My wife and I have been going out for date night for nearly six years. We have eaten at all kinds of restaurants in and around Omaha, but for some reason we have never eaten at an Indian restaurant.
That changed two weeks ago.
The owners of Tanduri Fusion said they decided to open a restaurant in far-west Omaha because of the lack of Indian food available at the time in that part of the city. Tanduri is between West Center Road and Arbor Street, one block east of 175th and West Center Road.
Kishor and Jharana Karki opened Tanduri Fusion in May 2007. When they were looking for a business name, Kishor found that Tandoori had been registered. So instead of the traditional spelling, the couple took the spelling Tanduri. Kishor had been a cook at a local Indian restaurant and decided he could do a better job of serving people by opening his own place.
Kishor said his goal was to be able to satisfy people and provide great service, and that's the first thing that jumps out at you when you visit Tanduri Fusion.
All four people in our party remarked at different points about the number of servers who stopped at our table to fill drinks and check to see if we needed anything. Jharana Karki said that's their plan, adding that while customers remember good food, great service is what helps bring people back. Tanduri Fusion has 13 employees to cover a dozen tables and five booths.
A semicircular, full-service bar is at the heart of the restaurant. There are two beers on tap, a large wine list that includes labels from Chile, Argentina, France and Australia, along with bottle beer from India. The walls are covered with different types of warrior masks, both small and large, and small landscape paintings. Soft music plays in the background.
The restaurant's name comes from the type of oven used to make Indian bread and the inclusion of American and other types of cuisine.
A good example is Pad Tanduri, an off-shoot of traditional Pad Thai. The dish is made with egg noodles stir-fried with egg and vegetables, much like the Thai equivalent, but traditional Indian spices are added and then the dish is topped with raisins and cashews. Like most of the dishes at Tanduri, you can customize the level of spice you want on a scale from zero to 10.
This dish was shared by everyone at the table. My wife had it with grilled shrimp, while another member of our party had the vegetarian. I sampled both, and they were by far the best thing I ate that night. Kishor Karki says he likes to take non-Indian dishes and give them an Indian twist.
If you're like me and want the spice level at 10, then the Chicken, Shrimp or Lamb Vindaloo is for you.
The very spicy chicken, shrimp or lamb is covered in a strong-tasting red gravy. I didn't see any sign of peppers in the chicken dish, but you can definitely taste the ground red pepper, garlic, curry and cumin, which all combine for water-needing pleasure.
Most of the dishes are served with Tanduri's special rice. Kishor adds cloves, black and green cardamom and cinnamon to the rice to add to the taste and aroma. I have eaten some of the hottest Cajun dishes you can imagine along with several Asian dishes that can make you sweat. This one fits in those categories.
As a group, we decided to get the mixed appetizer so we could try a little bit of everything. The plate comes with four pieces of Chicken Pakora, which are pieces of seasoned chicken dipped in spiced chickpea flour and deep fried, two Samosas (one veggie and one meat turnover), two Aloo Chops (potato and pea patties) and one seasoned crispy lentil flour wafer called Papadum. The full order serves four and it comes with a mint chutney sauce for dipping. The sauce reminded my wife of a lime jalapeno salsa we had at a local Mexican restaurant.
The sauce also is served with one of my new favorite foods — Naan. We tried the garlic and spinach Naan, a big piece of flatbread stuffed and baked in the Tanduri oven. The spinach Naan is overflowing with creamy spinach dip, which helps cool your mouth if you are into the spicier dishes.
Each entree came with a choice of salad or the soup of the day. I chose the chicken noodle soup, with slices of garlic, spicy broth, shredded chicken, nutmeg, cloves and cumin. Never did I think I would eat and enjoy such a traditionally American dish at an Indian restaurant.
The other couple in our party ordered the Mulligatawny, a traditional Indian soup of purťed lentils along with the special seasoned rice topped with fresh coriander. The Mulligatawny reminded me of split pea soup and was a little bland for my taste. Kishor later reminded me that I could increase the spice to give it more flavor.
Vegetarians can find dishes at Tanduri, including the Palak Paneer, which reminded me of something my grandmother would make. Like any good Southern foodie, she loved to slow-cook her greens. The Palak is slow-cooked spinach cooked with onions, jalapenos and tomatoes. The Paneer is homemade cheese that adds even more flavor to the spinach. For me, it was a taste sensation that I would have again.
For my entree I chose the Saag Meat, a combination of tender chunks of lamb simmered in creamed spinach with fresh ginger and Indian spices, served with rice. It wasn't what I expected. I enjoy lamb and love spinach, but the combination just didn't work for me. I asked our friends, who have much more experience with traditional Indian food, and they both pronounced it very good. It was the only dish during two trips that I didn't enjoy.
Another of the entrees did tickle my fancy and taste buds: the Lamb Bhuna. It had pieces of lamb sautťed with visible pieces of garlic, curry and jalapeno all mixed in a cream sauce. I used pieces of my garlic Naan bread to scoop up the Bhuna. It wasn't nearly as spicy as the Vindaloo sauce, but it still had a nice kick. The Bhuna entree actually fed two of us as we split the Chicken Vindaloo over our seasoned rice.
We don't always get dessert, but the mango ice cream jumped off the menu at us. Made of mango purťe, condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, it is frozen into a block and cut into small squares. Each piece is creamier than the last. If you like mango, you'll love this dish.
I'm not sure why it took so long for us to add an Indian restaurant to our date-night rotation, but if you're thinking about doing the same, Tanduri Fusion is a perfect choice. With traditional Indian cuisine and several tasty fusion twists, there is something for everyone's tastes.