- Courtesy Photo
The last time an Indian fusion restaurant from the Grand Staircase area of Southern Utah decided to open shop along the Wasatch Front, we got Curry Pizza—and my culinary worldview has never been the same. As I never thought this particular bolt of lightning would strike twice, I was a bit dumbfounded to read about the new Tandoori Taqueria (3540 S. State Street, 801-590-9473, thetandooritaqueria.com) location that recently came to South Salt Lake. Yes, we downtowners can finally enjoy delicious, Indian-inspired flavors within the fluffy embrace of buttermilk naan tortillas without making the trip down to Bryce Canyon.
Tandoori Taqueria first opened in Panguitch, which is where owner Ripple Desai calls home. She saw the restaurant as an opportunity to combine her Indian culinary heritage with her self-professed love of tacos. The restaurant made a name for itself as a contrast to the usual road-trip fare one might expect in the towns that border Southern Utah's myriad state and national parks. Its consistently positive Yelp reviews were enough to earn the local eatery a spot on the Eat This, Not That list of best tacos in each state, along with a write-up for NPR. After six years of consistent growth, Desai made the 245-mile leap from Panguitch to South Salt Lake—and we're so very glad she did.
From Curry Fried Chicken to Curry Pizza, I've never met an Indian fusion menu that didn't rock my socks off. I think a lot of this comes from the versatility of traditional Indian cuisine; when you have a foundational flavor palate as diverse and exciting as that of India's immersive regional variety, it's hard not to whip up something tasty. What I love about Tandoori Taqueria is that it stays faithful to its primary influences while creating something new in the process. Yes, this is a place that will satisfy one's craving for both traditional Indian food and tacos, but it's also a place to get something completely unique.
The menu currently has six types of tacos that are served up in orders of two, four or six depending on how hungry you are. The menu mixes and matches traditional flavors from both Indian and Mexican arsenals, and adds tangy cabbage slaw to the mix for some complementary acid and texture. The end result is something familiar but unmistakably brand new.
For a good example of what I'm talking about, check out the Channa a la Verarcruzana ($12) tacos. Here you've got a hearty mix of chickpeas and lentils, which work well with a Mexican dish like tacos that is no stranger to legumes. However, where beans may play second fiddle in traditional Mexican tacos, they're front and center here. When spiked with Desai's signature sauce of tomatoes, peppers and other spices, however, it becomes quite clear that legumes can definitely carry a taco. I also have to say that those buttermilk naan tortillas are killer—soft and fluffy, while keeping all those taco fillings secure.
Another vegetarian option at Tandoori Taqueria is the phulkopir taco ($12), which is a take on the Bengali-inspired preparation of roast cauliflower. For my money, roast cauliflower is one of the best approaches to a vegetarian taco, and this preparation works considerably well—and it's also not skimpy when it comes to heat. Both Mexican and Indian cuisines are fond of their chili peppers, so you can definitely expect your tacos to bite back just a tad.
On the more carnivorous side of the menu, you can't go wrong with the pozole ($12), the beef and chorizo ($12) or the tandoori ($12). The menu describes the pozole as braised pork in a "merriment of spices," and I can't really think of a better way to describe the vibrant flavors that are packed within—it's harmony and balance in taco form. The braise on the pork is fantastic as well. It's tender, full-flavored and complements all those spices perfectly. It's tough to pick a winner on a menu of triple A goodness, but this one just might edge out the others in my book.
The beef and chorizo presents another fine example of braising, and the chorizo ratchets things up with its own brand of special spiciness. The tandoori taco is perfect for those who prefer chicken on their taco; it turns out that tandoori grilled chicken and tacos get along famously.
Any fan of Indian and Mexican cuisine—or just cuisine in general—will feel right at home with a big plate of tacos from Tandoori Taqueria. I don't know what the Southern Utah X-factor is, but I have been nothing but impressed with the talent that has been coming to the Salt Lake metro area from our neighbors to the south. I'll always make a point to check out the original locations of Curry Pizza and Tandoori Taqueria when I'm checking out Bryce Canyon or Capitol Reef, but I'm also glad I don't have to go as far when I want some truly inventive local cooking.