The Gables is Home to a Duo of Excellent Indian Restaurants
Trying to describe Indian food is a little bit like the proverbial tale of blind men trying to describe an elephant; each describes only one part of the whole. Indian food comes in a wide variety, with more than three dozen distinct regional cuisines.
For most of us, the dishes we are familiar with – tikka masala, tandoori chicken, beef vindaloo – were brought back to England from places in India where the Brits dominated as colonial rulers, mostly northern regions like the Punjab or cities like Delhi. But there is far more to Indian food. One reason we like the weekday buffet at Taste Buds of India is because it presents some of this variety, changing on a daily basis. In its bright, pleasant space on Ponce south of the Mile, the cooks prepare nine Indian dishes daily – two appetizers, two carb dishes (rice or noodles), two veggie dishes, two meat curries, one tandoori and a dessert. They include two Chinese dishes as well, all for $14.95.
During our last visit, they had buttery lentils and lemon rice, eggplant bharta (a sort of eggplant stew), paneer Manchurian (fried cheese with ginger, garlic and tomatoes), grilled chicken tikka, chicken tikka masala (in a creamy tomato sauce), Goan fish curry and Rabdi, a sweet, condensed milk dish, for dessert. All fresh and delicious.
One reason for the food quality in the Gables location is that it serves as a central kitchen and training facility for the growing Taste Buds of India chain, now also in Miami Beach, South Miami and Coral Springs.
“My employees are from IHM [International Hospitality Management, in India], schooled back home,” says manager Benson Thomas, who has been with Taste Buds of India in the Gables since they opened in 2016. “Then the workers come here to be trained. We have a huge kitchen, for catering and training.” Thomas, a native of Hyderabad, originally came to the U.S. for a masters in IT at Florida Atlantic University. “I worked as an IT analyst for a year, then I went into hospitality. I felt like this was a better way to serve people and make them happy.”
The food at Taste Buds of India is mostly what Americans are familiar with, though Thomas insists there is no Indian cuisine beyond their culinary skills. “We cater a lot of food… If you name any dish from back home, we can cook it. Our chefs are from Maharashtra and Calcutta [eastern and western India].” Not surprisingly, the music played in Taste Buds is straight from Bollywood, with Hindi songs and music videos on two large-screen TVs, each filled with frenetic, colorful Bollywood dancers. The art work is also apropos: images of the Taj Mahal and religious statuary.
For dinner, the buffet is replaced with a full menu, including a vegetarian’s dream selection of entrees with eggplant, lentils, spinach, potatoes, okra, chickpeas, and more. Chicken dishes –madras, curry, vindaloo – also abound, as do lamb dishes with similar spice treatments. Their tandoori selections – everything roasted in a clay oven – include fish, chicken, shrimp, lobster, lamb and, for vegetarians, mushroom. Adding a unique flavor array, they also have “Indian Chinese” selections; our pick is the Gobi Manchurian, crispy cauliflower with onions.
If you name any dish from back home, we can cook it. Our chefs are from Maharashtra and CalcuttaBenson Thomas
On the north side of Miracle Mile, on Alhambra Circle, is the other top Gables Indian restaurant, the Mint Leaf Brasserie. It is smaller and more formal [the screens for their Bollywood videos are not as large], bringing to the table another set of Indian tastes. While they share similar dishes, Mint offers more than a dozen variations of the traditional Indian naan bread, such as the peshawari naan, which is stuffed with shredded coconut, almonds, raisins, dates and fennel seeds. They also do great briyani dishes, which combines slow cooked meats with rice.
The most interesting dish we tried at Mint was from their selection of South Indian specialties, far from what we think of as traditional Indian food. We ordered the lamb dosa, which consists of spiced, shredded lamb rolled up in a foot-long rice and lentil pancake, and served with coconut chutney and a spicy sambar vegetable soup. And, while they do not have a lunch buffet, for the same price ($14.95), their lunch menu includes a selection of Thalis – the Indian equivalent of a bento box, with steamed rice, a meat or fish curry, naan bread, a cucumber yogurt dish, a lentil dish, and a sweet dessert. “The Thalis are very popular,” our server told us. “The cucumber dish is to keep it from being too hot.”
Taste Buds of India
2624 Ponce de Leon Blvd. 786.483.8379
The Mint Leaf Brasserie 276 Alhambra Cir. 305.443.3739