#254: Tandoori Bite

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I type this feeling incredibly full and with a loosened belt (truthfully I removed it entirely, haha).  The telltale sign of a visit to an Indian buffet.  This is Tandoori Bite, located on Baseline at Foothills.  A somewhat recent addition to Roseville’s large and always growing collection of Indian restaurants, they opened sometime over Summer.  They are situated on the opposite end of the building where Crawfish Factory lives.

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I walked in just after noon.  The place is quite large and there is a lot of open space from the entryway all the way back to the buffet and register area.  To the right is a largish grid of tables.  I was the only customer at the moment, though a couple people had just left if take out right as I arrived.  At first there was no-one to be seen but, seconds after the door shut, a woman appeared from the back and greeted me.  I gestured to the buffet line and she told me to go ahead and get started.  Buffet is served every day for lunch, although it is a few bucks more on the weekends ($12.95).  Their menu doesn’t say anything about it being served at dinner but I think I’ve seen them post about it on Facebook once or twice.

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Before setting my camera down at a table I asked if I could get a mango lassi and she said it would be extra, which I expected and said that would be fine.  Once back to grab a plate she asked what I wanted to drink (which I didn’t think much of at the time, figured it was more a question if I also wanted water) and I told her water is good.  She also asked if I wanted plain or garlic naan and I chose the latter.  Eventually I realized that she must have misheard my response about the lassi being extra because it was never brought out.  No big deal I guess, and she was on top of the water refills since I was downing it quickly throughout the meal.

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I went down the line and tried a little bit of nearly everything.  My first plate consisted of Fish Pakora (fish cubes dipped in spiced batter & deep fried), Vegetable Pakora (assorted vegetable fritters dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried), Rajma (not shown on their menu but Wikipedia says it consists of red kidney beans in a thick gravy with many whole spices), an item that was unlabeled but I am  pretty sure was the Chana Masala (garbanzo beans cooked with onion and tomatoes in house special spices) Saag (spiced creamy spinach) and finally Butter Chicken (boneless chicken cooked in a special sauce with a blend of tomatoes, butter & cream).

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The fish and vegetable pakoras were good, although they were a bit steamed and soft from being in their closed serving container for a while.  A busier buffet usually doesn’t have that problem since it rotates a lot quicker.  I definitely prefer a nice crispy pakora.  The vegetables had a lot of flavor to them with lots of spices and a hint of heat.  The naan was fresh with a bit of a crisp on the bottom and plenty of flavorful garlic on it.

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I had the rest of the items on a bed of colorful rice.  The Rajma was pretty heavy on the kidney bean flavor while the Chana Masala was a much creamier blend of the masala flavor and garbanzos and had a bit of a kick after a few bites.  Both were tasty though.  The saag is usually one of my favorites but usually only when it has paneer in it, which this one did not, so it was a little bland and boring.  Easily my favorite item of everything I had today was the butter chicken (I know, classic white guy Indian food choice).  It was intensely rich and flavorful, smooth and creamy with tender chunks of dark chicken.  A touch on the salty side, it was still amazing and I ended up getting seconds on my next plate.

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For my second plate I tried the Chicken Curry (skinless & boneless chicken cooked in a spiced curry sauce), Goat Curry (goat cooked in a spiced curry sauce), Haleem (lentils, barley mixed meat slowly cooked with authentic spices) and a drumstick of Tandoori Chicken (chicken marinated in a blend of yogurt and Indian spices).

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The chicken curry was probably my 2nd favorite item.  It was as flavorful as the butter chicken but less creamy.  The goat had bones so I had to take care to separate those out first.  I often skip goat curry on buffets and probably would here in the future as well.  It wasn’t bad, but the meat itself was a bit tough and slightly gamey.  The Tandoori Chicken drum was really good.  It wasn’t as overly bright red with coloring as many but had the flavor marinated in nicely and was very tender and had a good amount of meat on it.  The Haleem was something I had never seen or tried before.  It was unfortunately my least favorite item.  It seemed to taste like bitter squash.  The little jalapeño slice I got in a bite had a huge kick to it.

