My hometown in London sits right on the border of the largest Indian community in Britain. My old bedroom was hung with beautiful Indian fabrics, I dyed my hair with pure henna powder and I ate the most amazing Indian food. Since I moved here I have been on a constant quest to find good Indian food but, for the most part, I have been disappointed. Recently my neighbor Jyoti, who teaches Indian cookery classes, mentioned this restaurant where her son worked. So this week my friend Janet and I visited Touch of Asia on Metcalf and 105th to take Jyoti up on her recommendation.
Looking at the restaurant from the outside, I didn’t exactly have high hopes. The shops surrounding it were desolate, except for the next door tobacco shop. But inside it was smart – simply decorated, not overly lavish or plain. Bollywood music videos played from a screen on the wall, and exotic hangings adorned the walls. The restaurant was fairly empty, but busier than I had expected for a Wednesday night. We were greeted quickly and shown to a booth.
The staff immediately brought us complimentary papadams, a kind of large round Indian chip, with different chutneys, Indian condiments. One of the chutneys was green and spicy, while the other was orange and very sweet. The menu was extensive, with many different meat and vegetarian options. Janet and I decided to share a chicken tikka masala, a curry with a creamy tomato sauce base, with rice and naan bread. Janet admitted she had never tried a vegetable samosa, so I insisted we order those too.
The samosas were delicious, hot curried potato and vegetables inside a crispy pastry triangle. They weren’t tasteless, as samosas often are, but spicy and flavorful. The tikka masala was bright orange-red, with generous portions of meat. It was rich and creamy and, although it could have been spicier, it was far from bland. We were so distracted by the amazing food we didn’t even notice they’d forgotten our naan until they rushed out to apologize, bearing a basket of the soft, steaming hot bread.
The meal was filling, but the two of us couldn’t stop going back for more. It’s so rare to order the perfect amount of food, but Janet and I ground to a halt as we scraped up the last drops of masala sauce. We sat contently with full stomachs as they brought out the cheque. As though the restaurant needed to be better, the meal was only $20 for the two of us.
If I had one complaint of Touch of Asia, it’s that it could be more authentic. Indian restaurants understandably tend to Americanize their dishes, making them more colorful, sweeter and milder. The best Indian food I’ve had has been the kind where every dish is the same brownish color, but each has a vastly different flavor. But I’m picky about Indian food, and considering how many restaurants I’ve sampled in this city, I can honestly say that Touch of Asia is among the best I’ve found. I thoroughly recommend it.