An Indian/Tex-Mex Fusion
With so many restaurants in the area, it’s nice to find one that offers something a little different. And when different is good, well, all the better! We happened to have driven by Tandoory Taco on Saturday, their second day of operation. Our curiosity had been mounting ever since this spring, when we’d first heard of their impending arrival. “Tandoory? Wait, isn’t that supposed to be tandoori? Taco? Tacos are Mexican food. But a tandoor is an Indian oven! This we gotta see…”
Tandoory Taco is unobtrusively nestled between JP’s Grill on the left, and Bei Jing Chinese Buffet on the right, in the slowly-revitalizing shopping center located at Sawdust Road and I-45. The location is bright, clean, and inviting; you won’t find any stereotypical murals of bullfighting arenas or Indian-influenced artworks. Instead, a smattering of funny little signs are on the walls, inviting visitors waiting their turn at the counter to share a chuckle or two. The menu is posted large-format on the wall before the counter, as well as in print once you arrive at the counter. Any initial hesitations one might have that a place offering Indian/Tex-Mex fusion won’t have anything on the menu for them is quickly dispelled. Though some of the names may be outside of some Texans’ range of familiarity, most all of the ingredients are most certainly recognizable, and helpfully listed out with each dish.
My first experience with naan was years ago, when I worked for a short time at a local company owned by first-generation immigrants from India. My immediate supervisor (sister to the owner and company accountant, whom had herself come to America in her late teens) told me one day she made naan each morning before work; a feat which blew me away at the time, considering her many other duties. Point being, she brought enough to share on occasion, and I was immediately hooked – as any carb-hound would be – to well-made, fresh naan. Having spotted it on Tandoory’s menu, I simply had to try it – and I was not disappointed. The soft, almost fluffy bread held a hint of sweetness, a flavor which was perfectly matched to the fresh garlic, smattering of cilantro, and melted butter. Naan (or Nan) is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread. It is typical of, and popular in West, Central and South Asia. Originally, nan was a general term for various flatbreads from different parts of the world.
But I digress… Between the two of us we ordered five tacos, wanting to ensure we tried a well-rounded variety. Always in the mood for something spicy, I started with The Spitfire ($2.99), made with deep-fried Chicken 65*, onions, red and green bell peppers, garnished with cilantro and topped with the house-made, Valencian Tomatina sauce. The sauce is a blend of fire-roasted Roma tomatoes, paprika and pepper. While awaiting the arrival of our meal, the general manager/co-owner, Alex stopped by, and asked what we had ordered. When I told him, he said that one was ‘a little too spicy’ for him; but I found it to have a mild, slow-roasting burn, nothing to be afraid of. On a scale of Antarctica-to-Mordor, I’d put it squarely in the West-Texas summertime range. I should probably mention that the menu doesn’t specify red cabbage as being included in the Spitfire, but mine had a little thrown in, perhaps in oversight in the kitchen. As it was only day two – and I don’t mind a little red cabbage – I let it ride.
My other selection this trip was The YOLO ($2.99), named by Alex’s daughter, whom (Alex explained) had to educate ‘dear old dad’ that YOLO was an acronym for You Only Live Once. YOLO can be a good philosophy to live by, within reason. But when it comes to food, and whether or not to try something new, it’s a great philosophy. The YOLO is made with Paneer chicken (chicken which has been cooked with yogurt and spices along with crumbled Paneer cheese), and onions, red and green bell peppers, cilantro and topped with house-made Agra Tikka sauce. The Agra Tikka sauce is a creamy, tomato-based sauce made with fresh spices native to India.
The thing I loved most about everything I tried was the overall freshness of the ingredients. All of the vegetables were crisp and fresh, the tortillas were soft and pliable, the spices in the sauces each identifiable – easier to do when they are fresh and of good quality. True, a part of that could be chalked up to the restaurant barely being two days running; but when we spoke with the chef and co-owner, he expressed his drive and passion for providing only the best and freshest ingredients. As he said, “you have to care what you’re putting in your body, and should only take in the best and freshest foods.” Alex concurred, explaining how the kitchen staff puts in many, many hours, laboriously producing the sauces and spice blends from scratch.
In addition to sharing the naan (flat bread), I had three tacos. The Surfer ($2.99), is a grilled fish (Tilapia) taco, seasoned with ground fresh and dried spices, and came in a bed of red cabbage, cilantro, and a Baja Chipotle sauce. The Baja Chipotle sauce was a little more Tex-Mex than Indian, for certain; the creamy sauce is made with jalapeños, lime juice, cilantro and other seasonings. The blend of all these flavors provided a nice accent to the fresh fish, although the fish did have a slight ‘fish taste’ to it. Like the other tacos I would sample, I think the ratio of protein to condiments leans a bit much away from the protein in favor of the vegetables. As you can see in our photos, the portions aren’t all that large but, they do fit nicely in the fresh, soft tortillas.
The Texan ($2.99), is made with marinated skirt steak, and served with onions, red and green bell peppers, a bit of avocado, some cilantro, and the now familiar Baja Chipotle sauce which is also on the Surfer. For those still hesitant to try Indian food, this is a great place to start. The Texan is reminiscent of fajitas you can find in any number of Tex-Mex restaurants; but the mild twist of the Baja Chipotle sauce gives this steak taco a nice little zing. Again, a slightly more than Tex-Mex blend of flavors with a nice selection of fresh veggies make this a great tasting taco.
My third selection was The Maverick, made with marinated kebab chicken which had been slow-cooked in the Tandoor Clay Oven, and onions, red and green bell peppers, cilantro, and in house-made Agra Tikka sauce. The chicken was moist, tender, and the taco had much better ratio of protein to veggies. The chef at Tandoory makes all their sauces fresh, and all of their food is served up fresh – and you can taste it in every bite, which is always a plus in our book.
So if you’re looking for something new and different, give Tandoory Taco a try. We’re pretty certain you won’t be disappointed, and everyone in your party is sure to find something they like. The pricing may initially seem a little on the high side but, as many have said before, quality doesn’t come cheap and flavor and quality at Tandoory Taco is well worth your time and your money.
Tandoory Taco is open 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM, seven days a week; they also offer carryout orders and can provide catering.
407 Sawdust Road
Spring, Texas 77380