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Finally I headed back one last time for dessert.  I was excited to see that they had Gulab Jamun (deep fried cheese balls dipped in sugar syrup, served warm) and hot Chai Tea.  In addition they had something labeled as Cart Keer.  I didn’t see this on their menu and googling comes up with Carrot Kheer, which I guess is what this might have been, although it tasted to me more like sweet potato rather than carrot.  It was quite good.

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The Gulab Jamun was great.  I don’t know exactly how this is made and what kind of cheese it is.  I’ve always thought it tasted more like a soggy surgery donut than any kind of cheese.  The tea was incredibly hot but absolutely delicious once at a more reasonable temperature.  Not many Indian buffets have Chai tea or even desserts on their buffets, so to have both (and 2 desserts at that!) was really nice!

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Overall I was quite happy with this buffet.  Not everything was a hit, but that’s par for the course at just about every buffet, and there was plenty to enjoy.  The woman handling the dining room was very friendly, and as I had mentioned earlier refilled my water constantly (a pleasant change from the numerous Indian buffets I’ve sampled in the Rancho/Folsom areas).  I would definitely return here again.

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#252: Sienna

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Last Thursday I was joined by some family members for dinner at the new Sienna restaurant.  Sienna is located in the old Crush 29 spot on Eureka and Rocky Ridge.  This Roseville location is their second, with the original in El Dorado Hills.  Sienna is by the same people that brought us Land Ocean around the same time last year.

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I rolled in just before 6PM and the parking lot was packed.  I made one pass through the front lot and decided to just valet it (complimentary, + tip of course).  My family had found parking in the back, which I actually didn’t even realize existed.  They saw my car being parked as they walked around.  In front to both the left and right is a good amount of outdoor seating to enjoy drinks (maybe even some happy hour appetizers?  Not sure if they serve food out there) with dual fire pits on each side.

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I walked inside to put our name in incase there was a wait.  It seemed busy, but that was mostly the bar.  We were seated right away.  The bar, by the way, had seen some work in the remodel.  They removed the big round structure that hung from the ceiling and opened it up, which really helped make the place feel bigger and less cramped.  There was still a good amount of light outside and the big skylights in the center area of the restaurant (mostly the bar) made it nice and bright until the sunlight faded over the next half hour.  The nicely-bound menus almost feel like they give a nod to Crush 29 with a similar metal inset on the front, featuring the restaurant name punched into it.

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We were sat near the right dining “wing” in a booth that bordered the bar area and were soon greeted by our server, Jordan, who ran down a couple specials and let us go over drinks for a bit before he returned.  A bottle of Stellina di Note, a Pinot Grigo [$30] was ordered for my mom and grandma, my dad had a glass of Montevina Barbera [$8] and I ordered the Vanilla Old Fashioned (Vanilla bean infused Bulleit bourbon, vanilla simple syrup, luxardo cherry juice & cherry bark bitters)[$12].

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The wine came out first and the bottle was placed in a chiller at the edge of the table.  My old fashioned came soon after.  Jordan toasted a slice of orange peel briefly with a lighter before dropping it in the glass and then serving it to me.  It added a really awesome aroma.  The drink was chilled with a single, large sphere of ice.  A small black cherry on a pick garnished this drink alongside the peel.  I ended up giving that to my dad later and he loved it.  This drink was fantastic and had a perfect blend of vanilla and bourbon flavor to it.  It was also incredibly smooth.  Jordan said he hadn’t tried it yet but it was on his list.  I told him to move it to the top.

