- Griffin Swartzell
Good things come to those who wait, and the Springs has waited a while for this hip, modern Indian restaurant. When we spoke to Urban Tandoor’s owners in late 2018, they’d hoped to be open not too long into the new year. But Raymond Sandhu and Kanwal Singh didn’t finally get customers through the doors of their eatery until early July. The layout still feels like the Denny’s the spot used to be, but the decor stands out from anything else in town. There’s an abundance of rope, red leather and dark-stained woods, with booth tables stood on vintage-feeling black iron stands.
We begin our meal with a tamarind margarita and a mango lassi. The former has a mild taste overall, faintly savory, though we’re not sure the tamarind stands up to the tequila’s strong flavor. As for the lassi, a yogurt-based mango milkshake, it’s thick, creamy, sweet and fruity, served in a quaint little glass with almond slivers atop; you can also order it with rum added. We expect to pair it with sweet Peshwari naan packed with nuts and jaggery, a kind of palm- and cane-derived sugar. We get warm naan, yes, but it arrives full of dried, shredded coconut and neon red cherry bits. It’s totally good, just false menu advertising.
Fortunately, the rest of executive chef Dev Singh and his team’s offerings satisfy. We try achari chicken kebab from the tandoori menu, a pile of orange-red chicken chunks served with greens and side chutney and cucumber-mint raita. It rates as some of the juiciest, most tender chicken we’ve had, marinated in yogurt and mustard seed, among other ingredients. The overall dish, ordered at a medium heat, bears a nice, lingering capsaicin level somewhere between warming and burn, bursting with flavors of tomato, mustard seed, garlic and hot chiles. Accompanying raita and chutney both calm the flames and add different nuances, both to be celebrated. The item runs a steep $17 for a relatively small amount of food, though — it’s an appetizer, not an entrée.
To sample the main courses, we order the Goan coconut korma, in part because if we’re not mistaken, this is the first dish from Goa, a small state on India’s western coast, that we’ve seen in the Springs. Ordered mild, it still has a little warmth, with lovely coconut notes and spicing that sees turmeric, cumin and coriander leading. Abundant prawns, small and shelled, are cut into pieces and cooked a skosh more done than we’d call ideal, but not enough to spoil the dish. Like the chicken and the rest of the meat offerings on the menu, this plate runs somewhat spendy at $20.
We’re glad to see that vegan and vegetarian dish prices tend to be cheaper than meat. We land on the $11 Punjabi dal tadka, a dish of yellow lentils that we order at medium heat. The spice creeps up through the starchy near-paste, and flavor-wise, we get mint and ginger alongside onion and tomato. As it cools, cumin plays a larger role. It lacks texture, but topping rice or smearing it on a piece of delicious garlic naan we order after the Peshwari naan solves that problem.
We make a note to come back and sample a wider array of Urban Tandoor’s specialties as part of their daily lunch buffet, no doubt a better deal for carnivores at $15 per head. What we had for dinner impressed, and we’d be liars if we said we weren’t already hooked.