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The real thing at Taste of India

Olympic medals are being handed out in London, but a gold should be handed across the Atlantic to Taste of India.

Ms. T.J. and I took our globe–trotting friend JoAnn with us to Taste of India, knowing that she had menu–dived at many of London’s most popular Indian eateries. Indian food is not one of my natural cuisines and I knew JoAnn’s attention to detail would pay off.

It did, and her insight was on point. She summed up the experience with one sentence:

“London’s Brick Lane just became a few thousand miles closer.”

The legendary Indian food district is a touchstone to fans of the colorful and highly flavored dishes of the world’s second most–populous nation. If you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, a trip to Taste of India is a culinary education that can take months.

More than 250 ingredients come together to create the nearly 100 appetizers, breads, entrees and yes, even sweet treats, that fill the Mall Boulevard restaurant’s huge menu.

I started with Papri Chaat, a northern Indian dish built around crispy, fried dough wafers tossed and topped with chickpeas, potatoes, tamarind chutney and creamy yogurt dressing. This could just as easily be a cart food dish, but looks lovely when presented at the table. It is an addictive blend of varied textures, spice and creaminess and fresh flavors.

I knew the rice would be light, delicate and perfumed with the unmistakable aroma that comes only from Basmati. Looking for a complementary set of flavors, I chose Lamb Tikka Masal which comes in a gently spiced and rich tomato–based cream gravy – just the thing for marrying with my rice.

The large chunks of lamb are charcoal cooked, adding to the meat’s savory character. In retrospect, I wish I had lingered more with this dish – it is as decadent an experience as the flavors are exotic.

Some members of our party had been toying with a gluten–free lifestyle – but that experiment fell hard when faced with a big basket of cream cheese naan, a puffy white bread stuffed and cooked in the clay oven.

Ms. T.J. heartily enjoyed her Mixed Biriyani of shrimp, chicken and lamb. JoAnn pronounced her Lamb Vindaloo much more enjoyable than its London counterparts. This version, she explained, was spicy but not overly hot with chilies.

Overall, the food was plated exquisitely, the flavors were nicely balanced and the experience among the best in the city. Taste of India has moved into my Top 5 Savannah restaurant picks.

Don’t let the strip center storefront be a deterrent – once inside the space takes you to an elegant Indian restaurant with an amazingly complex and authentic menu.

I washed down the meal with Kingfisher lager. The beer is the No. 1 selling beer in India – and for beer geeks, is a throwback to the original, flavor–filled American lagers of the 1960s.

Housemade ice creams – mango and a sweet and savory pistachio–saffron – were refreshing and the perfect palate cleansers for a feast filled with so many flavors.

And yes, it was a feast. Portions of individual dishes are big enough to share and we did, with plenty left to take home.

Owner Sandesh Pardeshi  (Sandy) is the bright young restaurateur behind Taste of India. He also holds an interior design degree from Savannah College of Art and Design. His restaurant skills are evident – and so the design skills that transformed odd shopping complex space into a restaurant that is warm, inviting and uniquely Indian.

He recently expanded the bar by a few feet and added a banquet room capable of hosting more than 150 people for large dinner or dance parties. There is a lunch buffet and full bar service. Delivery is available by

401 Mall Blvd./356–1020/