Clandestine Curry

A Taj Mahal of tasty Indian treats is hidden in the Best Western on Central

No doubt the size of that buffet will increase as more people downtown learn of its availability and affordability. (DCG, you see, has yet to do much advertising, and remains mysteriously diffident about its Indian edibles.) After all, it's only $6.95 for all you can eat, an incredible bargain that will leave you contentedly undoing the top button of your britches afterward. But even if you can't make it to the buffet, all of the items above are included on the menu.

When it comes to appetizers, I'm a fan of Mr. Prem's meat samosas, which are a little greasy, but in a good way. And his mulligatawny soup is a must. This Anglo-Indian creation predates the British occupation when it was, as its name suggests, "pepper-water," but according to most sources, the British influence helped turn it into an actual soup. Recipes vary, but Mr. Prem's includes peppercorns, lentils, tomato, various spices and bits of chicken in a mélange so piquant it could double for Claritin when it comes to clearing nasal passages.

For a main course, try the chicken tikka masala, chicken korma or the lamb biryani, if you're like me and love lamb. A biryani is a sort of Indian fried rice, similar to Chinese fried rice or a Persian pilau. DCG's lamb biryani (there are vegetarian, chicken, shrimp and other types available, too) includes chunks of tender lamb, raisins, sliced almonds, onion, tomato and green peas, as well as spices such as cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger. It's as savory as any I had during my numerous lost weekends on Lexington.

From Nepal with love: Our Himalayan hero Mr. Prem brings Indian cuisine back to downtown.
Jackie Mercandetti
From Nepal with love: Our Himalayan hero Mr. Prem brings Indian cuisine back to downtown.


Meat samosa: $2.95
Chicken korma: $8.95
Lamb biryani: $8.95
Lal mohan: $2.50

602-252-2100. Hours: American breakfast only, Monday through Sunday, 7 to 11 a.m.; American and Indian lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; American and Indian dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Indian buffet only, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

1100 North Central Avenue (Best Western Hotel)

The chicken korma is creamy and yellowish, made of onion gravy with coconut powder and cilantro over thick pieces of white chicken, very mild and delicious, and perfect for beginners. And everyone adores chicken tikka masala, which is probably the most popular Indian dish in the world, with tandoori-baked chicken in a thick vermilion-colored sauce with onions, tomatoes and almonds. As with all the dishes, the level of spiciness is up to the customer, but a side order of raita, or yogurt sauce, will ensure that you can moderate any spiciness with a tablespoon or three of same.

There are several Indian beers available: Himalayan Blue, Flying Horse, and the ever-popular Kingfisher. However, if you're unfortunate enough to be a teetotaler or are just in the mood for a nonalcoholic treat, order one of Mr. Prem's lassis, those rich Indian yogurt smoothies. My favorite is the mango lassi, which at DCG is dark orange from the mango and nearly of milk shake consistency.

Interestingly, Mr. Prem is actually from Nepal, and has worked all over the world in various hotels and restaurants. He's an amiable chap, who'll tell you all about how he used to climb mountains barefoot when he was a kid, and never even put on a pair of shoes until he was 18. He used to run the now-defunct Bombay Grill on Van Buren, so he knows a thing or two about Indian cuisine, and he tells me that having a double menu like he does -- and in a hotel beanery to boot -- is a way to meet the rent and give denizens of central Phoenix what we crave: a Taj Mahal of tasty Indian treats to call our own.

"Every day it's getting better and better," says Mr. Prem, whose name means "love" in Nepali. "People are looking for Indian food, and now they don't have to drive far away to find it."


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