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Along with the drinks we received a plate with some tasty warm bread and soft butter.  We also had an appetizer, ordered at the same time as the drinks, which arrived just a minute after my old fashioned.  This was the Shrimp & Bay Scallops Ceviche (Tequila-lime sauce, fresh avocado, micro cilantro & house made tortilla chips)[$14].  This was very good.  It was a bit top-loaded with shrimp, scallops and avocado however.  Below the top layer it was filled in with a fair amount of lettuce.  We did find more bits of the best stuff down towards the bottom of the glass though.  The chips were warm and fresh.

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Our entrees arrived all together about 15 minutes after the ceviche.  My grandma had the Pepperoni & Sausage wood stone flatbread (housemate marinara, crimini mushrooms & sweet red onion)[$15].  I had a piece of this and it was tasty.  The bread was toasted just-so on the outside and bottom, leaving the middle nice and soft.  The toppings were well portioned and flavorful with a dusting of parmesan on top.

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My mom ordered the Pepper Steak Campanelle Pasta (sautéed tenderloin, crimini mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, parmesan cheese & brandy peppercorn sauce)[$20].  I had strongly considered this but went with another choice.  It was served in a rectangular dish, garnished with green onions and came with a couple slices of toasted bread.  I had a bite of the tenderloin and it was very nice.  The peppercorn sauce was front and center, but not to the point of masking the flavor of the beef.

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My dad got the Grilled Prime New York Steak (10oz sliced, garlic-parmesan whipped potatoes, sautéed green beans, sriracha butter & onion strings)[$35], medium-rare.  This was neatly plated with the asparagus perched atop the potatoes and topped with the onion strings.  The sliced steak rested up against this arrangement.  It was cooked nicely, with a little bit of a red center and lots of pink around that.  The piece of this that I tried was very good, nice and tender, but I think mine was even better.

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For my order I went with the Frilled Filet Mignon (boursin gratin potatoes, balsamic pancetta, brussels sprouts & asparagus)[$34], also medium-rare.  It was a thick cut and done perfectly.  Actually probably more on the rare side, which is fine with me.  Lots of red throughout.  This was fantastically tender and practically melted in your mouth.  The balsamic pancetta reduction was flavorful but did not in the slightest way cover up the filet mignon.  The veggies were really interesting in that they were not cooked to the point of being soft or mushy, but actually still had a significant raw crispness to them.  The brussels sprouts and asparagus were incredibly flavorful.  Part of this was due to thick, crispy bits of bacon mixed in.

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I thought that would do it for us, I was slightly full, but then I saw a shallow dish, what looked to be creme brûlée being delivered to another table.  I knew what I had to do.  We got the dessert menu, a mini-version of the dinner menu, and perused the options.  My parents decided to each get a port, the Warre’s “Otima” 10 Year Tawny [$8.50] and the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port [$8].  Each of these were incredible.

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My Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée (fresh berries & white chocolate shavings)[$9] took an unusually long amount of time.  As I was looking at my camera photos to get a sense of how long it had been and realizing we were coming up on 30 minutes, the manager herself delivered it just then and apologized for the wait and let us know that it would be on the house.  This was a nice finish to dinner.  It was a bit less dense of a custard than most, but had a good vanilla flavoring to it.

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Overall, despite the hiccup on timing for the dessert, I thought this was a great dinner.  Everyone very much enjoyed their food and Jordan did a solid job.  Ambiance was nice, but it did get a bit loud as the restaurant filled up.  The complimentary valet is a nice convenience.  When this space was vacant the parking situation was much better, but it’s probably going to be a challenge to find a spot in the front on the weekend evenings again.  If I remember correctly, Crush also offered valet.  I am definitely interested in coming back, especially to check out the happy hour offerings and sit on the patio out front.

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Website: http://www.siennarestaurants.com

The website has their menu, but I saw some differences between what was available when we visited, so here are some scans of the menu as it was for our dinner:

(Scanned) Dinner Menu (10/13/16): Click Here

(Scanned) Dessert Menu (10/13/16): Click Here

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#250: Aria Kabob Cuisine

I was thinking it’s been a while since I’ve been to the Galleria and I was getting hungry for lunch so I headed on over to see what was new.  It was about noon when I arrived and the mall was fairly busy.  I found plenty of parking on the upper levels of the large parking structure though and headed in.

