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Elaine and Scott Harris

Indian Cuisine Raises the International Culinary Bar in Las Vegas

Staff Writer
Where to eat (and learn about) Indian cuisine

With a growing Indian population in Las Vegas along with a vibrant interest in vegetarian and vegan options in dining, several new restaurants have opened up within the past year. We visited two of the city’s more popular to understand what’s new in this popular cuisine. Turmeric Flavors of India and Urban Turban have joined the list of those choices with true ethnic flavors, innovative dishes, and even cooking classes.

Turmeric Flavors of India, across from the Container Park in Downtown, is offering up well-executed and elevated Indian cuisine. A causal spot with lots of windows and an outdoor upstairs patio perfect for live music, this is a hip and happening spot to catch a bite to eat and watch all the tourists and locals.

The menu begins with aloo tikki chaat: spicy potato cakes augmented with tangy garbanzos with tamarind, cilantro, chutney, and sweet yogurt. As a main course, consider the lamb rack, a classic Tandoori marinated lamb served with a delightful, piquant corn sauce complemented with pulao rice and pickled veggies. The tandoori platter is a good choice to share a variety of items including pickled king tiger shrimp, malai chicken tikka, minced lamb seekh kabab, lamb chops, and dill and honey mustard salmon. A family-style curry pot is another great option for sharing with adventurous friends. The Madras curry is thoroughly blended with coconut milk, curry leaf, and fennel seeds and is one of the many crowd-pleasing menu options. Finish the meal with the berry and ginger crumble, which uses seasonal berries and is topped with vanilla ice cream.

Indian food, in general, tends toward spicy, and to cool those fiery sensations, try the spiked mango lassi with Banks 5 Island Rum, mango nectar, and yogurt liquor, topped off with ginger beer and a hint of cardamom. Bottled beer, wines, and specialty cocktails are also available to ease the spiciness of this rich and sumptuous cuisine. Sharing a healthy and interesting meal with friends in the heart of the Las Vegas Downtown area is welcomed day or night, and Turmeric Flavors of India fills that niche just beautifully.

Urban Turban, a newer Indian restaurant near the Strip, now offers cooking classes on the techniques and flavors of popular Indian dishes. Chef Tarun Kapoor provides demonstrations and an appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $40 per person.

Kapoor spent years honing his culinary skills after graduating from the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management in Pusa, India, including work in the cruise line industry and at five-star hotels. He’s been honored with accolades including MasterChef 2010 and Chef of the Year 2011 (both from the India division of the World Association of Chefs Societies) and Senior Chef Qatar 2013, and has been recognized as an Accredited Culinary Judge by the World Association of Chef Societies. He used his dynamic skills to garner the Best Ethnic Food distinction from the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Best of Las Vegas 2016.

Kapoor demonstrates his culinary prowess in these well-attended cooking classes. His specialty is Northern Indian cuisine, and his favorite personal dish to prepare is butter chicken royal with edible silver. We watched with rapt attention as he went through each step in preparing this laudable dish. He placed each piece of prepared chicken onto the large metal skewer and then he lowered the protein into the 600-degree tandoor oven. A tandoor is essentially a very large clay pot, often standing shoulder high. The sides of the oven curve inwards towards a centralized exhaust hole and are designed to provide very high, dry heat. The chef showed us how the hairs on his arm have been eliminated by the extreme heat from all the years of cooking with the tandoor.

As the chicken cooked in the tandoor, Kapoor quickly whisked yogurt into an amber sauce infused with garam masala, coriander, and other spices that will embellish the tandoori chicken. After finishing up the sauce, he checked on the chicken, which was extracted from the extremely hot metal and placed into the now-simmering sauce. Once it was plated, the chef applied the finishing garnish, an ultra-thin sheet of edible silver, artistically across the dish to give the dish its “royal” touch. We eagerly took a bite of this piping hot, sumptuous dish, which was fork-tender with a delectable, rich, satiny-smooth butter sauce. Not only did we have the pleasure of eating the dish — we enjoyed the opportunity to learn it from a Master Chef, and we’re now able to use the techniques in our home kitchen.

To experience a cooking class from one of the best chefs of Indian cuisine, make your reservation in advance, because classes fill up quickly.

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