Situated on South Memorial among such fast food favorites as Sonic, McDonald's and Quizno's quietly sits Kolam Innovative Indian Cuisine, vying for attention on this highly trafficked street.
The building is plainly decorated with no flashy neon to draw attention. The inside is serene and quiet. A "kolam," as the menu educates, "is a South Indian design consisting of a single, continuous line composed of curved loops drawn around a pattern of dots." Moreover, it can be said that in years past, the South Indian tradition of drawing kolams were drawn in coarse rice flour, so that ants do not have to work so hard for a meal. Additionally, the rice powder would invite birds and other small animals to eat it, with the purpose of inviting other beings into one's home and everyday life--a tribute to harmonious existence.
Kolam is an inviting place, as diners are brought into the world of Indian cuisine. Lunch at Kolam is buffet style, with an extensive sampling of items also found on the dinner menu. A friend and I lunched here recently and found both the atmosphere and cuisine a welcoming blend.
The dining room is small, and a number of tables were occupied on this Monday, a traditionally slow day for restaurants. The buffet on weekdays is very reasonable at $7.95; on Saturday and Sunday, $9.95. Manager Senthil Gopal said that while the weekday buffet is extensive, on weekends, guests have additional options of Indian dishes not featured during the week. He and his partner/chef Kiehore, have worked closely in preparing the dishes on the menu.
Gopal said, "Business has been very good in the past three months of opening. Among our diners, we have many Indian people who dine here," enjoying their traditional fare.
Gopal, who has been in the United States for about eight years now, has been in the restaurant management business for years, in India and the States (Dallas, Chicago and New Jersey).
My friend and I did not take long to load up our plates with a full sampling of buffet offerings. We both began with soups. I tried the Rasam, a hot and spicy soup made from tamarind, tomato and black pepper, and my friend tried the Cream of Mushroom. Tamarind is a bittersweet spice made by drying and pressing the pulp from the fruit of the tamarind tree native to Asia and northern Africa.
The Mushroom soup was the perfect contrast to the Rasam, for it was very mild, creamy and tame. The Rasam, on the other hand, was a brothy, spicy, hot soup, with distinct depth of flavor. I recommend dipping the Naan bread into the soup.
Other foods I sampled from the buffet were the Spinach Pakora (spinach leaves dipped in chickpea batter and deep-fried), Channa Masala Curry (garbanzo beans cooked in onion and tomato gravy), Chicken Tandoori (bone-in chicken marinated overnight then baked in a Tandoor oven, which is used to bake foods over direct heat produced from a smoky fire), Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless chicken cooked in Tandoor and served with cream of tomato sauce) and Basmati Rice Pilaf (basmati rice seasoned with aromatic spices).
Of all these dishes, my friend and I enjoyed the Chicken Tikka (Tikka means pieces or chunks) Masala the best.
The cream of tomato sauce was very flavorful. Some of the common ingredients in this sauce include tomatoes, tomato paste and puree, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chilies, red chili powder, cloves, cardamom, butter, cream, fenugreek (a slightly bitter yet sweet seed from an aromatic plant native to Asia and southern Europe) and honey. Many of the sauces are great by themselves, but can also be eaten on top of the Rice Pilaf.
The buffet also had a simple salad selection, which I skipped, but I did try the dessert, the Rice Khee, a traditional rice pudding cooked slowly for three to four hours in milk, then sweetened with condensed milk and garnished with nuts and raisins. This was so good, I had a second helping.
Also, what I enjoy about Indian cuisine is the Tandoor Breads. Gopal said I need to return to try Kolam's Signature Naan, which is stuffed with fruits and nuts. Other favorites on the menu include Garlic Naan and Onion Naan. The dough for this Indian bread is traditionally slapped directly onto the oven's clay walls and left to bake until puffy and lightly browned.
Gopal said while the buffet is good for a sampling of Kolam's dishes, the dinner menu is the time to sample some of the signature specialties, such as the Chicken Vindalooa (a very popular item), Kolam's Signature Chicken Curry and the Seafood Entrees. The menu is quite extensive, with appetizers, soups, Tandoor breads, vegetarian entrees, Tandoor specialties, South Indian specialties, Chinese wok specialties, Indo-Chinese specialties, rice specialties and desserts. In addition, Gopal said the drink, Mango Lassi, is a must try menu item.
Kolam Innovative Indian Cuisine
4844 S. Memorial Dr.
Mon.-Fri. 11am-2:30pm; 5-10pm
Sat.-Sun. 11:30am-3pm; 5-10pm
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