Great India (Brooklyn Center, MN)
By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
It's all about spice. The American palate, and even the famously timid Minnesota diner, has come a very long way in the last 15 years toward embracing flavorsome foods. We're happy to eat cinnamon on lamb, mysterious tastes like cardamom, and chili peppers on everything. Indian food is the perfect celebration of this great adventure, and it doesn't have to burn your tonsils.
Great India has a broad array of familiar and interesting dishes that will please everyone, no matter his or her preference for spice or his or her familiarity with the cuisine. The dining room is fancier than you should expect for a strip mall place, but it's the kitchen that really shines.
Much of the menu is the same as you'll find in any other Indian restaurant anywhere in the world except India. There are korma, masalla, biryani and vindaloo dishes. There are samosas, pokara and kabob appetizers. There are various curries. All of these are delicious and, of course, the waiter will ask you how spicy you want your food.
The lamb pasanda, cubes of marinated lamb cooked in a yogurt-based curry sauce, is alive with flavor. It's intense and wonderful.
We also liked the more mild murg hare masala wali, which has a lemony citrus flavor and lots of cilantro.
Great India jhinga tikki masalam was nothing short of fantastic. The prawns are marinated in herbs and garlic, and then cooked in a pasanda sauce with cream and almonds. The people at the table ate every bit of the sauce.
The most surprising dish is dumpakht. It's an Indian stew dish cooked in a copper bowl with a nan-like crust stretched across the top. If you think it sounds like an Indian version of a British meat pie, you're right The dish was popularized by the British raj. Great India serves a chicken, lamb, prawn and vegetable dumpakht. The sauce has tomatoes and curry, and it is delicious. Use the bread to scoop it all up. Get some more nan bread, too.
Another interesting dish is the goat bhuna. Bhuna is a cooking process wherein spices are first fried in oil to bring out their flavor. Then the meat is added and cooked in its own juices. The result is a dish with deep, strong flavors and very little sauce.
Madras is another dish you don't often find at Indian restaurants. The sauce is made with chili, coriander, cumin and paprika, and is normally very spicy. You can order it with lamb, beef or chicken.
Great India has a whole page of vegetarian options. We can recommend the baygoon ka goon, a dish of roasted pureed eggplant with tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices. Also, the simple mushrooms and peas found in khumba hari moti, made a wonderful side dish.
We ate with native Minnesotans who don't like any spice, as well as seasoned Indian-food eaters; both groups came away from the table happy. We love a kitchen that's so flexible, and especially appreciate not getting food that was simply too hot to eat (yes, it's possible).
To find balance between bites of the intensely flavored food, try raita (a sauce of yogurt and diced cucumbers) or mango chutney, or a mango lassi drink. All three are good for cutting the spice.
One last tip: visit their website before you go. You can print a 15% off coupon that's good for your entire party.
6056 Shingle Creek Parkway
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
Cuisine Type: Indian
Monday -- Saturday
lunch 11:00 a.m. -- 3:00 p.m., Tuesday -- Sunday
dinner 5:00 -- 9:30 p.m., Tuesday -- Sunday
Reservations not required. Closed Mondays.
Prices: Entrées $9–$16
Diet Choices: Many vegetarian options.
Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.
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