Berks County has been going through a restaurant boom for well over a year now. It seems like new restaurants have been popping up constantly in recent months.
And nowhere is that more evident than Wyomissing. For a while it felt like I was reporting weekly on a new restaurant coming to or opening in the Reading suburb.
Among those restaurants are a Philly-area sports bar, an Irish pub, a retro hamburger chain and two barbecue restaurants. But to me, the most intriguing of all of the new openings had to be Laxmi’s Indian Grille.
The State Hill Road location is the third for the Philadelphia-based operation. The first location in Manyunk led to a second in East Falls in 2013. Now, the micro chain has expanded west, all the way to Berks County.
Laxmi’s opened in January in a State Hill Rd strip mall that also included Mama’s Original Pizza and Alebrije Mexican Restaurant (which has since moved).
A surprisingly large number of seats are squeezed inside the restaurant. Booths line the outside with four-person tables running through the middle.
The tables are all pre-set with plates for appetizers and cloth napkins. Three chutney sauces are set in in the middle of the table waiting for the complimentary basket of papadum, a wafer-thin dish that is similar to a tortilla, but crispier.
It was light and airy, but did well to soak up the flavors of the chutney. Chutney is a very general term for a lot of different condiments, and the three on the table could not have been more different.
The first was a dark, reddish-brown sauce that was very runny. It was similar to a chili sauce, but thinner and with a little bit of fruity flavor to it. The second was the green chutney, which was close to a green taco sauce but the spice was more tolerable. The third, my favorite of the three, was tomato based and closer to salsa, but with bits of carrots. It was more sweet than spicy and the chunky texture was great for the papadum.
Laxmi’s menu is not very big, but it is diverse in its offerings. There are nine curry dishes, all of which can be served with vegetables, paneer (a type of south Asian cheese), chicken, lamb or seafood. There are also several tandoor-prepared items including kababs and tandoori chicken.
All of the items sounded delicious, but I finally decided on one of the curries: chicken jalfrezi.
Jalfrezi looks very similar to the more well-known tikka masala, but the two are very different dishes. Despite its red color, jalfrezi is onion-based. Green peppers, ginger and garlic are also listed as ingredients in the menu description.
The dish was very flavorful. The onions were easy to pick up, but more for the sweetness they added than for any potency. I dumped every last drop that I could onto my plate, dousing my pile of rice in the sweet red sauce.
Back in April, when I took a road trip to Saffron in Ambler, I thoroughly enjoyed their korma. I guess it sounded good to Julie because at Laxmi’s, she ordered the chicken korma.
The two versions of the cashew-based dish were very similar. Both were creamy with a nice nutty flavor. The spices were a little stronger with Laxmi’s dish, making just that much better than what I tried a month ago.
Along with our main dishes, we ordered a side of naan. While Laxmi’s offered eight versions of the bread, but we went with the plain version.
It was anything but plain. It was soft and buttery, like pillowy pitas. They were perfect for soaking up the last of the jalfrezi on my plate.
Our total for the visit was just over $30, but we were probably closer to the low end of the price range (some of the tandoori entrees are in the $20-$25 range). Still, the food packs flavor that is well-worth the price.
Laxmi’s Indian Grille is one of many restaurant chains that have expanded into Berks County, but it may be among the best. If all of the new restaurants are of the quality of Laxmi’s, there’s going to be a lot of happy customers to go with them.