#175: ZS Indian Market & Chaat house

Tonight I wanted to do something relatively quick.  I picked out one of the newest places on my list, ZS Indian Market and Chaat House.  This Indian Market is located on Pleasant grove near Foothills, just behind that new little Starbucks drive-thru stand.  They opened back in late October.  Obviously, in addition to the market side of things, you can order food to go or to eat there.

I arrived at about 4:50PM and headed in.  I was greeted by the owners upon walking through the doors.  Both were very friendly.  I headed to the counter, where one of them was standing, to take a closer look at the menu.  I told him I had no idea what I wanted and asked if he had any recommendations.  He asked if I liked spicy food and I replied that I did like things a little spicy.  He pointed out the wraps and also suggested the Samosa Chaat from the Chaat side of the menu.  I took a minute or two to read pretty much the entire menu.  Most of it is small items for $2-4.  The meals, most of which are wraps, were all $5.  The meals come with fries and and a soda (which I did not realize right away).

He pointed out that his wife, behind the register towards the front, would take my order when I was ready.  I headed over there and told her I would have the Tandoori Wrap (Tandoori chicken [thigh meat] with veggies, onions & mint chutney, wrapped in plain paratha) [$4.99]  as well as the Samosa Chaat (Vegetable samosa [potato shells] with spicy garbanzo curry, onions, sweet & spicy chutney & cilantro).  This comes in a full plate [$3.99] or a half plate [$2.50].  I asked her how big the half vs the full was as well as the wrap.  After she showed me generally how big each one was using her hands I decided to go nuts and do the full order.  Not realizing that my wrap came with fries and a soda, I also ordered a mango lassi.  I chatted (ha) with her for a bit about my project to eat everywhere and then she called my order over to the kitchen.  Right before I had ordered I noticed a sign on the register saying cash only for transactions under a certain dollar amount(can’t recall how much), and I panicked internally for a moment because I realized that the prices were cheap enough that I wasn’t sure I would go over that.  It turned out I did have some cash on me, so I was fine, though I ended up spending just over $11 so it would have been OK anyway.  I took a couple photos and then a seat near the window.  I was asked what kind of drink I wanted, and that’s when I realized my mistake.  I opted for the bottle of water that was offered to me after I said that I didn’t need a soda.

The Samosa Chaat took about 5 minutes to prepare.  Right before it was ready he confirmed with me from the kitchen that medium spicy was good and I said that sounded good.  I picked it up and grabbed a spork and some napkins.  As I turned around I saw that my mango lassi was also ready, so I also picked up a straw.  The full plate was…big.  Much bigger than I had anticipated.  A half order would have been PLENTY.  It was also much more intricate than I was expecting.  I was envisioning the standard crisp samosas sitting by themselves on a plate, but these were sitting in a sea of the garbanzo curry, covered sweet & spicy chutney, and sprinkled with little crispy noodley-looking bits, onions, tomatoes and cilantro.  The one thing I wish I had was a knife, as working my way through this with the spork by itself was a little bit of work.  This was incredibly flavorful.  Every last bit of it.  Everything was nice and hot, the samosas were crisp on the outside, and I was left with the perfect amount of spicy heat.  I almost ate the entire thing but forced myself to stop after about 80% as I realized I still had a wrap and fries on the way.  The mango lassi was pretty good.  It was chilled, though I felt like maybe it could have been a little colder.  It was a little more tart than others I’ve had in Roseville.

Ten minutes after I had picked up my samosas from the counter, and pretty much exactly when I was finished with them, my tandoori wrap was ready.  I picked that up from the chef, and he followed behind me to bring me my bottle of water.  The wrap was a very reasonable size for the price, and I was actually glad to see that it wasn’t huge, because I was already kind of full from the samosas.  Cut in half, you could see the signature bright red color of the tandoori chicken inside.  I didn’t have any idea what paratha was, so I was expecting something similar to a typical wrap, like a tortilla.  This appears to have been lightly fried, or perhaps grilled?  I’m not sure, but it was warm, flakey and looked tasty.  I bit into the wrap and got a little bit of everything.  It was well constructed and the ingredients were evenly distributed.  The chicken was delicious.  Perfectly tender and flavorful.  The onions had a nice crunch and everything else was just right.  The mint chutney was very creamy, not what I had expected (perhaps it was something else?), but it was very good and worked well in the wrap.  I demolished both halves of this fairly quickly.  On the verge of exploding, I picked at the fries for a bit, which were nice and hot and mostly pretty crisp.  They were dusted with some kind of seasoning that I couldn’t put my finger on.  The ones that had the most were delicious.  The fries that didn’t have a lot were borderline boring.  Maybe needing a touch of ketchup.  It didn’t matter that much because I was stuffed and only ate a third of them anyway.

