Bold…intense…complex…flavors, these are the words that best describe the menu that Master Chef Prasad Chirnomula is serving at his latest restaurant, INDIA, in New Canaan. Chef Prasad is no stranger to New Canaan, or Connecticut. As the owner/chef of the highly successfully Thali restaurants, he announced several months ago that he was closing his flagship restaurant in New Canaan, desirous of opening a smaller, more intimate, restaurant in town. The interior of INDIA does just that, with a relaxed, sensual feel accentuated with flowing silk curtains engulfing many of the tables.
Chef Prasad invited CTbites to enjoy traditional cuisine from various regions of India, as well as sample many of his creative and inventive renditions from across southeast Asia and Africa. During the visit, this gregarious Master Chef joined us to explain the history, the composition, his vision for the dish as well as the numerous ingredients that were required to meet his high standards. His exuberance was evident in every description, and it translated into each of his creations. After close to twenty different dishes, my appreciation for his talent and the Indian heritage was significantly elevated, this was a culinary adventure. I was also pleasantly surprised when he told us that most are gluten-free, Indian recipes do not thicken sauces with gluten.
On a beautiful evening our meal on the terrace began with small rotis served with a creamy hummus and herbed butter. The tamarind-sweetened hummus contained nineteen ingredients and was like none I have tasted…it set the stage for the remainder of the evening.
Cauliflower Manchurian (upper left); Baby Kale (upper right); Samosas (bottom left); Pani Poori (bottom right)
We enjoyed four vegetarian choices from the Small Plates Starters. My favorite was the “Cauliflower Manchurian,” which was spectacular. The florets were deep fried and covered with a garlic-cilantro-scallion sauce. The interior of the crispy florets was pillow-y and the sweet and pungent sauce added a touch of spiciness. The “Baby Kale” combined tomatoes, red onion, tamarind, mint and green chili chutney. It was fried and presented great texture and a bit of a kick from the sauce. The “Samosas” placed spiced potatoes and peas inside teepee-shaped pastries and deep fried, a great combination of crispy and soft, accented with the sauce, which offered a little heat from the green chili and sweetness from tamarind. Lastly, Chef Prasad offered a playful interpretation of “Pani Poori,” a traditional snack served on the streets, and in the malls, of India. Small semolina cups were filled with a mixture of chick peas, potatoes and mint extract, topped with a citrusy liquid and popped into the mouth in one bite. They were a refreshing and crunchy option that can be shared by the table.
BBQ Duck Tacos (top row); Salmon Bites (bottom left); Konkan Crab (bottom right)
We moved to non-vegetarian options with two outstanding dishes. The “Konkan Crab” combined chunks of king crab with a coconut lemon sauce, and served alongside a gooseberry-beet patty. The texture was luxurious, soft and incredibly creamy, highlighting the sweetness of the crab, with a hint of spice from serrano chilies, and balanced by the earthiness of the patty. The “BBQ Duck Taco” is not a traditional item at an Indian restaurant, and INDIA’s is one of the best “tacos” in the area. Top a whole wheat roti with duck smothered in one of the best house-made BBQ sauces, spicy carrots, and finish with a choice of two chutneys (tomato and mint), or an orange mustard. The balance amongst the sweet duck (from tamarind), spicy carrots, and any of the sauces was fantastic. If you are looking for some serious heat, order the “Shrimp Piri Piri,” a sauce traditionally found in African cuisine, emphasizing the spiciness of the bright red Piri Piri pepper. The shrimp were first seasoned with black pepper and, when combined with the pepper sauce, created an incredibly boastful explosion of spiciness. The “Salmon Bites” were served with saffron and chili Arbol alongside green apple crisps. The salmon was a little dry, with a mild kick from the seasoning. A dill sauce accompanied the fish to add a little heat from Jalapeño peppers.
We next moved to the Classic Fare where the guest chooses from chicken, lamb, goat, shrimp or fish and pairs with one of Chef Prasad’s traditional sauces.
An array of entrées (upper left); Goat Biryani (upper right); Dal Makhini (bottom left); Shrimp Gassi (bottom right)
My favorite of the entrées was the “Lamb Andra Masala,” described on the menu as “My Mother’s style curry sauce,” which paired tender and full-flavored chunks of lamb with a dark curry sauce, and delivered rich flavors, medium-high spiciness, and fruity back-notes. The traditional “Chicken Tikka Masala” was served in a tomato-based sauce. The chicken was moist and delicious and the creamy, rich sauce was outstanding, with medium spiciness. The “Shrimp Gassi” included roasted garlic, coriander, coconut and chili arbol green sauce with floral back-notes. The “Goat Biryani” was prepared with the goat meat still on the bone, marinated with spices overnight to tenderize and slow cooked with basmati rice in a sealed pot. The flavor and texture of the meat were excellent and it offered a good level of spice. It was a little difficult to eat with the bones.
For guests who are looking for vegetarian options, INDIA offers numerous choices that can either be ordered as a full entrée or as a side.
The “Sunheri Bhindi” was frizzled okra dusted with citrus-y spices and deep fried. The texture and the flavors were outstanding. The “Dal Makhini” offered slow cooked, creamy lentils with hints of fresh grated ginger and was delightful with a little heat. The “Saag Paneer,” which combined spinach and paneer cheese cubes with hints of fenugreek, was very mild, topped with diced tomatoes.
Whatever the table chooses, one item that must be ordered is the “Fruit and Nut Naan.” Chef Prasad elevated the traditional naan with sweet, earthy and crunchy components that will make any dish and any of the sauces even better.
We lastly enjoyed an array of desserts. My favorite was the “Passion Fruit Crème Brulée,” which was creamy, rich and incredibly delightful, accented by the sweetness of the passion fruit. We also enjoyed the “Chenna Rabdi,” which were dense donuts swimming in a small pool of honey sauce. They delivered great flavor and texture. The "Gulab Jamun" were little nuggets of cheese, served in milk that was accented with saffron and pistachios. Lastly we enjoyed a trio of gelatos including the Cardamom, the Chai & Local Honey, and a CT IPA Coffee Stout; each delivered a wide variety of sweetness.
Overall, Chef Prasad’s new INDIA restaurant once again shows his ability to meld traditional Indian cuisine and inventive and creative additions into an extremely eclectic menu. Whether you are in the mood for a Tikka Masala with Naan or an inventive Cauliflower Manchurian, INDIA should be on everyone’s list of a go-to destination restaurant.
62 Main Street - New Canaan, CT 06840
- Cauliflower Manchurian $9
- Konkan Crab $14
- BBQ Duck Taco $7pp
- Chicken Tikka Masala $17
- Lamb Andra Masala $19
- Shrimp Gassi $19
- Dal Makhni $8/12
- Sunheri Bhindi $9/15
- Chenna Rabdi 7
- Passion Fruit Crème Brulee $7
- Fruit and Nutty Naan $5
- Baby Kale $10
- Pani Poori $8
- Samosas $6
- Shrimp Piri Piri $12
- Gulab Jamun $7
- Cardamom Gelato $7
Not a Favorite
- Salmon Bites $12
- Goat Biryani $21
- Saag Paneer $9/15