Stepping into the Hajari family restaurant, it’s clear the owners are proud of the country from which they are from. Orange, white, and green paint line the walls of Taste of India depicting the Flag of India. Posters of the restaurant owners’ favorite authentic dishes decorate the walls making customers’ mouths water anxiously as they await their food.
The word authentic is key — Dhansukh and Chandrika Hajari hail from western India, in a state called Gujarat, and it was here Chandrika acquired her skill for cooking. For 15 years, Chandrika ran a catering service on the side in the Tri-State area.
With this experience in catering, the Hajari family, including their son Mitesh and daughter Raveena, opened Taste of India, 4700 Vogel Road, in April 2013, bringing the concept of fast, fresh, and authentic Indian food to Evansville.
“We try to hit every region of India from north to south,” says Mitesh. “You can tell the difference between north and south Indian cuisine. Our chef is actually from Goa, which is a more tropical area of India, so he can make a bit of everything. One of his specialties is fish, but he can work with anything.”
The menu, separated into multiple sections, presents flavors from different regions of India, and each region brings its own unique tastes to the palette. While the cuisine of Northern India is richer in flavor adding more creaminess to the dishes, southern dishes are rice based using plenty of coconut like the Idli Sambar — soft rice cakes served with coconut chutney and a spicy tomato-based sauce for dipping or drenching.
When exploring the menu, diners will notice the Indo-Chinese section, a feature unique to Taste of India, though popular in regions of India. A blend of Chinese and Indian elements, the Indo-Chinese menu gives birth to dishes like the Chicken Manchurian — deep fried chicken dipped in the Indo-Chinese sauce and served with vegetables.
For those unsure where to start with Indian cuisine, it is imperative to sample the samosas in the appetizer section of the menu. Filled with smashed spicy potatoes and peas, these triangular pastries have a crispy, flaky casing and are served with the spicy green cilantro chutney and the sweet, dark tamarind chutney, perfect to drizzle over the potato pastries. Look out for chicken and lamb filled samosas, which Taste of India plans to add to the menu by the end of the year.
Next on the menu is the butter chicken or lamb, Taste of India’s most popular dish. Tender chicken or lamb is simmered in a rich, buttery tomato base and served with rice, combining savory chicken with the sweet sauce. Freshly baked in a tandoor or clay oven, naan, traditional Indian flat bread, pairs well with the dish.
“You should be hungry when you try to eat the butter chicken,” says Mitesh with a laugh. “We don’t want to Americanize our food too much. Our food is still authentically made.”
To complete the meal, diners should pay a visit to the dessert section of the menu. Gulab Jamun is a perfect dish to satisfy a sweet tooth with its combination of milk and dough deep-fried and soaked in light sugary syrup, similar to a donut.
New items are constantly being added to the Taste of India’s repertoire. This summer at the Franklin Street Bazaar, the restaurant hopes to introduce kebobs with lamb, chicken, and possibly goat. Tailoring to a diverse clientele, the Indian restaurant offers a wide variety of items to its vegetarian and vegan customers, including the popular starter Veg Pakora, which are vegetable fritters. The restaurant also offers Halal food for its Islamic customer base.
“Butter chicken and butter lamb are our most popular dishes,” says Mitesh, “and those will never leave the menu because those dishes are so traditional and common in most Indian restaurants. But we try to switch up the menu by adding in new items.”
Everyday during lunch, Taste of India serves a buffet for $7.99 during the weekday and $8.99 on the weekends, bringing fresh naan to the table. Offering both takeout and delivery, the restaurant can specially make an item that is not on the menu.
“If you ever hear of an item and don’t see it on the menu, we can usually tailor make it for you,” says Mitesh.
Staying true to traditional Indian recipes but adding its own unique twist, Taste of India hopes to continue its success and bring in a more consistent client base.
“We want to make it so customers become regulars here because they like it so much,” says Mitesh. “We’re hoping for just a regular customer base. I like to know my customers by name when they walk in here.”
Location: 4700 Vogel Road
Dining and Bar Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon to 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.
Payment: All major credit cards accepted.