Tandoori Hut offers authentic Indian food on college budget

Tandoori Hut is at 24 North Park Row in downtown Erie.

Tandoori Hut is at 24 North Park Row in downtown Erie.

Conveniently located within walking distance of Gannon University, Tandoori Hut offers a lunch buffet and a full dinner menu.

The traditional Indian restaurant opened in March and maintains an elegant atmosphere complete with white linen tablecloths and wooden seating.  The kitchen is somewhat visible from the dining room, but it doesn’t take away from the experience.

A television is placed above the main register and was airing what looked like an Indian drama film. The restaurant wasn’t playing any music.

Tandoori Hut’s menu is about five pages long and my friends and I found ourselves asking the waiter for more time to order three times.  The dishes are grouped by the protein featured in each meal: beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian options are all placed together.

Also helpful are the detailed descriptions of the different kinds of sauces each dish is cooked in.  The only thing non-specific in the menu are the spices, but that’s probably because there are too many to list.

While ordering, you have the option of how many of the mystery spices you want-—the waiter asks how strong you want your dish.

For dinner, the restaurant takes time with presenting each dish and sets the table with a clean plate just before the food is sent out.

Main dishes are brought to the table in a metal pot with tiny handles, which reminded me of the copper kettles used to make ice baths in chemistry lab.

Each dish is described as being “served” with rice and it is. Just not in the way an American restaurant would serve it.  There is no ladle of grains next to the featured chicken or pork at Tandoori Hut.

You construct your own plate, kind of like ordering fajitas at a Cantina restaurant.

The rice is brought out in a larger dish with a hammered-metal spoon and each member of the table shares it.

I ordered chicken palak, which is chicken cooked in a spinach, garlic, onion and “spice” sauce.  The mild version of this dish was very tolerable and only strong enough to appreciate the spices, which is saying something because I can hardly eat chili without my mouth burning.

I was also surprised by the consistency of the sauce.  I expected something like spaghetti sauce with strained spinach and chunks of onion.  It wasn’t textured at all.

This wasn’t a bad thing, though.  It must have been power-strained or run through a food processor, because it was smooth throughout.  The spinach and other ingredients were all there, just not by appearance.

My friends ordered naan, which is unleavened bread baked in a tandoor, or clay oven.  The naan was served with the rest of our food and resembled pita bread.

But unlike pita bread, it wasn’t crusty.  It was really soft for being so thin, and we all took turns dipping it in each other’s sauces.

The main dishes were all priced at around $10, which was reasonable for the serving sizes.  Each of us took about half of our food home for the next day.

I have a very limited experience of Indian food and had only ever tried curry, which was far too strong for me, before trying Tandoori Hut.

However, the family feel and great price are enough for me to recommend it to explorers and veterans of Indian food alike.

KELSEY GHERING

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