A testament to the evolving palate of Fairfield County, South Indian restaurant chain Godavari has opened in the former Burger King location on the Post Road in Norwalk, just past Bow Tie Cinemas.
While there is no shortage of many excellent Indian restaurants in the area they tend to follow a uniform menu of what native South Asians recognize as “Indian restaurant food,” a cuisine based mainly on the foods of northern India and less often cooked at home.
The menu at Godavari also features many of these specialties, especially those that have become beloved by American diners like Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, and Tandoori meats but it’s the staggeringly extensive menu of dishes from around the subcontinent that really make this franchise restaurant shine. There are kadai dishes native to Pakistan (“kadai” refers to a wok-like pan in which the dishes are cooked) ;Northern biryanis, the layered rice dishes that originally came to India from Persia in the time of the Mughal emperors; and a plethora of lamb and mutton dishes as well.
One must-try dish is the Prawn 65--shrimp marinated in a spicy red-chili based yogurt sauce and then fried. The shrimp were large and succulent, perfectly coated with just enough of the spicy sauce. We tried it with rice but it would be excellent with any of Godavari’s many bread offerings which include chapatti, a simple whole wheat flatbread that is a staple in most North Indian homes.
A rotation of these pan-Indian dishes is evidenced both on the extensive menu as well as on the daily buffet menu, which Godavari claims is the largest Indian buffet menu in the region. Having been to many I have to agree—and the Sunday brunch buffet is twice the size. Even frequent Indian buffet goers will find a nice array of new items to try including a nice variety of desserts. On our visit, one standout buffet dish was Chickpea Poriyal, a delicately spiced chickpea dish with mustard seeds and finely grated cabbage.
Adventurous diners will find plenty to whet their appetites including Indian-Chinese cuisine a popular fusion that is now ubiquitous to India, even making its way into packaged and frozen foods. Indian-Chinese cuisine features a mix of Indian and Chinese ingredients, often cooked in the manner of stir-fry with Indian spices like Bezawada Street Noodles--lo mein noodles with vegetables and egg and Indian curry flavor. There are a number of goat dishes –at least four—ranging from Gongara Goat Curry from the Southeastern Indian province of Andhra Pradesh and traditionally featuring sorrel leaves to spicy Goat Vindaloo to Nilgiri Goat Curry which most resembles korma and has a rich coconut base. In truly authentic style—particularly for South Indian cuisine—Godavari’s food is spicy and most orders are cooked to “medium” on the heat scale as a baseline.
The core offerings of Godavari are its South Indian dishes at large but of particular note are the dosas. Dosa are large crispy crepes prepared from rice, lentil or wheat flour that are rolled or folded over a lightly spiced vegetarian curry. Because of the skill and space needed to make dosa, it is unusual to find Indian restaurants with a large dosa offering. I sampled my usual Masala Dosa, which is stuffed with potato and was more than satisfied.
Like dosa, a good option for those with milder palates are idly, a puffy “cake” made from rice flour that is served with spicy vegetable soup and uthapam, a thick pancake made from bean and rice flours then topped with vegetables.
Godavari in Norwalk is at 80 Westport Avenue in Norwalk. Hours are daily 11:30 to 2:30 for lunch and serving dinner from 5:30 to 10:00pm Monday through Thursday, and 10:30pm on Friday. On Saturdays: 12:00 to 2:30pm and 5:30 to 10:3pm0; Sunday 12:00 to 3:30pm and 5:30 to 10:00pm.