First Taste

Haweli Indian Grill and Bar in Scottsdale: Excellent Naan and Satisfying Korma

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: Haweli Indian Grill and Bar Location: 7000 E. Shea Blvd, Scottsdale Open: Over a month Eats: Indian, Pakistani Price: $20 per person

The intersection of Scottsdale and Shea might be the fastest growing neighborhood in Scottsdale right now. Over the last few months the area's seen quite a number of new restaurants enter the scene, including most recently Haweli Indian Grill and Bar.

The restaurant, owned by Sarwan Singh, takes over a space that one housed a sports bar. Since it closed, the space has sat empty. It's now a spacious, elegant restaurant that moonlights as an upscale banquet hall. The restaurant's lunch and dinner menu is quite extensive, featuring more than 70 different entrees in addition to appetizers, salads, and desserts.

See also: 10 Best Indian Restaurants in Metro Phoenix

Inside, Haweli offers an unanticipated upscale atmosphere (complete with white table cloths and gold satin napkins) that will either be a welcome change or slightly strange, depending on your feelings about fine dining. For context, it helps to know that "haweli" is a Hindu word meaning "private residence" or "mansion." There's a long bar on one end of the room, as well as a patio out front with its own outdoor bar.

Every day during lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., there will be a buffet set up against one of the walls, though you'll still have the option to order off the regular menu as we opted to do.

We started our meal with the Non-Vegetarian Assorted Snacks ($6.99), a variety of meat-based appetizers. The menu description promised two wings tandoori, one meat samosa, two chicken pakora, and one seekh kabob, though we realized later that the meat samosa didn't arrive.

On the upside, everything that made it to the table was quite good. The wings tandoori, baked in a clay oven, were moist and flavorful, just spicy enough to satisfy without being overpowering. Even better was the flavorful seekh kabob, made with minced beef, onions, herbs, and spices. The chicken pakora, or batter fried boneless chicken, ended up being the least impressive of the trio. They both fell flat in the flavor department and were too greasy to be enjoyably, even with the benefit of the accompanying chutney.

For entrees, we chose the Tandoori Mixed Grill and Lamb Korma -- though whatever dish you're craving you're likely to find on the giant Haweli menu. Our friendly server tried to offer a few suggestions (including Butter Chicken, which isn't even listed on the menu but is servered), however with such wide variety, it's still hard to choose.

The Lamb Korma ($13.99) was loaded with small chunks of moist meat that's slow cooked in a yogurt-based sauce. The dish offered only mild heat but was packed with flavor thanks to the inclusion of nuts, herbs, and spices. The yogurt makes this an extra creamy dish, with a nice thickness from the nuts. Close your eyes and you might imagine you're eating it in your Indian grandmother's kitchen -- whether you have one or not.

You'll want pieces of Haweli's deicous made-to-order naan to sop up the extra sauce -- though to be fair, a side of rice will also suffice. Since the menu is completely a la carte you'll have to order both in addition to your main dish, but the naan is definitely worth the extra bucks. Haweli serves 14 different types of breads (including naan, roti, bhtura, and puri) but the simple naan or garlic variety are both quite good. They're made to order and arrive piping hot with dark spots and steaming pockets of air.

Unfortunately like our appetizer, the Tandori Mixed Grill ($13.99) was also missing one of the elements listed on the menu. We asked our server if the dish was supposed to come with shrimp (as listed) and he assured us it was not. Perhaps the menu needs to be corrected? Either way it was more than enough food.

There were pieces of bone-in chicken wings and thighs, as well as minced lamb cooked in herbs and spices over a bed of grilled onions and peppers. All of the meat was cooked in a traditional clay oven and was both moist and flavorful -- in particular the lamb kabob, which was one of the best versions we've tried.

Our server was quite attentive, though not exceptionally knowledgeable about the menu. We would have appreciated if he'd been more familiar with the dishes as listed.

Considering the upscale atmosphere and generous portions, we did feel the price point was fair and once the food consistently matches what diners are expecting based on the menu, we think there will be little for anyone to complain about here. Provided Haweli irons out the kinks over the next few months, they stand to be a solid addition to the neighborhood.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria