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: Inde Fusion
Location: 7704 East Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale
Open: About a month
Eats: Indian fusion
Price: $15 to $20/person
Thanks to the culinary missteps of three decades ago, "fusion" is pretty much a taboo word in today's restaurant kitchens. It conjures mental images of sesame-crusted tuna and Mexican-meets-Asian tacos, the kind of fare that might have seemed interesting in the '80s but now tends to feel nothing but trite.
So, when you think about it, it's bold of owner Rupesh Shetty to drop the f-word in the name of his recently opened Scottsdale restaurant. The saving grace is that Inde Fusion doesn't fall into the the trap of trying too hard to pass two cuisines off as one. The pairings here are, for the most part, easy to understand — and might even make India's bold, bright cuisine a bit more approachable to Gainey Ranch's martini and steak-loving crowds.
Starters include Szechwan chicken lollipops (apparently, we're still serving chicken on sticks like it's a novel thing) and salmon croquettes, as well as some more interesting dishes like Kofta peppers, jalapeño peppers stuffed with meats usually used to make Afghan meatballs. We started out simple with the order of Masala fries ($5), a sizable bowl of fries tossed in curry spices and served with a side of Sriracha aioli. Each fry came cooked to a perfect crisp with an airy inside and the fragrant spices and addicting heat of the dipping sauce ensured we'd almost finished the entire order before our entrees arrived.
The menu at the well-appointed restaurant — the recently redone space feels quite luxe, with tufted booths, elaborate light fixtures, and a water feature on the wall behind the bar — offers entrées ranging in price from $9 for a set of three tandoori chicken tacos to $25 for cumin-rubbed lambchops. We tried an order of the former, which meant three flour tortillas loaded with shredded romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Sriracha aioli, and cilantro. Hunks of tender, marinated chicken starred, contributing a nice depth of flavor to the large tacos.
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More interesting was the Kashmiri Ravioli ($15), a set of six half-moon ravioli stuffed with fragrant spiced lamb. Over the top came a hearty, rogan josh sauce, an Indian curry usually paired with lamb. With cumin, pepper, chiles, tomato, and more, the sauce was deep with flavor, if not the most appetizing shade of red-brown. Most noticeable was the aromatic cardamom, making this a comforting and elegant take on the classic lamb rogan josh preparation. Our only complaint here: several of the ravioli were undercooked.
Our favorite dish of the night was also the most simple, a dish of fried basmati rice tossed with vegetables, egg, and paneer, a fresh South Asian cheese. The generous serving benefitted from soy sauce, fish and oyster sauces, and a masala spice mix, making this an impressively complex take on typical fried rice. What's more, the light, fluffy texture of the basmati made from moist fried rice, didn't weight us down, even at the end of a lengthy meal.
With traditional Indian flavors packaged in approachable ways, Inde Fusion is easy to like. This may not be a destination for culinary innovation — but then again, who's to say making a burger bun out of ramen noodles is anymore interesting than topping ravioli with curry? We'll be back to try more of Inde Fusion's menu. And for another order of those malsala fries.