My gal and I were a bit apprehensive (well I was, she seemed to be more on the optimistic side) about trying a new Indian restaurant. We've been going to India Palace in Roseville since we started dating making it our go-to whenever we needed a curry fix. 99 times out of 100 our experience at IP has been extraordinary, however on our last visit we had a brand new waiter. We ordered our usual and when it arrived we noticed everything had been americanized (for a lack of a better term) to the point of the spice level, which is usually on the edge of teary eyes and sweaty faces, was dialed way way back, and the Chai tea, which is usually very light and easily palatable, was noticeably thicker as if he had poured extra milk or cream into it. I'm sure in his mind he was doing us a favor by making it more like a Starbucks drink, but we actually prefer the simple, more traditional version. He asked how we liked it and we just nodded our heads in approval mostly because he seemed to have taken great pride in having made it himself specially for us.
My apprehension remained as we entered now India House located in the endless array of shopping centers in Maple Grove. This particular retail area sees a lot of turnover and when we entered I noticed the next two spaces were vacant. Could this be one of those cursed malls where the only constant is the occasional tumbleweed and seasonal Halloween store? We were seated immediately, granted it was 8pm but only a few people were scattered around the modest-sized dining room. Our booth was cozy as we sat on cushions straight out of a classic muscle car. They were wide, smooth like plastic, and from my memory I swear they were sparkly, almost glittery, red. The lighting was on the dim side though it was apparent they did their best with the ceiling fixture. Perhaps individual table lights (please not the fluorescent interrogation lamps that some places use) would be a nice way to put some more feng in their shui.
The server offered us simple and easy-to-read menus, which I prefer. It's nice to know the cook isn't making a hundred different dishes back there. Our waiter politely stood in the corner keeping an eye on us until we pushed our menus aside. Sophia and I decided to stick with our favorite combination, which is: Chai Tea (non latte style), Garlic Naan, Chicken Saag (called Chicken Palak here), Chicken Shahi Korma, and Mango Pudding for dessert (if applicable). The waiter balked when Sophia ask for hers to be spicy. He replied, "You mean spicy or (opens his eyes wide) Spicy!?" We kept insisting we wanted Spicy, so he caved and finally wrote it down. We joked about how the last time we ordered spicy it didn't quite make our faces sweat. I ordered mine just "hot" since we really didn't know what their definition of spicy was and I wanted at least one of our meals to be edible if "stuff got real."
The setting was very comfortable and the dreamy Indian music was just the right volume. I was a bit concerned that the one-person bathrooms might not suffice if they ever had an evening at full capacity, but they were well-kept and everything worked (which is all we really need in a bathroom right?).
Our food arrived in good time but looked a lot different than it does at India Palace. Now that I think about it, it was most likely due to the lack of table lighting but the Shahi Korma appeared to be less vibrant-looking. At IP the dish explodes with a reddish blazing color but at IH it was more on the dull side. Like everything else though, looks can be deceiving because it was excellent. Sophia's Chicken Palak made our eyes water (we usually share our dishes), our faces sweat, and that curry high (which we've been chasing for months now) finally took hold, later resulting in silly/nonsensical arguments mostly over what wine to buy and who has the right-of-way in certain traffic scenarios. Basically the light-hearted kind of goofiness that curry highs can often bring. The Chai was exactly how we like it and made for a perfect pre and post meal drink. And finally the mango pudding was as smooth as baby silk, whatever baby silk is.
Even though we only tried a few dishes I, and may I speak for Sophia, highly recommend India House in Maple Grove. We'll still frequent India Palace of course but it's good to know we have such a comparable option a little closer to home.