Vijay Sadhu's Newest Venture Takes The Fear Out Of The Exotic
Indian food can be a challenge to the unadventurous diner. Too spicy. Too gloppy. Too exotic with its bevy of sauces and fantastical sounding names. But Vijay Sadhu's new restaurant Sutra seems to have remedied that problem by mixing the old with the new and creating a modern, user-friendly version of Indian cuisine.
Sadhu, whose past chef gigs include Bukhara Grille in Richardson, Clay Pit in Addison and, most recently, Samar, picked the Shops at Legacy for the location of his new venture, filling an Indian-food gap in the area.
The restaurant is painted in orange that glows such that it almost looks yellow in the bright sun that floods through the restaurant's oversized windows in the afternoon. The floor plan is open and the décor is simple. Hot pink latticework serves as a separator between restaurant and bar, and the kitchen is wide open for diners to take in all of the action.
Small, framed mirrors and candle sconces adorn the walls, and a tiled column is the only thing filling the space except for the wooden tables and chairs. Long wood banquettes, which could use a few comfy, colorful cushions, fill space along the long walls. A full bar, including lounge-like seating, sits at the front of the restaurant, leaving the entire back to serve as the dining room. The ceiling is high, all exposed pipes snaking through the vast space.
It feels a little barren when we walk in on a Tuesday night around 6. Only one other couple is there. Indian. Good sign, I think. I sip on a Kama Sutra while I wait for my girlfriend to arrive. The cocktail is a combination of Grey Goose La Poire, lavender syrup, lemon juice and pear nectar. It was sweet, but not cloying and perhaps a little too easy to drink with our rising summer temperatures—assuming anything is too easy to drink.
The dinner menu offers a number of appetizers, including cashew-crust soft-shell crab, goan shrimp sofrito and mussels cataplana. We opt for the Bombay samosa chaat garbanzo. The two large samosas are lightly browned and nicely shaped. They have a crisp crunch when cut into and the generous filling is hot and flavorful, with potatoes chopped in tidy cubes. The garbanzo-based dip is forgettable, but the samosas stand up fine all on their own.
The restaurant has an impressive variety of seafood, meat and vegetarian options, including rabbit and prawns. We order the saffron cardamom grilled chicken kebab, butter chicken, lamb biryani and piri piri spiced steak along with a side order of garlic and basil naan.
The butter chicken arrives, looking like little more than a large bowl of red sauce. There's not much chicken in the dish, but the sauce is delicious enough that it could be a soup unto itself, like tomato basil soup with a kick. We order it medium spicy, and it delivers a delayed kick that arrives a few seconds after we dig in. When it comes, the spice brings a delicious slow burn to the back of the throat. After just a few bites, my girlfriend starts to sweat and her nose runs. Perfect. It's served with a side of basmati rice, and between that and the naan, it's plenty to eat despite not being heavy on the chicken.
We order the lamb biryani mild. It's flush with flavorful lamb that falls to tender bits when touched with the spoon. The biryani is served over rice and too large a serving for one sitting.
The chicken kabob arrives a bit dry and otherwise blah, while the piri piri steak is tender and spicy, just the way we ordered it. In fact, it's too hot for a spice wimp like me to handle, but the potatoes on the side are smooth and creamy.
The restaurant begins to fill up by 7:30. It continues to be a mostly Indian clientele, including women dressed in silk saris. Music from the Buddha Bar series plays along with some Spanish and Indian music. Chef Sadhu stops by our table to ask how everything is, as he does at every table in the restaurant. He is visible throughout the evening, in the kitchen, delivering food and greeting guests.
We wrap up with two desserts: cardamom panna cotta with orange blossom peach caramel and Persian fairy floss and kulfi with caramelized banana, sweet rose jam, candied pistachios and basil seeds caviar. The panna cotta has a full-bodied texture, and the peaches and sauce are sweet and delicious. The "fairy floss" is basically thick cotton candy. A little weird, but it has a nice texture on the spoon and is super sweet, which I dig.
The kulfi leaves me wondering when I can get back to Sutra next. The caramelized bananas are sweet and crisp on top and soft and warm within, and they're served with a creamy vanilla ice cream that melts with the heat of the bananas. The pistachios add a welcome crunch, and the basil seed caviar is pretty to look at and fun to have in your mouth, though I'm not sure it adds much more than novelty.
When I pop in a week later for a lunch at noon, the place is already buzzing. Once again, the preponderance of guests are Indian and fill the restaurant with a buzz of conversation. It's noisy but nice in an urban eatery kind of way. For lunch I order the lamb masala, which comes with salad, naan and rice. The salad is mostly iceberg lettuce with half of a tomato and a few leaves of other varieties of lettuce and a thick dressing that except for a touch of bitterness is almost flavorless.
The naan, as at dinner, is hard to stop eating. Crisp on the bottom, soft on the top, served warm with a little olive oil, it is perfect for dipping, especially with the masala. It's rife with tender hunks of lamb in a thick, tomatoey sauce accented with notes of what I believe are coriander and cumin. I order it mild, and it has the perfect level of spice—the kind that reaches every corner of your mouth without making you reach for the nearest fire extinguisher.
Sadhu has definitely removed the mystery from Indian food. With his well-defined menu and modernized dishes, there's no reason to fear biting into something you'll wish you hadn't.
Note: Sutra, without the Kama, basically means a rule or group of rules, so don't expect anything sexier than the cocktail and clientele. No guarantees on the latter, of course.
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