There’s a new Indian food player on the Greensboro scene, coming direct from Burlington, NC, of all places. And you need to try it.
I can’t say I’ve ever treated Burlington as much more than a place to stop for gas on my way to the Triangle, dismissing it out of hand as a forgettable pass-thru town between the Triad and points east. Much, I expect, the way Durhamites and Raleighers assume Greensboro is a downtrodden, underwhelming blue-collar city without much to offer. I’ve known those nose-up Triangleophiles were wrong for more than a decade now, but I didn’t question my presumptions about Burlington until a friend moved out that way and started posting colorful photos on Instagram of the Indian food she and her husband have come to love.
Where, I demanded to know in the comments, is this food?
With the opening of Taaza Indian Bistro’s second location, the answer now is West Wendover Avenue out by Bridford Parkway.
Located in one of those remarkably bland shopping centers — save for the tasty food next door at my favorite Greensboro fast-Chinese joints, Golden Wok — the inside of Taaza II is dazzlingly attractive compared to its surroundings. Though the façade gives nothing away, the interior projects the vibe of a fancy dinner spot thanks to high ceilings and an investment in the bar, seating and décor.
Despite a lunchtime throng that had already discovered it, Taaza remained relatively quiet during a recent lunch buffet, though the sounds of a cricket match on a solo television played in the corner by the bar.
For those who remember the lunch buffet at India Palace on Tate Street, this is an entirely different experience, like riding business class on an international flight instead of flying on a cargo liner. The variety is remarkable, dwarfing most local competitors with an assortment of vegetarian and meat-filled items (mostly chicken). Naan is brought directly and automatically to the table, and service is attentive and swift.
If you come for the buffet, make it a point to experience an array of options, from small-bite snacks like the onion bonda — similar to a fried veggie fritter — to the chicken biryani mixed-rice dish. Try gulab jamun, a popular Indian dessert ball — sort of like a donut hole — that’s fried yet soft and gooey thanks to a sugary syrup. Skip the salt & pepper chicken in favor of the chicken tikka masala or the curry chicken. Check out the kadai paneer and the chickpea-based and heavily seasoned chana masala, especially if you’re a vegetarian. Sample the tomato chutney, and throw a bite of whatever else looks good on a plate, too.
The regular menu at Taaza brags even more choices than the buffet, including nattu kozhi varuval — roasted Cornish hen sautéed with south Indian spices — lamb chops masala, spiced coconut curry fish dish meen moilee and any one of the dozen vegetarian entrees including Peshwari koft — potato croquettes with cottage cheese, nuts and dried fruits braised in a rich cream sauce.
Taaza provides 10 charcoal clay-oven specials, including Lucknowi lamb chops marinated with yogurt, tandoor spices and papaya. Lucknow is the capital of the northern Indian state Uttar Pradesh, but Taaza actually highlights its south Indian cuisine on the menu, especially a lineup of dosas. Never had one? Imagine the most delicious savory crepe you’ve ever had, but often bigger and with a tougher, fermented casing often stuffed with potatoes, spices and other veggies.
I haven’t found dosas on the menu at other Indian restaurants in the Triad — that goes for Saffron, Tandoor, Agni, Nawab, Golden India and Masala — though I’ll gladly vouch for the ones at Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in Chapel Hill.
That’s part of what makes Taaza’s presence in Greensboro so exciting. It’s not just the Insta-worthiness of the food, or the satisfying taste, but also the genuine addition of something new to the area’s culinary scene.
Visit Taaza Indian Bistro at 1216 Bridford Pkwy. (GSO) or at taazabistro.com.