Before I start this review, I feel I should apologize for not getting a review out last week. It’s not as if I didn’t have the material to do a review from, it’s just that I didn’t do one. You may not know this but I suffer from clinical depression as a result of a chronic medical condition. I am seeing a therapist and taking medication. Well, my meds and dosages were recently changed and one of the meds completely turned off my “give a damn” switch. Well, I’m off that med now and my “give a damn” switch is once again working properly, hence I have a review ready this week.
For this review Jeff and I headed to the south side. Initially, we planned on going to the Edelweiss at the German-American Club but thought the Edelweiss might be a better place to do a dinner review than a lunch review. So we put our heads together and realized that we hadn’t done anything on Indian food. We searched the Internet for a south-side Indian restaurant and decided upon the Clay Oven Indian Restaurant. At this point I should post a disclaimer. I am no expert on Indian food and so this review, even more-so than any other, is based entirely on my personal tastes.
In general, I love the flavors of Indian food. Still, I tend to avoid eating it because I normally feel uncomfortably, and sometimes painfully, bloated for several hours afterwards. I’ve been told it is because of the copious amounts of corn starch and baking soda used to help thicken the sauces and pulses in Indian cuisine. In spite of my trepidation, I hitched up my britches and decided to brave the inevitable gaseous aftermath and sample the offerings at the Clay Oven.
The Clay Oven is located in the center of a strip mall. The seating area of the restaurant is protected from the opening of the door by a tastefully decorated foyer. The color scheme of the restaurant is comprised of different shades of burgundy. One side of the eating area is lined with black booth seating and the other wall and center are taken up by traditional table seating. The tables are covered by burgundy cloths covered with see-through plastic covers to keep clean up simple. The plastic covered table tops gave me the impression that I had just entered my great grandmother’s sitting room. Still, the seating was extremely comfortable and I found the color scheme pleasing to the eye.
As usual, we arrived after the main lunch rush and were the only customers in the restaurant. We were greeted as we entered the restaurant and ushered to a table. Our drink order was taken immediately and we were asked if we’d like to try the buffet. Since the buffet offered a larger sample of dishes, we decided to give it a try. Essentially, service was restricted to clearing our plates and refilling our drinks.
The wait staff at this time of the day consisted of the owners of the Clay Oven, Anil and Uma Chauhan. They were very friendly and quick to tell us about the different foods on the buffet as well as suggesting different combinations of these foods that went well together.
The restaurant was very clean. The tables spotless, plates were taken away quickly, and the buffet presentation was neat with squeaky clean sneeze barriers. When I visited the bathroom, the smell was pleasant and the fixtures were clean. I have nothing to complain about here.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I am no expert on Indian cuisine. Still, I found the flavors very pleasant although the heat quotient was toned down immensely. Even the Chicken Vindloo, which is a notoriously spicy dish, was very mild but although it had almost no heat it was still quite flavorful. I asked Anil about this and he told me that the lunch buffet was toned down so that even folks who hadn’t a clue of what they were eating wouldn’t be unpleasantly surprised. He assured me, had I ordered from the dinner menu, I could have had the Vindloo as spicy as I liked. Since Jeff and I ordered the buffet, we decided to have a little bit of everything and record our impressions of the different dishes. So here is a list of the dishes we tried and what we thought of them.
Papadams: I loved them. They were warm and slightly salty and I could have made a lunch of these alone.
Chicken Tikka Masala: Really tasty! The Masala spices were over the top and Jeff couldn’t stop eating it. I think he had three servings.
Basmati Rice: It’s just rice right? Well yes, but it is also much more. They added a little star anis which gave the rice a crazy, mouth watering aroma. It had an enchanting smell!
Chicken Vindloo: As I mentioned earlier, very mild but extremely tasty. I’d love to try this dish in its full mouth searing glory!
Egg Fried Rice: Well made, but not really to my taste.
Chena Masala: As good as the Chicken Tikka but with chickpeas and potatoes substituted for the chicken.
Palaak Paneer: Cheesy Spinach, a big favorite of mine. As for Jeff, I think he had at least as many servings of this as he did of the Chicken Masala!
For Dessert, Jeff and I had some carrot pudding. It was outstanding! If it weren’t for the color and texture, you’d never know you were eating carrots. Anil suggested that I try the Golab Jamon covered in rice pudding as a sauce. Golab Jamon are chunks of fried breaded cheese in a simple syrup. The flavor is both sweet and tangy. Add the silky sweetness of the rice pudding and you have a winning combination. I also tried the Golab Jamon with the fruit custard and enjoyed that combo just as much.
The Juicy Bits
One of the great things about Indian food is that you can satisfy a wide variety of tastes and dietary requirements with one cuisine. There’s something for the carnivore, as long as the carnivore likes chicken, and there’s something for the vegan, vegetarian, and diet conscious. Indian is really one of the best choices to serve when feeding a diverse group of people.
Did I mention the buffet was fairly inexpensive? Well it was. Jeff and I had a fantastic meal and the total came to well less than $30.
As for the embarrassing effect Indian cuisine has on me, I didn’t escape it. But I can say that I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable and, considering the quality and flavor of the food, it was worth it.
In summary: It’s a great lunch for a great price; however, if you want the heat, order off the menu.
7415 US 31
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Tel: (317) 888-2600
Hours: Monday (Closed) Tuesday – Friday (11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.) Saturday – Sunday (11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)