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Adventure in Indian cuisine awaits north of the border


BROCKVILLE, Ontario—The north country experienced a culinary void when the Indian restaurant in Potsdam closed several years ago and, more recently, Indian Carnival in Watertown went out of business

But lovers of Indian cuisine will be excited to know that an Indian restaurant has opened in Brockville. It’s called Tandoori Mint, and its colorful sign makes it easy to find on King Street.

Inside, the dark brown and green décor reminds you of an Andes mint candy. And the intriguing aroma of those distinctive Indian spices hits you the moment you walk through the door.

A gracious host seated us, offered us drinks and promised us warm naan bread, but there was no menu or list of any type.

The food is served buffet-style, which proved a little awkward for both the Indian food novices and experts in our party, mainly due to lack of signage.

The long buffet steam table begins with an assortment of sauces, about a dozen. Here we really could have used some labeling help. The mango chutney and raita (yogurt with cucumber and mint) were easy to identify, but what was the grainy green stuff and the dark brown thin liquid or the thick red liquid?

We got answers along the way by quizzing the staff, but labels and a heat rating really would have helped out. The green stuff turned out to be a very good mint chutney, the brown was a tamarind sauce and the thick red a four-star hot chili sauce that left more flavor than pain on the palate.

We made several trips to the buffet, starting with the appetizers and sauces. There were about a dozen choices, including a Tuscan bean salad made with chickpeas, marinated beets, seven grain salad, pickles, mung bean salad, corn salad and samosas.

Samosas are deep-fried, savory pastries stuffed with diced potato, onion and, of course, those mysterious Indian spices. While the filling was good, the pastry had a hard time standing up to the buffet heat lamps.

All of the appetizer salads were fresh-tasting, interesting and enjoyable.

It was fun to try the various dipping sauces with poppadums that we spotted on the opposite end of the buffet from the sauces. Poppadums are crisp potato chip-like wafers made from bean or lentil flour and spices. Rather than being flat, they had an interesting crumpled shape and tasted a little like those little snacks called Bugles, but without the salt.

While we were at the buffet, two baskets of Indian bread were brought to our table, garlic naan and butter naan. They were a little heavier than naan we’ve had in the past. In fact, the garlic naan almost looked like a small irregularly shaped pizza.

Labels were there for most of the main dishes, which included spicy tandoori chicken (chicken cooked in a clay oven and flavored with garlic, ginger, chilies, lemon and Indian spices), chicken biryani, chicken curry, lamb curry (great taste, fatty meat) and our collective favorite, butter chicken.

Butter chicken begins with boneless tandoori chicken that is simmered in a sauce of tomato, butter and cream. The result is melt-in-your-mouth delicious chicken. Elsewhere, we’ve seen this dish called chicken tikka masala.

The gravy-like curry dishes were quite mild, as were most of the other offerings. Our hosts explained they prepare their food this way so that patrons can turn up the heat themselves with the various sauces.

Here again, the uninitiated could be helped with a printed “guide to the Indian buffet.”

Lamb meatballs were excellent, not sauced, but very tasty. Several at our table questioned whether the meat was really lamb, or a combination of lamb and pork.

Either way, yummy little meat morsels.

Vegetable dishes included eggplant, cauliflower and potatoes, lentils and a crowd pleaser, we’re told, spinach with cheese. We didn’t care for it, however, but that was definitely because of the texture, not flavor. It was pureed right down to baby food consistency.

Desserts were camouflaged with the rest of the buffet offerings.

With our appetizers, we picked up something that looked like a squashed marshmallow. It was some kind of mild cheese (similar to ricotta) baked with sweetened milk.

In the vegetable section of the buffet was a shredded carrot dessert. The carrots are simmered in milk for several hours, flavored with cardamom and topped with a few golden raisins and thinly sliced almonds.

Paired with masala chai, a black tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and mixed with milk, it provided a sweet enough end to a pleasant, interesting and palate-pleasing dining experience.

An evening exploring Indian cuisine cost $115.10 which included $13.24 in Canadian taxes and $29.94 in Indian beer ($4.99 per bottle). The buffet alone was $15.99 per person.

They had two brands of Indian beer, Cheetah and Kingfisher, with the Cheetah available in light and dark. Kingfisher is a classic and has an interesting finish. The Cheetah was light and clean, but not as deep as the Kingfisher. The dark was just a tad darker and didn’t have the sweetness of a real dark beer, but did have more depth than the light.

Looking over the bill, we were surprised to see the baskets of naan charged to us for $1.99 each. The way they were presented to us led us to assume they were complimentary.

We were a little disappointed with the sketchy-at-best labeling of the dishes on the buffet. Not too helpful for amateurs. The staff was friendly and informative, but a little lax with service. More than once we returned from the buffet to uncleared dishes on our table.

But all in all, it was a pleasurable dining experience. Most all the food appeared to be made from scratch and nicely prepared, and there was enough variety to satisfy the taste buds of both the novice and experienced ethnic diners in our group.

We had heard that the restaurant will serve off the menu at some point, but one of the owners told us that the buffet has proven so popular they plan to stay with that for now.

Tandoori Mint is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.

You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email:

Tandoori Mint

50 King St. E.

Brockville, Ontario

1 (613) 865-7518

A new restaurant in downtown Brockville featuring made-from-scratch Indian cuisine served buffet-style.

HOURS: Open Monday through Saturday. Lunch served from 11:30 a.m. till 2 p.m., dinner from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

Our favorites included the poppadums, mint chutney, sprouted bean salad, butter chicken, lamb meatballs and lentils. And the Indian beer!

There’s lots to choose from on the buffet, so you’re sure to find some favorites of your own.

RATING: 3 forks

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