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The food court seemed mostly unchanged, with the exception of Hibachi San (a business I haven’t seen since I was a kid in Valco Fashion Center of San Jose) and a Persian spot called Aria.  I did some quick googling to see if Aria was a big chain and, to my surprise, it actually seems to be a unique-to-Roseville business.  I headed on over and took a look over the menu.

Persian cuisine isn’t exactly hugely represented in this area.  We had a Persian restaurant for a couple years near Sierra College and Douglas, but other than that the only one I can think of at the moment of is in Rancho Cordova (Shahrzad).  From what I could tell looking at the menu here, they seemed to cover the basics of the main dishes – kabobs (chicken, beef, lamb), gyros and wraps.  They also have a section with burgers, including one that had my interest, with a ground beef/lamb mix patty, but I’ll save that for another time.

Today I ordered the Chicken Ghormeh (chicken ghormeh in a delicious sauce)[$8.99].  I had first asked what it comes with and was told rice and salad.  I decided to add a side of Falafel (golden fried patties of ground garbanzo beans, herbs and spices)[$4.99] and finished it off with a soda [$1.99].  I was given my soda and a pager and headed off into the crowded dining area to find a table.  I had just found one towards the center and sat down when the pager lit up.  Seemed kind of fast, and it was.  When I went back to Aria the cashier told me she was sorry and forgot that they were out of the chicken ghormeh.  She offered me a refund or to choose something else @ $8.99.  I skimmed over the other items at that price to try and avoid another transaction and settled on the Beef and Lamb Gyro plate.

By this time a seat had opened right next to Aria so I grabbed it and waited just under 10 minutes for my pager to go off again.  I found it interesting that most of the customers, as I waited and watched a few come up and order, were almost all of Middle Eastern decent.  Meanwhile, Buckhorn grill next-door was hoppin’ with a line 10 deep at times.  I hoped that this was not a sign of the quality of food here and that rather most people just haven’t tried Persian food and aren’t too adventurous.  I didn’t get to think to hard on that because soon my food was ready to be picked up.

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The presentation was decent, except for the salad which was lackluster, and aside from a stay piece of lettuce that made it’s way onto the tray everything was neatly plated.  The falafel looked wonderfully golden brown and each piece had a little dab of tzatziki sauce on it.  I didn’t realize that this entree also came with some pita bread and red pepper hummus, so that was a nice surprise.

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I had a piece of falafel first, which was slightly bigger than bite-sized.  The color was a good indication of how nicely it was fried.  The texture was great and it was nice and crunchy on the outside while warm and soft inside.  They had just a bit of spice that was immediately toned down by the cool tzatziki sauce.  I really dug these, however they would be better to share with someone.  A half-sized order would have been plenty with my entree.

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The salad was about as impressive as it’s appearance.  It was simply bits of romain lettuce with a very, very light dressing on it.  The pita with hummus was pretty great.  As good as most hummus I’ve had so far and the pita bread was nice and soft.

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Moving on to the main dish, there was a very good amount of the shaved beef & lamb gyro meat spread out over a large pile of warm, soft Persian rice with a small amount of bright yellow saffron flavored grains over top.  Topping the whole thing was plenty of tzatziki sauce for every bite.  The gyro was soft and spiced lightly.  I really enjoyed this and ate almost the whole thing until I was close to full.  I had to leave room for dessert (stay tuned for that)!

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Overall I would say Aria is a nice addition to the food court which offers up something a little different compared to the usual fast American / Asian options.  We really do have a pretty good food court compared to a lot of malls.  I was a little disappointed to not get to try the chicken ghormeh.  Maybe another time.

Website: (they have a site but it’s blank, so here’s a link to their Facebook page instead): https://www.facebook.com/ariakabobcuisine