I was craving Indian food yesterday, so N and I headed over to Charkha on W 9th to give it a shot. Now, I will preface this post by saying that I have VERY high standards when it comes to Indian food. Having grown up eating Indian food at some of the finest Indian restaurants in Mumbai, its completely natural. Most Indian restaurants in Cleveland do not meet these standards, so its all a relative scale.
So far, my top 3 Indian restaurants (and please keep in mind this is personal preference) in Cleveland are:
1. India Garden (Love their Chicken Biryani and naan and their ambiance)
2. India Delight (Chicken Biryani is a close 2nd to India Garden, and their tikka's are pretty good too, but the ambiance is umm, very basic)
3. Cafe Tandoor (I've only been to the East Side location, and while the food is fine, I think the other two are better)
I have NOT yet tried Jaipur Junction, and I've heard that its supposed to be very very good. That's next on my list of places to try.
Anyway, the point of visiting Charkha was to see if it would change the top 3 as it stands right now. N and I checked out menu and were very excited by two things in particular- the house recommended thali, and the dinner for two. Thali literally means plate, and in an Indian restaurant, a thali includes a sampling of the best dishes of the restaurant, a sorta tasting menu, but all on one, very large plate. The samplings come in individual little bowls, and you typically end up trying somewhere between 6-10 different items.
Unfortunately, the Thali and Charkha didn't include as many items as we wanted to try, so we decided on the Non-vegetarian Dinner for Two.
But first, beverages---
The dinner for two came with appetizers: chicken tikka, tandoori chicken and seekh kebabs. The tandoori chicken was not the best I've had, and the presentation was a little odd; typically, kebabs are served with thinly sliced red onions (sometimes these are small pickled bulbs) and limes. This was served with sliced white onions and green peppers. The portion size was appropriate, but I wish they had brought out the naan with this course instead of with the entree course.
So this was our entree. I REALLY like the presentation in the copper containers. As you can see, it was quite a bit of food; a lamb curry, chicken makhani (translation= butter chicken) and paneer with peas.
I really really liked the lamb curry (middle). The chicken makhani was a little too strong on the tomato flavor (its usually less tomato-y in Mumbai) and the paneer was average.
There was also a dessert course, but N and I were so full that we skipped it completely.
Here was the odd part- typically when you eat at an Indian restaurant, at the end of the meal you are presented with a bowl filled with warm water and lemon, and maybe even rose petals. You're supposed to rinse your fingers in the water and rub the lemon to get any grease and curry smells off your fingers. I don't know if they were thrown off because we didn't do the dessert, but there was no bowl!
Overall, I guess I would rate the experience a B-. As I mentioned before, I have very high standards when it comes to Indian restaurants; the mis-steps in presentation and some taste issues (again, personal preference) combined with a just-ok ambience made sure my top 3 remained intact.
Is it worth checking out? Sure. I would probably go back to try the lunch buffet and give it another shot. Interestingly, there's another Indian restaurant opening across from the casino in a few months... I'm very pleased to see more diverse cuisine downtown, and you can be sure I will be putting the new restaurant to the test as well!!