Food

Naan & Brew

Sampling the flavors of India

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On a recent Saturday afternoon, my significant other was still in his bathrobe, curled up on the bed with a cat in one hand and a book in the other. From his prone position, he mused about the voracious hunger that had suddenly overtaken him.

But directly after I hung up the phone with Naan & Brew and informed him the new Indian restaurant I’d heard great things about did indeed offer its $9.99 lunch buffet from 11am-2:30pm every day of the week, he was upright, clothed and had started the car before I even had time to grab my purse.

As we drove to the eatery’s locale across the street from Bellingham’s Depot Market Square, my date reminded me that his love for Indian food came from the year he spent studying in England, where he lived near Birmingham’s renowned “Balti triangle”—an enormous cluster of restaurants specializing in curries cooked in vegetable oil rather than ghee that are served in large metal bowls.

“We usually went to the one that was nearest to where we lived,” he said. “The balti always came with a giant serving of naan, and we could bring our own beer to the restaurants—which we did. It’s where I got my jones for the combo of naan and beer.”

When we walked through the door, a friendly employee inquired if we’d been here before, and if we were interested in the buffet. After a “nope” and a “yep,” he followed us to our table of choice, came back quickly with water and silverware, and asked if we’d like naan with our meal (it’s $1 more for the garlic naan, and worth every penny). We both got an order (garlic for me, plain for him) and also chose a Wander Brewing shoe toss rye and a Taj Mahal to slake our thirsts.

Basamati rice, butter chicken, vegetable pakoras, chicken meatballs, sauteed green beans, tofu curry, barbecued chicken and more were among the choices at the buffet, and we both piled our plates high, adding raita and red and green hot sauces on the side. By the time we sat back down, our made-to-order naan had arrived.

We couldn’t resist trying the leavened bread first, and it was so warm and flaky and flavorful—even before dipping it in the raita—that I had to restrain myself from eating the entire basket in one go.

But I did, and was glad I’d saved room for what I’d chosen from the buffet. As we started our midday repast, a member of the Chana family—Naan & Brew’s intergenerational owners—stopped by to inform us that many of the offerings in the buffet are changed on a daily basis, and that they only make small batches at a time of each dish so that everything stays fresh. He also told us that the buffet—which can also be utilized for those who want to take their meal to go—will eventually include a salad bar and soup, and that they’ll have outdoor seating in warmer months.

The cauliflower pakora (an Indian version of a fritter), melt-in-your-mouth butter chicken and sauteed green beans were my favorites, but everything we sampled was fresh and still warm (a note: none of the buffet items were all that spicy, so you’ll want to add your own hot sauces if you’re looking to up the ante). And, for dessert, their version of rice pudding was fragrant and not overly sweet.

When we arrived, only a few tables had been seated, but by the time we left the corner restaurant, the place was packed with scores of patrons, many of whom, like us, were coming for the first time. We overheard many of those newcomers exclaiming that their meals were “delicious” and “oh my god, so good,” and had to agree.

For those who’d like to venture beyond the buffet, Naan & Brew also offers traditional lamb, goat and beef specialties, seafood and chicken items, plenty of vegetarian options, cocktails, a decent happy hour and numerous appetizers. We’ll be back—soon—to try a few for ourselves.

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