Many of the best restaurants are unassumingly tucked into the landscape without fanfare or grand decor. Such is Tawa, newly relocated in the Glenbrook section of Stamford, where the simple and modest decor takes a back seat to the food. Admittedly I am no expert on Indian Cuisine but have eaten it enough to formulate my own theories about which restaurants stand out from the crowd. Tawa is such a place.
Chef Kausik Roy describes his restaurant as one that that embraces tradition but appeals to a variety of tastes. His cooking is modern, yet classically timeless. "Tawa is a very different type of Indian restaurant, one that draws on a deep respect of food tradition and a love for breaking food rules that emerged in me when I was very young.”
I was invited to a press event the other night hosted by the restaurant and had the opportunity to sample a wide array of dishes - some I had tried before, others were new to me. When it comes to food (and life) I do love an adventure. I am well aware, however, that many diners are not and so here, I will do my best to break it all down for you.
We started with the restaurant’s signature Tropical Mango Salad. Tropical Mango, baby greens with an onion seed dressing. The greens were vibrant, the mango fresh, soft and sweet but I do prefer my salads more on the savory side. Next to arrive was a small bowl of Mulligatawny Soup. Mulligatawny, a play on Indian words pepper and water is a traditional southern Indian soup. Made from yellow lentils, carrot, turnips, leeks, garlic, cilantro vegetable stock and finished with coconut cream and fresh lemon, this might just be the best Mulligatawny I have ever had. Their version is served with a crouton instead of the traditional rice so that the broth doesn’t become clouded and remains a vibrant yellow. Intensely flavorful without too much heat, I could have had a large bowl as a meal, but I would have missed out on the rest yet to come.
For those wanting more heat in their soup, you can request some spicy green peppers to be tossed in. The Coconut Pepper Shrimp followed suit. Lightly battered shrimp with a smoky black pepper delivered an unexpected surprise. Ever so slightly sweet for from the chutney mayo, a peppery kick followed, almost as an afterthought, catching us all quite by off-guard. The shrimp were delicious, crispy on the exterior and tender to the bite.
Indian cuisine is a great choice for vegetarians. With many layers of texture and flavor, there are many non meat options from which to choose. We tried quite a few including the Aloo Tikki Chaat, an Indian Spiced potato patty topped with garbanzo beans, tamarind chutney, raita and roti crisps, there were multiple layers of texture and flavor here. The potato patty was wonderfully crispy which was balanced by the smoother texture of the garbanzos and the smoother yet texture of the sauces, while the sauces offered varying flavors from the slightly sweet tamarind to the cooler raita. This dish was complex on many levels. Our appetizer selection ended with a bang.
The Indo Chinese Lasuni Gobi, crispy cauliflower florets tossed in a tangy tomato garlic sauce with spring onion. Slightly sweet with a slight kick, I have never had this dish where the cauliflower was so incredibly crispy.
As we moved on to the entrees a very handsome display of curry samplings was presented to us. In large white serving bowls filled with Lamb Dampak, Chicken Sahi Korma, Goat Roganjosh and Shrimp Madras as well as vegetarian dishes consisting of Sag, Paneer, Crispy Okra, Yellow Lentils and Matter Paneer that were accompanied by the traditional Indian breads.
The Lamb Dampack’s presentation is a ceremonial one of sorts. The dish is served in a copper vessel over which was draped a doughy top. At first glance, it reminded me of a chicken pot pie. Using a spoon and a knife, a careful incision was made along the rim revealing a wonderfully aromatic stew-like interior. Slowly the top was folded back, where it remained for those who wished to take some to accompany the lamb. The lamb cooked in curry was mild and as tender as could be with an incredibly rich and velvety flavor. The Goat Roganjosh with its spiced onion and tomato-flavored gravy features large pieces of tender, on the bone goat.
The Shrimp Madras infused in a wonderful coconut curry that was tempered with curry leaves and mustard and the Chicken Sahi Korma took on the sweet peppery flavor of the cardamoms. Each dish, each curry, was unique in its own flavor. We all had our favorites - some gravitated to the lamb and the goat, though preferring less gamey flavor I favored the shrimp and the chicken. But it might have been the vegetarian dishes that really captured my attention and taste buds. Don’t ask me to pick a favorite - I simply couldn’t choose just one!
I started off with the Sag Paneer, made from Paneer (an Indian cheese), spinach, yogurt and a multitude of spices this was reminiscent of creamed spinach at first glass, but after just one bite you’ll notice the many complex flavors. There was something very comforting about this dish. The Crispy Okra was an unexpected treat. We tend to think of okra as a primary ingredient in Southern cooking, the slimy, wet vegetable does nothing for me. Apparently it did nothing for Chef Roy who disliked it greatly as a child and was therefore determined to find a way to serve it crispy and spicy. Here he serves up a wonderfully flavored dish that is deep-fried, crunchy goodness that resembles no okra I have ever experienced.
The Matter Paneer is simple and incredibly flavorful, bite sized pieces of curried tofu and peas that have been simmered in an aromatic tomato based sauce. Accompanying all of the dishes was a pillow naan that ever so slightly sweet with bits of translucent onion, the bottom of which was just slightly charred - think oven-baked brick oven pizza.
For a delicious modern take on timeless Indian cuisine head on over to Tawa at their new location in Stamford. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
487 Glenbrook Road, Stamford