On first glimpse I was optimistic: really nice looking stand, great photographs of the food, good prices (everything seemed to be in the $30 range) and friendly service. On closer inspection, the menu combinations were a bit disappointing: no vegetable curries - this is a big problem for me as I get in a twitch if I eat a meal sans veggies. Only one real vegetarian option - very disappointing when you consider that Indian food is the one sure-fire cuisine for vegetarians. And then there are too many meat meat starch combos.
Anyways, I was there, and I love trying new places to eat, so I ordered tandoori chicken with aloo sag and naan bread. The food appeared quickly enough, was sealed with foil and I was given a small container of freshly sliced onions and coriander. All of this HAS to be good, I thought to myself as I wandered off to find a table at which I could eat.
And then... bitter disappointment. Overcooked, mushy potatoes, tasteless and non-descript chicken. They looked right. They just didn't taste right. Tandoori chicken has always been one of my favourite things, especially when it's cooked in a proper tandoor (a specially prepared clay oven). The combination of yogurt and citrus and then a million spices and the chargrilled meat makes for an exciting taste experience. In fact, to me, that's what makes all Indian curries good - the play of flavours exploding or melting into ones mouth at different points of the taste experience. But what I had at Tikka Masala that day was just kind of homogonised and (perish the thought!) bland.
The high point of that meal was the naan bread, which was delicious. And the little slices of onion mixed with fresh coriander was a nice touch in an altogether forgettable meal.
But hang on... because I needed to know if I was just unlucky that day, I went back yesterday. This time I ordered chicken korma and lamb rogan josh with naan. Again, delicious naan and slices of onion. This time the curries were a little better. But not substantially. In both cases there simply wasn't the intensity of flavour one expects from a good curry. I wondered if the cooks were chinxing on the spices to make them go further. Or maybe they were just adding too much liquid and not letting the food cook for long enough. Whatever the reason, both meals were disappointing, and although it's more expensive, I would sooner spend my money at that place in Shoppes of Maraval (is it called Tandoori Hut?) than Tikka Masala.