I've completely given up on getting The Grub Spouse to appreciate Indian cuisine. On the other hand, it's one of my absolute favorites, so when I spotted the new Dawat Indian Restaurant on Kingston Pike (where Owens Turkey Restaurant used to be), I gleefully moved it up to the number one spot on my restaurant to-do list. We (one of us halfheartedly) stopped in on a recent weeknight to give Dawat a culinary once-over.
That Indian spice-palette smell invaded our nostrils as soon as we hit the door. We were taken to a booth in the modestly sized dining room and put in a beverage order. The proprietors informed us that their server was running late, so the two owners took up the slack.
The menu isn't as extensive as other area Indian eateries I've visited, but it still offers a representative sampling of the cuisine's most popular and familiar dishes. You could start with coconut or lentil soup or go for one of the more substantive appetizers, such as their many varieties of batter-fried pakoras, samosa (turnovers) or chicken kabab.
We passed on a starter, although they did bring us a sample order of papadum — crispy, deep-fried lentil wafers.
The menu's remaining categories include chicken, fish and other proteins prepared in clay tandoor ovens as well as biryani entrees — dishes based around basmati rice. The lamb biryani sounded very appealing to me: saffron-flavored rice cooked with pieces of lamb, nuts, eggs, mixed vegetables and raisins in a spice blend.
The Spouse perused the other sections, which offer up chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetable specialties. Examples include chicken curry, chicken vindaloo, lamb sagwala, fish masala and dal tarka — assorted lentils cooked with onions, tomatoes and garlic gravy. The Spouse chose the chicken korma, which features boneless chicken chunks cooked in a creamy sauce with almonds and dried nuts.
Our server asked about our spiciness preferences. I said, "Hit me," while The Spouse opted for the least amount of spiciness in the korma. We also tacked on an order of nan (bread). Dawat offers several varieties, including whole wheat and white flour. We went with the white-flour garlic nan.
Our entrees arrived within a reasonable period of time, and I could tell immediately that to-go boxes would be in order. In fact, we got another entire meal out of our leftovers, which helped stretch our $16 and $14 entrees a little further. Overall, I think Dawat's prices are on the steep side, but at least they made up for price with a decent value when you factor in portions.
Speaking purely as an Indian-food fan, I can say that I was pleased with everything we ordered. I liked the addition of the almond slivers in both dishes, which I hadn't encountered in other restaurants' versions of the same items. And the respective spice combinations in our meals were pungently satisfying. The Spouse's minimally spicy korma was still zippy, and my extra-spicy biryani truly packed a wallop.
The only negative in my book was that there could have been more chunks of lamb, and one or two pieces of what I did eat were a little too gristly for my taste. But the chicken in the korma — one of my Indian favorites — was delish.
So if you're into Indian food, give this new eatery a try. You may think Dawat's food is da' bomb.
Address: 10420 Kingston Pike
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Fridays; 12 to 3 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays
BYOB alcohol; license pending
Bottom Line: This new Indian-food restaurant serves up a tasty sampling of spicy eastern cuisine.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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