After operating restaurants throughout the Northeast, Vikas Sadasivan was drawn to South Florida's temperate climate. In April 2016, when Sadasivan opened Boca Indian Grill in Mission Bay Plaza, you could hear Boca Ratonians breathe a sigh of relief. No longer would they need to make the trek to Sadasivan's first Florida restaurant, Chutney & Pickles in Coral Springs. Chutney & Pickles opened in 2011 and enjoyed a five-year run before closing last year. An opportunity and desirable location was enough to entice Sadasivan and focus his efforts on Boca Indian Grill, to the delight of his regular clientele.
Indian motifs of elephants, giraffes and carved wood decorate the cozy dining room, which offers seating at 10 booths and tables. A loop of a Bollywood dance video plays on a single screen, creating background music. As we looked over the extensive menu, we nibbled on complimentary papadum served with the traditional trio of chutneys: onion, tamarind and cilantro. Our meal started with a pair of vegetable samosas ($5). The crispy, fried, triangular pastries — stuffed with a mixture of potato, onion and peas and flavored with cumin seed — had a pleasant hint of heat. Sauteed onion and green peppers topped a plate of delicious Gobi Manchurian ($8). A light batter and tangy Manchurian sauce covered the cauliflower appetizer. Golden-brown wedges of warm garlic naan ($4), the Indian flatbread, are brushed with ghee.
I am drawn to the bold flavors and variety Indian cuisine offers. There is something for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores alike. A vegetarian saag paneer ($14) is a rich, buttery rendition of the classic spinach dish with homemade cottage cheese.
Not noted on the menu, the slow-cooked black lentils with garlic, ginger, coriander that make up the maa ki dal ($10) proved to be too spicy for our liking. Cinnamon bark and fenugreek infused the decadent lamb korma ($17), tender chunks of meat stewed in a creamy cashew sauce. A tasty, coconut-milk-based sauce loaded with flavors from curry leaves, mustard seeds and chili peppers wasn't enough to mask the overcooked Coondapur chicken ($15) served with potatoes.
Meatless options include favorites such as vegetable korma ($13), with homemade paneer and cashew sauce, and baingan bharta ($13), featuring smoked eggplant with tomato, cumin and coriander. Vegans can savor selections of lentils, chickpeas, potato and cauliflower specialties ($10-$12). More than a dozen chicken and lamb dishes ($13- $22) include tandoori, biriyani, tikka masala and madras. Bengal shrimp and coconut sauce in chingri malai curry ($18) and salmon curry ($17) with tamarind highlight seafood choices. For adventurers wanting to experience real heat, consider the shrimp, chicken, lamb or vegetable vindaloos ($12-$18).
We capped off our dinner with a serving of semiya payasam ($5), a traditional dessert special of the night. Made with vermicelli, cashews and raisins, the warm, milk-based pudding was scented with cardamom. Unlike ice cream as we know it, malai pista kulfi ($5), the Indian version of pistachio ice cream, is milk-based, made without eggs and not churned. The results are a dense frozen dessert that is creamy with a bit of graininess. Indian Grill's recipe balances sweetness and adds a touch of rose water. It provides a nice, sweet finish while taming any residual heat from the meal.
Our server exemplified the warm hospitality Indian culture is known for, providing thoughtful menu suggestions and well-timed service. All the dishes offer varying levels of spice. Some menu choices, such as the vindaloos, designate heat levels, while others do not. For sensitivities, you may want to play it safe and specify.
Boca Indian Grill
Mission Bay Plaza, 20449 N. State Road 7, Boca Raton
561- 465-3446, BocaIndianGrill.com
Hours: Lunch buffet and dinner seven days
Reservations: Not accepted due to limited seating
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Not designated
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Kids: Highchairs. No printed menu. Verbal options grilled chicken, nuggets with french fries and mango chicken.