Finding Bourdain's Kulcha at Tandoor in Arlington
Anthony Bourdain's recent culinary tryst to India for his show on CNN, Parts Unknown, left me in a bit of fit. Much in the same way it left Scott Reitz craving for kulcha, I too had dreams of freshly cooked naan (or kulcha) straight out of a tandoor. I also wanted to dance like the waiters, sing like the fruit vendors and build a huge gate that I'll high kick around to intimidate my neighbors. This episode was fantastic in so many ways.
So. What's one to do to get a serious naan fix around here? I've found something, which, in all respects, seems like a good alternative to an around-the-globe flight. In Arlington, just south of Interstate 30 off Fielder you'll find a wonderful woman gently tossing fluffy orbs of dough before softly pushing them inside a jet-black tandoor. I love her. I will marry her. At least, maybe she'll dance with me one day.
Tandoor has been in Arlington for a solid, and surprising, 34 years. However the current owner, a Punjab native, took over just five years ago. The menu describes the food as specific of the Mughlai dynasty and is several pages long.
The lunch buffet is a wonderful way to get ridiculous about food and try a bit of everything, but you're selling the whole situation short if you pass on the fresh baked naan selection, which is tucked away at the back of the menu. It should be forefront. It should be a on a big blinking-Vegas-esque sign with showgirls and the whole bit.
Every plate we tried on a recent visit was fragrant, rich and dutiful, as was the service. The staff rotates daily and every team member learns every job at the restaurant, including charge over the tandoor. The owner takes part in this circuit as well.
As for the naan versus kulcha (the difference being yeast and baking powder, respectively) Tandoor serves mostly naan, except for an onion kulcha. The keema naan (pictured at top) haunts me; it's stuffed with a mix of lamb, chicken, raisins, nuts and spices, which is all blended together then cooked fresh, when ordered and served almost immediately out of the tandoor. I had one there and ordered another to go.
Tandoor at 1200 N. Fielder Road (a few doors down from Tom Thumb) is open for lunch and dinner, at: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and then 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed in the hours between. If you're really inspired after a visit, you can shop next door at the Indian grocery store, Bombay Bazaar.
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