When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Marigold Maison Location: 4720 E. Cactus Rd., D118 Open: About two weeks Eats: Indian Price: $25+ per person
Marigold Maison could be considered a reincarnation of the original Bombay Spice Grill restaurant located at 10810 N. Tatum Boulevard in Paradise Valley. That restaurant closed and relocated under the same name at 4720 E. Cactus Road last summer, also transforming from a full service restaurant into a fast-casual, quick service spot at that time.
Now owner JNK Concepts has gotten rid of the Bombay Spice name and gone back to a full-service restaurant concept. It's billing Marigold Maison as an expanded version of Bombay Spice.
The restaurant, which is tucked into the side of a north Phoenix strip mall, still feels slightly like its former self. Yes, the dining room is handsomely decorated with murals and hanging lanterns; it also features an open kitchen clearly designed for a quick-service concept. In the end it's not enough to spoil the atmosphere, but does take away from the attempt to make this an upscale dining spot. The introduction of table clothes and full table settings (wine glasses, cloth napkins, and all) do something to help.
The restaurant offers a small but acceptable selection of wines by the glass and bottle, as well as beers, three cocktails, and five homemade natural refreshments.
We tried the Chai-Carumba ($8), a concoction of spiced whiskey, chai tea, coconut milk, and tamarind. The flavor and texture of fell somewhere between a Thai iced tea and an Irish coffee - and your opinion on this drink's success will hinge entirely on your thoughts about those two drinks. Particularly, the idea of blending them together into one glass.
The Nimbu Pani ($5) probably has wider appeal. Made with fresh squeezed limejuice and ginger cardamom infused lemon syrup, this made for a refreshing drink best described as spiced limeade. Though not bad, it probably sounds better on paper than in practice. For the safest bets, we'd recommend sticking with beer and wine.
About a third of the restaurant's food menu is dedicated to starters and shareable plates including a section of Street Food and South Indian Specialties. And though it's tempting to go for familiar options like Samosa or Chickpea Hummus, taking a risk on something new will probably be more rewarding.
At least that's the case with the Samosa ($5) and the Samosa Chaat ($8). While Marigold Maison's Samosa was a satisfying starter, the better option is to go for latter choice. The savory snack is common Indian street food made of pieces of samosa smothered in yogurt, chickpea, onions, tomato, and cilantro. It looks like a hot mess when arriving at your table, but the contrasting flavors and textures are a real delight.
And if you've never had a dosa, Marigold Maision offers a version that may not be the best in town, but is nevertheless good for your first try. The Masala Dosa ($9) arrives propped up like an edible tent under which you'll find a spiced mixture of potatoes and onions. It's best to enjoy this dish with your hands, breaking off pieces of the crispy crepe and using them to scoop up the filling.
By this time, though, you'd better have ordered your entrees. If not you may find yourself waiting quite some time for them to arrive. We placed our orders while finishing our appetizes and waited at least 40 minutes after that for the next course to arrive. The service during our lengthy meal zigzagged between being overly zealous and mildly inattentive; it seems like the staff may still be finding their legs.
From the selection of Tandori Specialties, we tried an order of Tandori Shrimp ($15). The generous serving of grilled butter flied jumbo shrimp were well seasoned with spices including chipotle and tamarind, but felt a little dry compared to the other dishes. Served with a side of basmati rice, this dish seemed to be begging for a side of sauce.
The restaurant's rendition of Chicken Tikka Malasa ($15) is mild, but enjoyable. The dish offers a nice balance of flavors including tomato, cream, and fenugreek and the creamy texture makes it perfect for dipping pieces of Spice Naan ($4), which -- despite what our server says -- are indeed quite spicy. The bread comes sprinkled with chili flakes and cilantro, begging for it to be cooled in creamy curry.
The most memorable dish we tried came from the vegetarian portion of the menu. Marigold Maison's Mutter Paneer ($14) offered a perfectly balanced curry of tomato, ginger, onion, and cream that was studded with bright green snow peas and hunks of paneer. The unaged cheese has a delicate, milky flavor and texture reminiscent of tofu making this a light but filling dish that's far from short on flavor.
Each of the entrée comes with one piece of tandori bread. But unless you're not planning on enjoying any of the entrée's rich curry sauce, you're going to need to more. The regular Naan ($2) will showcase beautiful black charred bubbles and a perfectly airy texture. But the Garlic Naan ($4), dressed with garlic, cilantro, and olive oil is also a very good option.
Service issues aside, Marigold Maison seems poised to do well in its north Phoenix neighborhood. The menu offers a wide variety of regional specialties in a way that makes Indian cuisine feel immediately accessible. The price point may exclude it from being an everyday dining spot, but for a quality and portion of food the value feels right.