Indian Explosion

Austin gains a bounty of healthy menu choices

Asiana

801 E. William Cannon #205, 445-3435
Lunch buffet: Tue.-Fri., 11am-2pm; Sat.-Sun., noon-3pm;
dinner: Sun., Tue.-Thu., 5-9:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 5-10pm
www.asianaindiancuisine.com

I was thrilled to see this new eatery take over the old Thai Kitchen location around the corner from my house and pleasantly surprised to find the space vastly improved regarding cleanliness. Despite the strip-mall-style minimalism, there are nice touches like linen napkins and real glassware. The super-friendly staff members add a needed touch of warmth, and they are always willing and able to answer questions, which is extremely helpful since I keep finding items new to me. We have visited Asiana a number of times, both for weekday lunch and weekend brunch buffets, and we often rely on them for dinner takeout. Their menu covers many regions of the Subcontinent, with an emphasis on South­ern cuisine and a few Indo-Chinese dishes from the Manchurian region. They don't delve into Goan cuisine, but never mind that. There is plenty to choose from at Asiana.

Lunchtime boasts steady business and a wide array of dishes, which are quickly replenished with steaming hot trays of appetizers and the expected curries, masalas, biryani, and tandoori chicken. The cold bar is nicely stocked with raita and different chutneys, lightly sauteed sliced onions and jalapenos drizzled with lime juice, and my favorite Indian condiment: lemon pickles. There are salad fixings and desserts too, like a creamy and light rice pudding flavored with saffron and almond slices. On weekends, more authentic, lesser-known dishes make appearances, and Indian families happily gather and pile food on their plates. I fell in love with pongal, a porridgelike concoction of white rice and yellow lentils spiced with whole peppercorns and cumin. I am told this should be added to the fiery rasam, a soup best described as a Southern Indian hot and sour. We were thrilled to see goat biryani, crispy tandoori fish, and chicken Chettinad masala on this buffet too. Whatever you do, have a bowl (or two – ahem) of the frozen mango mousse.

The à la carte dinner menu is full of interesting choices, but when we order takeout, we usually go for the Mughalai special dinner ($24.99): lamb khorma, aloo gobi (spicy curried potatoes), a fabulous saag paneer, chicken tikka masala (Will's fave), sheekh kebab, and choice of appetizer and dessert. We also get the reshmi kebab, grilled ground chicken cylinders of goodness, and did I mention that mango mousse? So far, Asiana has not disappointed, and we feel blessed to have them in the neighborhood.

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