I was very impressed with this little market.  Everything seemed to be fresh and made to order and was all very reasonably priced.  Kind of makes me wish I still worked over at HP so I could come get lunch here.  The owners were both fantastically nice and helpful in answering all of my questions and were very accomodating.  I very much recommend it.

Website (none, so Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/ZSIndianMarketandChaatHouse

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

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#91: Tandoori House

I was excited to have found Tandoori Nights a while back and try, for the first time, Pakistani food.  Yesterday I was skimming over my list figuring out where to go and I decided to see what Gourmet Cravings was.  Well, it used to be Gourmet Cravings.  Sometime over the summer it was replaced by Roseville’s 2nd Indian/Pakistani restaurant, Tandoori House.  It’s located in the Nugget shopping center at Pleasant Grove and Fairway.

I met my brother for lunch at 1pm and we were the only customers.  During our lunch 1 person picked up a phone order and a couple was seated right about when our food came out.  I read a one liner review on Yelp that had said it was similar to Tandoori Nights but “with atmosphere”, so I was expecting a nicely furnished and decorated restaurant.  I’m not sure I would agree with that review.  I felt that they were extremely similar, despite some obvious little differences.  Tandoori House has a bare cement floor but nicer seating and tables, and is also a much larger space overall.  The thing is, the handful of tables they do have are only positioned against the walls, and up towards the front there is a very large empty space, where the dining area widens out after the kitchen ends, that feels a little odd.

We walked up to the register area upon entering, not knowing if we should order there or be seated.  Quickly however, we realized that this was full service and we were seated with menus.  The gentleman serving us was very friendly and patient and told us to feel free to ask anything if we had questions.  I carefully went over the entire menu from start to finish before deciding on what I wanted.  We each ordered a mango lassi to drink, which I remembered loving before.  Thinking about it again today I went a little out of my way to pick another one up at Tandoori Nights but they were closed unfortunately (I’ll have to check back and make sure they’re not out of business because I didn’t think they closed on Sundays).  Eventually we decided on 4 items and I gave our order to the server.  He complimented me on my pronunciation of karahi chicken (chicken cooked tomatoes, green chilies, ginger & spices), which I was taking stab in the dark on, so that was nice 😉  In addition to the chicken we ordered shahi paneer (deep fried cheese cooked with mild spices and butter sauce), vegetable biryani (mixed vegetables cooked in saffron flavored Basmati rice) and a seekh kabab (mildly spiced ground beef, char grilled on a skewer).  We hadn’t planned on ordering naan but he threw in some garlic naan anyway.

Right away our mango lassis and a little appetizer came out.  The lassi was just as amazing as it was at Tandoori Nights.  Smooth and creamy with a sweet, rich mango flavor.  I wish I was drinking one right now…  The appetizer was a super thin, crunchy chip-like thing, served with a couple chutneys, both of which were delicious.  Our food didn’t take very long, maybe 10 minutes at the most.  Soon we had a table full of amazing smelling food.  The vegetable biryani dominated the table at the center, a big mound of colorful rice and veggies.  The shahi paneer and karahi chicken were each in small metal bowls.  Lastly, the seekh kabab came out sizzling like mad on a hot iron dish.  I had to wait a moment for most of the steam to dissipate before I could take a clear photo.  The garlic naan was coated heavily in the garlic spread they use.  My fingernails were pretty much yellow when I was all done.

Even though I had to get my hands right in there since they were all bone-in pieces, the karahi chicken was fantastic.  Soaking up the excess curry sauce with garlic naan was great.  Towards the end when we had run out of naan, the rice did good work in it’s place for both the chicken and shahi paneer.  Speaking of the shahi paneer, wow, it sounded great from the description and absolutely lived up to it.  There were little cubes of soft cheese and the butter sauce was pretty much the most awesome thing I’ve had in weeks.  I loved pretty much everything, with slight exception of the kabab.  Similarly to Tandoori Nights it was so spicy that it masked what flavors were there.  I doubt I’ll be ordering these anymore.

Basically everything was as good as Tandoori Nights.  Really great, friendly and helpful service, amazingly flavorful food, and decent portions.  We had enough to each take home another meal, which I had for lunch today and it was just as good the second time around.  I’m sold on Indian/Pakistani cuisine, it’s quickly jumped very close to the top of my favorite foods.

Scanned Menu: Click Here

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#56: Tandoori Nights

Exterior

I’ve been looking forward to this one quite a bit since I first found Tandoori Nights a couple months ago while driving around and updating my list.  I’ve never had, or even considered for that matter, Pakistani cuisine.  I kind of assumed it was related to Indian cuisine by the storefront signage and since the two countries are right next to each other, but I wasn’t sure how similar they were.  I’ve enjoyed the Indian food I’ve had so far and figured this would prove to be good as well.  I invited my good friend, Sid, out to join me.  His family is from Pakistan and in addition to helping me choose some tasty items, I wanted to see what he thought of the place.

