by Eric Ginsburg
“God I want Indian food,” my friend who lives in Winston-Salem recently posted. “Anyone want to drive with me to Greensboro?”
It’s true, Greensboro is home to a handful of strong Indian restaurants, including the formidable Saffron, but there’s at least one place in Winston-Salem providing excellent — and affordable — Indian cuisine.
Most of the blinds at Golden India were drawn at lunchtime, shielding diners from a bright noonday sun and a rather unattractive view of the Reynolda Manor Shopping Center. Purple walls, tablecloths and chairs added to the cool, shaded vibe, but brightly colored sauces and curries lit up the room.
Golden India’s menu lists a number of chicken, lamb, seafood and bread specialties, but the largest section is dedicated to vegetarian food. Never in the eight years I was vegetarian did I see a list of 19 meatless entrée options in a restaurant that wasn’t exclusively vegetarian.
During those bygone years of my life I developed a deep and abiding love for malai kofta — an Indian dish of vegetarian meatballs in a thick, flavorful sauce that includes coriander, cumin and ginger. Even after returning to a carnivorous lifestyle five years ago, it’s still rare to see me pick anything else.
But the way to go at Golden India, and probably any Indian restaurant that isn’t serving a buffet, is to eat family style. That’s what Kelly —the newest member of our team — and I did on a recent distribution break.
Lucky for me, the malai kofta and my other all-time favorite Indian dish, chicken tikka masala, were among the dozen items on the restaurant’s $6 lunch menu. Many of the other choice — mutter paneer, navrattan curry, dal makhani, aloo matter, saag paneer and a few more chicken options — hail from Punjab or northern India.
The tikka masala and malai kofta arrived in oblong metal bowls alongside separate helpings of white rice and an unexpected plate of naan. Still soft, the naan fell towards the more crackery end of the spectrum as opposed to its more pillowy cousin at other restaurants, nicely complementing the malai kofta in particular.
Here the malai kofta looks more like links of sausage than the more common meatball appearance, but the shape had no impact on the quality of its taste. I haven’t found an Indian restaurant in the Triad that can do it better, though most places provide three pieces to Golden India’s two. But given the very reasonable — almost too reasonable — price, it’s more than worth it.
Despite the malai kofta’s excellence, I’m left thinking about the chicken tikka masala. The roasted chicken arrived with the perfect tenderness, basking in a creamy, reddish sauce with a wonderful lingering spice that put it a hair above its competitors in the area.
Both dishes also came with enough of their delicious sauces to justify the dollar expenditure for some extra rice.
We took advantage of the appetizer menu too, opting for lamb-filled samosas that tasted best with a sweet and sour sauce brought out as accompaniment. Maybe it’s a hangover from my vegetarian days, but I found myself wishing we ordered vegetable samosas instead despite its satisfying taste.
As if that wasn’t enough, Golden India also houses a small grocery. There’s Bombay Bhel snack food, Tiger biscuits and fresh vegetables that arrive every Thursday . As the week passes, a plethora of interesting options including guwar beans, green raw mango, cilantro, Chinese eggplant, tindora and something called “finger hot” are prone to run out.
No worries: the casual Indian restaurant is still open daily for lunch and dinner, and believe it or not, Golden India is in Winston-Salem.