!
After perusing the menu and hearing the specials of the day from my very friendly and informative waitress, I decided to order some pakoras for an appetizer, and the lamb masala for my main course… with a garlic naan on the side. I ordered the main dish “Very spicy” and had to convince my server that I really meant that. 🙂 I appreciate that though… lots of people don’t know how Indian dishes are spiced. Her words of caution only strengthened my resolve.
The pakoras were brought almost immediately! They were hot, crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside. Perfectly done, and wonderfully flavored! Served up with another “thimble” of the mint chutney, these little buggers were a delicious start to the meal. I ate about half of them and had the balance boxed up and have them in the hotel room for a late snack tonight!
Next up was the main dish! My eyes popped When she brought me the lamb masala. It was different than I had expected, being more accustomed to a “soupier” curry, but it was really beautiful! The dish had a lovely brownish/red color that was punctuated with the bright red and green of the bell peppers. I dished out about half the basmati rice and about half of the serving of the masala and dug in. The dish was rich, and complex. The garam masala flavor came through and was complimented with a sweet tomato taste… and as is true with all the best Indian meals… every bite was a little different!
The lamb itself was tender, juicy and rich. My only complaint was that some of the pieces were a little bit big for my liking. Also in the mix were the aforementioned peppers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Egg curry was one of my very first exposures to Indian food, so this was a very welcome flavor! The dish was spicy, but it was by no means what I’d call “very spicy.” It left my mouth with a warm tingle, but wasn’t what I was used to. Not saying that’s bad, but it was milder than I anticipated based upon the earlier warnings.
The garlic naan was nice, it wasn’t anything remarkable, and was probably wonderful for most, but it was a little puffy/chewy for my tastes. Still, it did a great job of sopping up the juices and enveloping bites. I think it was a little filling for my liking, I prefer my breads thin and almost crispy.
Finally, my wonderful and attentive server asked me if I’d like some dessert. And while I WAS stuffed, I saw my favorite, rasmalai, on the menu, so I couldn’t pass it up!! Again, it was different than I was used to, but make no mistake, it was delicious!! The balls of cheese were round and dense and tasted like an Indian sweet as opposed to a savory paneer. The thick sauce was so sweet and smooth… it was a nice sweet cool-down to a spicy meal.
I’ve been to lots of Indian restaurants and Columbus’ Indian Oven ranks near the top of that list. I hold Tandoor Cuisine of India in Toledo as the standard to which all others are judged, and while Indian Oven falls short, it’s not by much! Flavor and portions were great! The atmosphere, while nice enough, could have been anything. If it wasn’t for the music, I wouldn’t have known it was an Indian restaurant. And the biggest knock from me was the cost. My meal was $37… which is normally what my wife and I tally up together when we eat in Toledo.
All things considered, if you’re in Columbus and you like great Indian food and don’t mind paying for it, the Indian Oven is a wonderful choice! I’ll give it 4 out of 5 peppers!
427 E. Main St.
Columbus, OH 43215