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Tandoori Chicken Reopens

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Driven from the Lane Avenue Mall by construction there, Tandoori Chicken opens again.

Christopher Columbus sailed west in search of India and found the North American continent. When I worked at THE Ohio State University, I would routinely trek westward in search of a taste of India, finding Tandoori Chicken.

In those days, a call of FOOD-P down the halls of the seventh floor of Dreese Laboratories would produce a small chorus hackers answering T and NIL. Largely responsible for herding all of us cats was Sandy Farrar. Ever the class act, her replies would come in the form, "NIL, thank you."

We Ts would pile into a car and commence our sojourn west. Five minutes later -- maybe a bit longer if traffic in the garage was particularly troublesome -- we would pile out of the car and head into the Lane Avenue Mall's food court.

Lest any casual reader fail to grasp the significance of what had transpired, let me emphasize that between two and five hackers voluntarily entered a mall to go to the food court. This isn't the kind of thing that one should ever be accustomed to seeing. Nevertheless, there we were, under the bright lights, frequently surrounded by silly suburban high school students who reminded us of how much we hated the skullduggery that passed for secondary education in the eighties and nineties.

What drove us to face these dangers on a weekly basis was neither fame nor fortune. We didn't even go for the cheap thrill of an adrenaline rush. These missions were prompted by nothing more than a desire for authentic Indian cuisine from a simple eatery known as Tandoori Chicken.

As food courts go, the one at Lane Avenue Mall was pretty average. That is to say, it sucked, and not just a little bit. Tandoori Chicken's food, however, was always good enough to overcome all of these obstacles and to keep us coming back for more. Not long after we started making our regular trips, the establishment's proprietor would chat with us about anything that seemed of interest at the time. Often, he'd make "something special" for us to try.

Some great meals were had there, and not just because of his delicious chicken tikka masala, naan made right there, or anything else concocted for our culinary delight. There was the dinner when Rowland declared the food too good to let a drop be wasted and took a bite out of his Styrofoam plate, while a non-hacker trying Indian food for the first time and not enjoying himself, looked on in horror.

There was the lunch when Rowland, Jimmy, and I were making fun of local television meteorology. We'd made something of a contest out of saying "alberta clipper" -- a favorite expression of Channel 4 chief meteorologist Gym Ganahl -- in as many different sentences as possible. Already laughing too hard to eat, I looked over my shoulder to see none other than Gym Ganahl himself standing at the register, placing an order.

More than a few times, I went to Tandoori Chicken when I had a sinus headache, ordered something as hot as they'd make it, and walked out of there happy as could be, and with a clear head.

In 2000, I left my non-teaching job at Ohio State to take full-time employment at Interhack, and wouldn't ever find myself in that part of town during the week. At least once monthly, I kept going, though, usually with Abby and Niki for a trip to the Sunday buffet.

Sadly, the management of Lane Avenue Mall closed the food court in 2002, forcing Tandoori Chicken -- which appeared to be the only business still doing any business in the whole mall -- to close. A journal was placed by the register so that anyone who wanted to be told where the restaurant would reopen could add his name and address.

Nine months later, a bright orange piece of paper arrived in the mail announcing the grand opening of Tandoori Chicken at its new location in Dublin. The very next day, Niki, Abby, and I ventured to the new location for what can only be described as a surreal experience.

We arrived at 11:57 a.m. A large sign proudly proclaimed the restaurant "Now Open!" while a smaller sign next to the door said, "Closed." Hours posted on the door showed the restaurant opening at 11:00 a.m. Being confronted with conflicting data, I did what any good scientist would do: I devised a test to tell the good data from the bad. I pulled the door, and it opened.

Anyone who has ever dined at an Indian restaurant would have some expectations based on past experiences. Frequently, some central Asian music will be playing to get the employees and clientele alike into an Indian mood. This is especially true when dealing with an authentic restaurant. While no such control over ambiance was possible in the Lane Avenue Mall food court, I confess I did expect to hear such music when I entered.

Instead, I found some employees whom I mistook for construction workers and the music playing was neither Indian, nor the product of any part of Asia. It was "Country," the annoying sort of twangy-pop stuff that seems to be getting increasingly more attention.

As we entered, the music's volume was reduced, and the White Guy From Ohio (whose last name, I'm quite sure, is not Bhandari) quipped that the music was part of a "western theme" they were going for: "Cowboys and Indians." The fun was just beginning.

Following a few polite but probably unconvincing laughs, we briefly examined the menu to determine if it's the same menu as before, whether it's entirely new, or if it might be something in the middle. Having gone the best part of the year without my favorite dish of all from the old menu -- chicken tikka masala, which everyone makes theirs a bit differently and none as good -- I seriously considered ordering it. A glance back into the kitchen and overhearing a few words was enough to keep me from doing anything that would affect what was happening back there.

Efforts to stock the buffet were well underway, and there didn't seem to be much hope of getting anything else while food was being prepared for the buffet. A patron who came in after we found our seats apparently failed to match my perceptive prowess. The aftermath, while not including the detonation of any nuclear devices, confirmed the wisdom of my choice to pursue the buffet.

As our orders were taken, some effort was expended to make the register behave, and we started to pay. Niki had no cash, and I was one stinking dollar short of paying for us both. The Bank of Abby fortunately came to our rescue.

We worked through some confusion in the process of acquisition of our drinks and plates upon which we might stack our selections from the buffet. As we circled the buffet, some attempts were made to bring out more things, at which point, someone realized that there wasn't sufficient room for everything prepared.

Having been open only a day or two and largely operating without the oversight of the usual man in charge (who stopped in, greeted us, and explained that he was dealing with some crisis in connection with his car), the order of the day was clearly working out the kinks. As usual, the food was good. I had a bit of chicken curry and some mixed vegetables.

It'll take a while to get everything down to the smooth operation that they had on Lane Avenue. Once that's settled, hopefully the awful quasi-country tunes will go away. I'm sure I'll enjoy returning, but the new location is even harder for me to reach than the old one. This is a real pity, too, because the northern part of downtown could do with a good Indian restaurant.

Created by cmcurtin
This article originally appeared on Sunshine Poultry.
Last modified 2004-08-24 01:32 PM

Tandoori Chicken, Revisited

Posted by cmcurtin at 2004-08-24 01:34 PM
Not a week after I complained about how infrequently I'll be in the neighborhood, I had an offsite meeting that ended about 11:30 and was but ten minutes away. Abby suggested that we head over to Tandoori Chicken, which we did, and found that things are coming together over there.

I went for the buffet -- opted against trying for the Chicken Tikka Masala due to logistical reasons yet again. It was definitely better than the last time around. And the mango milkshake was excellent. No Garth Brooks, either. Looking forward to the next visit.
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