Interior

We arrived at around 7:30pm and there was table with a few people finishing up their dinner when we walked in.  I was expecting a table service restaurant, however despite no visibly displayed menu it became apparent that you grab a menu up near the register and order there.  The first thing Sid mentioned was how inexpensive it seemed to be, particularly compared to some Indian restaurants in Sacramento.  I recognized a few items that I’ve either seen or tired at Swagat or Mehfil.  Soon Sid was speaking to the server (possibly manager/owner?) in Urdu, asking about some items and getting his recommendations.  I decided to let him do the ordering and told him I was up for whatever he thought sounded good.  They went back and forth for a couple minutes and towards the end, as Sid told after we sat down, the server had asked how many were eating.  When he found out it was just the two of us he said we had plenty of food, so that was pretty nice of him to stop us when I think a lot of places would likely just let you keep going.

Water, Chai Tea and Mango Lassi
Chai Tea

I sat down and started to scan the menu (link is just above the map down below) and Sid grabbed us a carafe of water and cups of chai tea which are complimentary.  He also got me a Mango Lassi (Mango pulp mixed with yogurt) from the self serve cooler.  The very orange cup reminded me of Thai iced tea and I wondered if it was similar.  I sipped the chai tea first, which was delicious and relaxing.  We ended up getting another cup after we finished eating.  The Mango Lassi was ridiculously smooth with a somewhat sharp initial mango flavor upfront and finishing off with a sweet creamy flavor.  It was really good and I can totally see myself picking one up by itself sometime if I’m in the area, especially in the summer.

Samosa
Samosa

A pair of samosas were the first thing to arrive.  These deep fried pastries are filled with a mixture of potato, peas, onions, green chilies and spices.  They had a pretty good kick to them.  I tried it with a couple chutneys, one sweet and one mint/chili based, as well as plain.  It was pretty good each way.  For just a few bucks this is a solid appetizer.

Seekh Kabab

Next up a Seekh Kabab arrived.  It is ground beef with green chilies mixed in.  This was really spicy, so spicy that it overpowered what flavor was in it.  Sid wasn’t really into it because of that.  I ate what was left but I would agree that it was just too hot to really enjoy.

Plain Nan and Garlic Nan
Rice

The next few plates started arriving rapidly.  We had an order of plain and garlic nan, which were a good size and I think we only used about half of it.  Sid mentioned that it looked really authentic and he wondered how they made it, which I’ll tell you about in a bit.  The nan was good by itself, but it’s main purpose is to be used to pick up other food and to soak up some of the flavorful sauces, and there are a lot of those to soak up.  Some rice arrived as well which also worked well to soak up the sauces.

Nargisi Khofta

The two main dishes that Sid ordered were Karahi Chicken (a traditional tomato base curry from north Pakistan delicately cooked in wok) and Nargisi Kofta (a special that is not on the menu but I’ve found described as ground beef or lamb [beef in this case] mixed with spices and onions and served with hard boiled eggs).  Both of these dishes were very flavorful and the sauces they were served in were absolutely delicious.  The Karahi chicken had a whole chicken in it cut into about 4 pieces.  I struggled with this one at first until I got an idea of how it was cut up and figured out where the meat was.  I’m not particularly good at dealing with bone-in foods, mostly because I’m always afraid I’ll miss one and impale myself on a shard while chewing.  Despite the extra effort it was very good.  Sid loved this one.

Karahi Chicken

My favorite was the nargisi kofta, just over the chicken by a bit.  It actually reminded me a lot of the Doro Wot I had at Taste of Ethiopia in Austin, TX last December, but that might just be due to the boiled egg.  I really do need to go have Ethiopian food again soon.  Each of these two dishes had just a little heat to them, nothing compared to the kabab or even the samosas though.  The rich spiced sauces were a huge part of what made these dishes great, and if I wasn’t so stuffed I would have used the rest of the nan and scooped it all up.

Once we had finished and were up at the register to pay, Sid noticed they in fact had a traditional tandoor and pointed it out to me.  They were kind enough to let me go behind the counter to get a closer look at how they made nan by sticking it to the inside wall of the tandoor and BBQed various meats in a second one.  Super cool!

Nan in Tandoor
Kababs in Tandoor

This was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be.  We left Tandoori Nights full of delicious food, Sid seemed pretty impressed overall and I know for a fact I’ll be back sooner than later!

Plug time: You can see Sid’s excellent funk band, Funk.Defied, at Old Ironsides in Sacramento Friday the 20th and in Davis the next day for Picnic Day!  I’ll almost certainly be at at least one of those shows.  Check out their videos page where you can see what they’re all about, and a couple of those were shot by yours truly 😉

Website: http://www.tandoorinights.us/

Menu: Click here. (They have the menu on their website, but this one that I scanned is a little bigger and easier to read)

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