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Indian Explosion

Austin gains a bounty of healthy menu choices

By Jessi Cape, Fri., Oct. 19, 2012

Indian Explosion
Photo by John Anderson

Naanfull

1335 E. Whitestone Blvd. Ste. T130, Cedar Park, 512/528-5903
Sun.-Thu., 11am-3pm; 5-9pm;
Fri.-Sat., 11am-3pm; 5-10pm
www.naanfull.com

Smack dab in the middle of a Cedar Park shopping center is Naanfull, and just as its tagline claims, it is Indian food redefined. Featuring fare predominantly of Northern origin, the counter-service Indian grill seeks to remove the mystery and fear of the distinct flavors and dishes in traditional Indian cuisine. Bridging the gap between first-timers and aficionados, the staff provides some of the most patient, knowledgeable, and friendly service in recent memory. The visible assembly line setup of choices allows patrons to create a customized wrap or bowl by choosing the base, proteins, sauces, chutneys, and garnishes. Also available are platters, a variety of specialty items, and biryani options.

The delicious made-to-order naan wrap ($7.99), featuring tender slices of grass-fed lamb, steamed fresh veggies, plain basmati rice, and saagwala, was a hit at our table, though the portion seems best-suited for lunch or with accompanying sides. I decided to play it safe and order a medium spice level for my curry paneer platter ($7.99) with herbed bas­mati and yogurt raita. The piping hot brown sauce and delectable chunks of Indian cheese thrilled me with the robust flavor and authenticity, but next time I feel confident in turning up the heat factor to hot. I was pleasantly surprised with the generous portion of tender bites of beef in the kid's bowl ($5.59), and its accompanying tikka sauce was my favorite of the mild flavors sampled – creamy, tangy, and vibrant. The spinach pakora ($3.99) were reminiscent of small Indian hushpuppies. Although nicely battered with signature chickpea flour, a touch of salt would have made them just right; the tamarind chutney dipping sauce rounded out the flavor. One of the sleeper hits was the paneer kulcha ($1.99), thin naan stuffed with shredded and herbed cheese. Traditional Indian desserts included freshly made gulab jamun ($1.99) and carrot halwa ($1.99): The small human gobbled up the fried dough balls served in honey saffron syrup, and moderately successful at our table was the sweetened shredded carrots mixed with ginger, milk, and cashews. The mango lassi ($2.99) was, by a landslide, my favorite sweet treat, and I would consider trekking back to suburbia just for that flavor explosion of mango and rosewater in an Indian milkshake drink.

Conceptually, Naanfull is genius. It brings the healthy, exciting cuisine of traditional Indian food to a familiar, Americanized setting and educates the public in the process. And for experienced Indian food eaters seeking authenticity and good food at a reasonable price, I give this spot a thumbs-up as well. Luckily for central Austinites, a new location at 11101 Bur­net Road has just opened.

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