Rangoli Indian Street Food Exploding Samosa

Rangoli Indian Street Food

A View Outside Rangoli Indian Street Food in Shillington

Fred’s Music Shop was an institution in Berks County for 45 years. In addition to guitars and music instruments for all genres, Fred’s also operated Tasty Licks, a barbecue supply store that served a completely different clientele.

But this blog isn’t about what once was. It’s about what is now. And since February, the former Fred’s Music Shop has been home to a new restaurant: Rangoli Indian Street Food.

It’s been quite a transformation for the storefront along Route 724 in Shillington. The old Fred’s sign has been wrapped with one promoting the new restaurant.

Rangoli Indian Street Food

Outside, the building is still rather dull with brown siding and black trim. Inside, it’s a different world with bright primary colors popping everywhere from the walls to the pillars to the drape hanging from the ceiling. Rangoli being a traditional and colorful art form in India, it is only fitting that the dining room pops with reds, blues and yellows.

Indian cuisine is nothing new in Berks County. Aayshiyana Indian Cuisine operated for several years downtown (with other restaurants coming and going in its wake) while Laxmi’s Indian Grille and Nirvana Indian Bistro operate blocks apart in Wyomissing.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Interior

Rangoli is intentionally different. “Street Food” isn’t just a marketing tagline, it’s a true differentiator for the new restaurant. There are a number of dishes that will be familiar – dal, paneer, chana and a chicken dish similar to tikka masala.

But then there is everything else. The Street Food section of the menu includes “Naughty Naan,” egg rolls and a tandoori chicken burger.

It also includes exploding samosas and sassy fries, two dishes that I just had to try.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Exploding Samosa

Samosas, fried dumplings filled with seasoned potatoes and peas, are a staple at Indian restaurants. The “exploding” samosas take the dumplings and load them up with a mountain of toppings that includes chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, green chutney, tamarind and yogurt sauces and crunchy noodles. You can also choose chicken or paneer for an added topping – I chose chicken.

There were so many flavors popping in this dish that it’s hard to choose a place to start. One thing that came through strong was the yogurt sauce, cool and refreshing with a little sweet-and-sour flavor thrown in.

It was also obvious just by looking at the inconsistent sized and shaped pieces that the restaurant uses fresh chicken (the owner, who took our orders and visited our table pointed out that they have no freezer in the kitchen). And the chicken itself had a nice flavor to it – even though I asked for very low spice on my dish.

Rangoli Indian Street Food

On the side, my sassy fries were interesting. The standard French fries were coated in a special seasoning, more salty and herby than hot. They came served with the house special dipping sauce, a tangy green sauce that really enhanced the flavor and made them feel unique.

Julie does not like spice at all so she asked for no heat in her paneer dish. This also made it possible to share with Jakob, our now 17-month-old who is definitely not ready for even the mildest of Indian spices.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Paneer

The paneer – a traditional Indian cheese – came served in an onion and tomato gravy with garlic, coriander and the house blend spices. Paneer reminds me a lot of tofu in that it picks up the flavors of whatever it is paired with (and it’s a little chewy). Bits of cilantro added pops of flavor throughout.

One thing that was pointed out to us is that Rangoli does not add any “filler” to its tomato gravy. That is, there is no milk to make it creamy and no shortcuts like canned tomatoes – just fresh ingredients that are brought together to create a delicious dish, one that both Julie and Jakob enjoyed.

The dish was served with a choice of naan or white rice (Julie actually got both so she could share with Jakob). The rice is not basmati like patrons find in most Indian restaurants. Instead it is a more standard white rice – used because basmati has a higher amount of carbs. Rangoli’s naan was noteworthy because of its delicious seasoning that was heavy on the garlic.

We were joined on our visit by my friend Josh, who was visiting from Washington, D.C., and was taking full advantage of a cheat day from strict keto diet. His father has traveled to India multiple times and has hosted friends and colleagues from the Indian subcontinent at the family’s home in Oley so Josh has a much larger knowledge of the food than us.

He also has a much greater tolerance for heat and asked for his meal spicy – specifying that he wanted it spicy by American standards, not Indian standards.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Chicken

Josh had ordered the chicken off the “Village Dishes” portion of the menu. The chicken pieces were served in an onion and tomato gravy with garlic and house spices. Despite the fact that it was a similar base to Julie’s paneer, the two dishes tasted nothing alike thanks to the change in spice level.

I tried one bite, and that’s all I could handle. I was happy to try it because despite the high-intensity heat, it was a delicious dish. The peppers used weren’t just hot, but flavorful as well and I really enjoyed it. There was just no way I could have eaten a whole plate. By the time Josh was finished, sweat was visible from his brow as his faced picked up a red tint that it hadn’t had before.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Samosas

Thankfully he ate that first before moving on to two dishes that were much more mild. First, two samosas (non-exploding). The dumplings were a great way to cool off, even with the sweet and spicy chili sauce on the side.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Pav Bhaji

After that, he tackled an order of pav bhaji: mixed vegetables with buttery tomato gravy served with buttered rolls – toasted hamburger rolls that served as good vessels for the excellent vegetable mash. It was a much lighter dish than others and made a great finish to his makeshift three-course meal.

