Tandoor – Come for the Food
By John Bonar
There’s no gold flock on red velvet wall paper; no goldfish swimming in tanks, no Russian girls pretending to be belly dancers and nothing that’s not Indian on the menu. You don’t come to Tandoor for pretentious ostentation, you come for the food. This stalwart of Indian cuisine since 1994, when it was located on Tverskaya Street just south of Mayakovsky, moved across the street to its present location, the basement of the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in 2004.
The location has changed and its sumptuous, round, colonnaded hall with its muted background music and attentive staff is a tribute to Indian cuisine.
Nothing detracts from the food.
There is a range of salads, soups and hot and cold starters to get one going. And the trio of Passport staffers who descended on Tandoor in October to sample the new menu certainly got going!
The Chili Prawns (670 r) were a delight – tiger prawns succulently marinated in the chef’s own marinade and spicy enough to kick our taste buds awake. The vegetable Samosas (220 r) were substantial pyramids of crisp pastry, fried, but free of excess oil and filled with moist potato mashed with green peas liberally laced with aromatic spices and herbs.
The only slight disappointment among the starters was the Paneer Tikka (410 r), paneer cheese marinated in yoghurt with tomato, onion and bell pepper which none of us felt was anything special. On reflection, that merely served to underline how special the other dishes were!
Having ordered the starters we relaxed with churned yoghurt Lassi drinks (120 r plain and 200 r for Mango Lassi) and nibbled at complimentary papads (deep fried lentil chips) liberally spread with sauces.
The General Manager, Rajiv Agarwal, dropped by our table to make sure everything was in order. When he saw Ram, he said “I know you will have ordered the right dishes.”
Our multilingual south Indian waiter, advised us to stay clear of fish on the day we were there but heartily recommended the chicken and lamb dishes. After much debate we settled on Chicken Tikka Masala (520 r), Chicken Tikka (510 r) and Bhaingan Ka Bharta, (480 r). The last is aubergine, grilled and mashed with Indian spices, and is Ram’s favourite dish. Tandoor’s version outshone his home cooking and passed muster with me and Anna. Tikka is the signature dish of the restaurant being marinated in the chef’s own sauce and baked in the clay tandoor oven from which the restaurant takes its name. Chicken tikka, can be dry and not too appetizing if badly prepared. Tandoor’s version is succulent all the way, largely due to the marinade, has the right touch of spice and deserves to be eaten to the last skewer. The Chicken Tikka Masala came in a bright red sauce tartly spiced and redolent of ginger and coriander.
Our array of main courses were augmented with portions of lemon flavored basmati rice (260 r) and saffron flavored basmati rice (240 r) and a selection of naan, fried Indian breads (range in price from 50 r to 170 r). Ram eagerly quizzed the staff on where the Basmati rice came from because a recent ban on its import has only just been lifted. Reassured that the restaurant itself had had sufficient stock to carry them through the shortage we tucked in.
Feeling thoroughly sated we were unable to face desserts which include traditional Indian honey laden sweets and ice cream and instead shared a pot of Masala Chai (160 r). For a Monday evening the restaurant was busy. Our informative and helpful waiter told us that they would have on average three tables of Indians a night but served more expats with Brits, perhaps due to the infl uences of the Raj outnumbering Americans by two to one plus a growing number of Russians. Its central location and proximity to the metro makes it a haven. The spice factor in most of the dishes is muted to appeal to Russian and American tastes. But Indians, British and others in search of a more fi ery culinary experience have only to ask and the chefs will oblige.
Restaurant Tandoor Restaurant Tandoor
31/1 Tverskaya Ul. (inside Tchaikovsky Concert Hall)
Tel: (495) 699-8062, (495) 699-8962