A generational shift is occurring in Dallas-area Indian restaurants.
Eager to reinvent the genre, a young cohort of restaurateurs are reinventing everything from dining rooms to desserts. They ban buffet tables and play contemporary music. They embrace fusion foods, street snacks, and sleek plating. The results are often delicious.
Over the past few months I’ve ridden this wave from Oak Cliff to The Colony and spoken to some of the owners, including a restaurant owner who is only 21 years old. The resulting image is of a South Asian culinary scene seeking both innovation and pleasure.
This trend is not new. In 2015, Kumar brought Plano a menu full of cheeky comments (“Plain Rice: Well, I’m not going to try to explain that. $2”). But an explosion of recent openings has made Indian-Pakistani fusion one of the biggest and most exciting trends in North Texas.
Here are some field notes on next-gen South Asian restaurants and how they’ve dared to step out of the buffet. Browse the list and discover fusion delights like butter chicken pizza, gulab jamun cupcakes, chapli burgers and cardamom tres leches cake.
Windmills is the first American site of a fusion concept brasserie-restaurant-jazz club based in Bangalore. Founder Kamal Sagar is a renowned architect in India, as well as an avid music collector, and Windmills combines his passions with eye-catching interior design, live jazz concerts, great beer and Indo fusion cuisine -texan.
If it already sounds unique, wait until you see the menu. Everything is here, from fried Kerala beef and potato tikki chaat to fried chicken steak and bone-in rib eye. The dishes are plated with a spectacular touch. In other words, there is nowhere else in Texas quite like Windmills, and no other restaurant that so boldly fuses so many ideas and cultures.
But everyone is racing to catch up.
5755 Grandscape Blvd., The Colony. windmills-usa.com.
In the Dallas-area Muslim community, Adda was the most talked about newcomer in 2021. Much of the buzz has centered around its modern interior design and “contemporary Desi” fusion dishes, like the tasty karahi tacos and the exceptionally spicy chapli kebab burger.
Traditionalists in online discussion groups have complained about Adda’s price: With dishes like New Zealand lamb chops ($22), the restaurant proudly claims its position as an upscale destination. We are happy to pay, for three reasons: Adda is a distinctive and good place to eat, its portions are ultra-generous, and we need to combat the damaging and corrosive belief that some cuisines should be cheaper and less creative than other others.
If you’re not ready for fusion, Adda serves more traditional lunch specials, catering to non-Asian customers from nearby offices. This is not the experience we recommend.
744 S. Central Expy., #230, Richardson. theadda.io.
Enjoy the whimsical sayings painted on the walls of this “modern urban market” as you order kati rolls, Nepalese momos, paneer burgers, “tosas” (taco-dosas combination) and super rich gulab jamun cupcakes. The cupcakes and tosas aren’t just new – they’re pretty awesome.
“We like to experiment with fusion cuisine in addition to staying true to authenticity,” says co-owner Sheetal Liddar. “We are working on tacos. We’re going to be spinning more fun tacos and trying to make artistic tacos.
The original Irving store, a local favorite since 2017, is rapidly growing into a regional chain of restaurants and grocery stores. Liddar says the next ideal location in the Desi District would offer tosas and other fusion dishes to revelers bar-hopping in a nightlife area.
Sites in Irving, Little Elm and McKinney; butcher shop in Plano; The Frisco location will be opening soon. thedesistrict.com.
Minerva Indian Bistro
Minerva’s menu includes Indian, Pakistani and Indochinese dishes. But look at the drinks menu and you’ll find even more surprises: a solid program of mocktails of soft drinks and, on the back, a list of delicious and creative desserts. Many of them are the brainchild of owner Adil Jawed and his team.
Rasmalai cake, a brilliant fusion of a traditional Indian dessert in the form of a tres leches cake, was one of my favorite bites of the past year. Cardamom, saffron, and pistachios add flavor to the cake, and rosewater tints the frosting a dusty pink.
Jawed, 21, remodeled the 6-month-old restaurant with his wife; his father is currently the executive chef.
“My wife and I painted the place ourselves, we laminated the menus ourselves,” he says. “There are some things that are unique to us, but I feel like we innovated in some way.” Some of Minerva’s new tricks include an original masala spice mix and a naan made without yeast.
“I was born into the culture, but what we do is very different.”
3825 W. Spring Creek Pkwy., #206, Plano. www.minervaplano.com.
What is Biryani
Yes, that’s the real name of an Irving restaurant that opened just under a year ago and also sports wall art reading, “WTFOOD.” The pristine white interior has cute HGTV-style touches like a neon “Namaste” sign and small decorative metal bikes. The bathrooms, labeled “Wonder Women” and “Batmen,” feature bouquets of flowers in old whiskey bottles.
The look may be new-age, but the food is rooted in tradition, centered around 18 jaw-dropping kinds of biryani, from staple vegetables and boneless chicken to delicious minced goat kheema and mirapakaya, which has your protein of choice coated of a strongly spiced green chili sauce. The parathas here are particularly flaky, crispy and delicious. Fold them around an appetizer like a “garlic in sauce” paneer.
If you’re tempted by dessert, skip the choices here and take the 10-minute drive to Desi District.
3601 Regent Blvd., #150, Irving. whatthebiryani.com.
Far East Pizza Company
This Richardson ghost kitchen puts classic dishes like butter chicken and paneer masala on thin crusts. Indian-style pizza isn’t new to Texas: Bombay Pizza was a downtown Houston landmark a decade ago, and the India Chaat Cafe on Frankford Road has long served staple pizza. But Far East is the new leader in the field.
Far East is also ultra-friendly for vegetarians. My favorite pie is the Veggie Spectacular, with paneer, cauliflower, red onions, Thai basil, tomatoes and a mixture of Indian spices between pesto and chutney. The butter paneer pizza also has a good balance of flavors.
A new rival to watch out for is Fun Pizza Kitchen in The Colony.
1500 N. Greenville Ave., #110, Richardson. fareastpizza.com.
Soul, a 2021 opening in the Bishop Arts District, adds Indian spices as a sweet topping atop Dallas’ favorite food group: Sunday brunch. Customers can order a spinach-paneer omelette with a cup of tikka sauce, biryani-spiced breaded fried chicken and waffles, or a dinner-style plate of eggs, potatoes and chapli skewers.
With an opulent interior design, it’s the most Americanized of the restaurants in this column, but the food is my least favorite. A cup of masala chai at Âme contains enough sugar to serve as a dessert, and of the foods, only the chapli skewers are particularly bold in terms of flavor. The fried chicken was good, but my table wistfully imagined using tadka, a technique of flowering spices in oil, to give it a hot Nashville-style glaze.
The Bishop Arts brunch crowd might see it differently. If your friend says he “don’t do Indian food because it’s too spicy”, take him here.
418 N. Bishop Avenue amerestaurantdallas.com.