The Place: North Beach is home to the third location of Taste Buds, with other outlets in South Miami and Coral Springs. The décor is simple, with mostly white walls and one dark reddish-purple accent wall with framed small sculptures of various Indian gods and goddesses. Pale peach-colored tablecloths are a nice touch. Each table gets two glasses filled with colored water and a fresh flower, and plates come scattered with a few red rose petals. It’s a place to go for food, not an upscale atmosphere, but the scents of spices wafting through makes things pleasant.
The History: Chef-owner Arvind Kumar is from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), where he went to the International Institute of Hotel Management. He did a one-year internship at the Grand America Hotel and Resort in Salt Lake City, then worked at a restaurant in New York. He came to Miami in 2009 and cooked at Saffron on Key Biscayne before opening his first Taste Buds in Coral Springs. He is inspired by ayurvedic principals of balancing sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent flavors in a meal based on regional traditions from around India — from the Punjab in the north to Hyderabad in the south.
The Food: Food here is based on solid classics, not fusion fare. Daawat Tandoori brings a feast of meats, seafood and paneer cheese and mushrooms cooked on the sides of a clay tandoor oven that imparts an earthy, smoky flavor good with butter or garlic naan. There’s also Kashmiri naan stuffed with nuts and raisins, leavened onion kulcha bread and whole wheat griddled paratha (flatbread). While rice is the staple in the south of India, the Punjab is India’s breadbasket, so bread is the staple. Chaat means “to lick” and refers to Indian-style street foods like dahi sev puri, crisp bread puffs stuffed with potato, yogurt and tangy chutneys best popped in the mouth whole. Aloo tikki chaat are potato cutlets made with chickpea flour and mashed potato with mint and peas topped with chickpeas, onion, tomato, yogurt and tart tamarind chutney. Entrees include a large variety of vegetarian dishes, from baby eggplant in peanut sesame hot sauce to navratan (“nine gems”), a mix of vegetables in a spicy nut and cream sauce. There’s also chicken Madras cooked in coconut milk; lamb Rogan Josh, Goan shrimp vindaloo, lobster masala; whole tandoori red snapper and stir-fried Indo-Chinese Hakka noodles with vegetables and soy sauce. Cool the spice with mango mousse, which is like sweet lassi in a bowl.
You Didn’t Know This: There is a community of Hans Hakka Chinese in Kolkata that settled there a century ago, coming from regions bordering the Yellow River in the northern provinces. About 2,000 strong, they reside in the only Chinatown in India in the Tangra section of the city. Hakka people have migrated all over the world, including Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Europe and Australia. Indo-Chinese cuisine is an adaption of Chinese seasoning and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. Manchurian is a sweet salty brown sauce various vegetables are cooked in — especially gobi (cauliflower).
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If You Go
Place: Taste Buds of India Authentic Indian Cuisine
Address: 946 Normandy Dr., Miami Beach
Hours: Noon-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday for lunch; 5-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for dinner.
Prices: Appetizers $5.95-$14.95, chaat $6.95-$9.95, breads $3.95-$9.95, entrees $12.95-$27.95, desserts $4.95-$6.95