Between all of us, we spent about $70. That included two cans of Limca – India’s answer to Sprite – and a ton of food.

Rangoli Indian Street Food Limca

Another great thing about Rangoli is their commitment to community – both locally and globally. A portion of the proceeds from every meal goes to charities supporting the underprivileged. One such charity, Prasana India provides medical care, nutrition and more to the destitute tribal and untouchable communities of India.

A restaurant with great food and an even better mission? Now that’s a place I can really get behind. Hopefully others get behind Rangoli and it creates a long-lasting legacy of its own.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Ambiance: Very Good
Service: Excellent
Price: Reasonable

Rangoli Indian Street Food
212 W. Lancaster Ave
Shillington, PA 19607

Indian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

5 Favorite Appetizers of 2017

Every December, we take a look back at our favorite dishes of the past year. We’re starting off with our favorite starters. Here are our five favorite appetizers we tried in 2017.

Stonersville Hotel – Baked Tomato and Mushroom Soup

The Stonersville Hotel was a pleasant surprise, and it started with a cup of their baked tomato and mushroom soup. It was served like a French onion soup, in a crock covered with mozzarella cheese. The tomato and mozzarella came together nicely in one of the best soups that I have tried on my Berks County Eats journey. Read Full Review

Say Cheese – Cheddar Beer Soup

Speaking of delicious soups, Say Cheese had a fantastic offering with its cheddar beer soup. The two namesake ingredients were the obvious stars, and the flavors were only enhanced by the oversized croutons and the small, salty bits of bacon. Read Full Review

Fork & Ale – Poutine

In July, I attended a conference in Quebec City and tasted true French Canadian poutine. Four months earlier I had poutine at Fork & Ale. In this case, Berks County did it better. The “gravy” – a sausage tomato sauce – was amazing, and the fries made a perfect stand-in for spaghetti in the Italian-inspired take on the dish. Read Full Review

Pike Cafe – Wings

The Pike Cafe has won many “best of” awards for wings, and in our first visit, we got it. The Pike uses Bell & Evans organic wings so they are a little smaller than some other wings, but it also meant that they were crispier and more evenly seasoned throughout. We had Montreal seasoning on ours, and we loved every bite. Read Full Review

Nirvana Indian Bistro – Samosas

When Nirvana Indian Bistro opened in Wyomissing in spring, we wondered how it would be able to compete with the already established Laxmi’s right down the street. It turns out, they are just as good. Our first taste of Nirvana were the samosas, fried pastries filled with vegetables and potatoes. They were good, but when paired with the chutney selections – specifically the sweet and spicy onion chutney – they were delicious. Read Full Review

 

Appetizers Best of Berks County Eats

Nirvana Indian Bistro

I have a general rule of thumb about visiting new restaurants: wait at least two months for your first visit.

On more than one occasion, I have paid a visit too soon – when the service couldn’t match the demand – and left with a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively speaking).

It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and I’m glad it’s not. Otherwise, I’d still be waiting another six weeks to visit the new Nirvana Indian Bistro.

Nirvana opened two weeks ago in the Wal-Mart shopping center in Wyomissing. It’s the restaurant’s second location (the original is in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County).

What was formerly East Wok, a Chinese take-out restaurant, has been completely renovated into a sit-down dining room. At lunch, guests can help themselves to a full Indian buffet.

The dining room had a decent crowd, but it wasn’t full during our visit last week. I hadn’t seen any advertising around the restaurant (I stumbled upon it while browsing Delivery Dudes) but we clearly weren’t the only people who knew about it.

We were seated at a booth on the left side of the dining room. The right side is filled with tables for four with an additional row of seats down the middle of the room.

My big caution about going to a new restaurant is the service, but Nirvana was already on top of their game, at least on our visit. There was plenty of wait staff, all of them attentive, and we had our appetizer of samosas in a timely fashion.

Samosas, for the uninitiated, are fried pastries filled with potatoes and vegetables. These were served with a variety of chutneys – onion, mint and tamarind.

The samosas were fine on their own, but really came alive with chutney. The tamarind looks like a soy sauce or a very dark barbecue sauce and has a sweet flavor. The mint is bright and refreshing. But my favorite is the onion.

It has a bright red color, a very mild spice and hints of sweet. I tried all three, but kept coming back to the onion chutney with my samosa.

The main event arrived shortly after our empty appetizer plates were cleared. My choice for dinner was the chicken vindaloo (though I chickened out when offered the choice of mild or hot).

I was glad that I did because the mild was still kicking, but it was pleasant. The vindaloo was reddish brown with chunks of chicken and potatoes throughout. The potatoes really soaked up the sauce, turning a shade of red themselves.

The communal pot of rice was plenty for Julie and I to share with our dinners. It made a great bed for my vindaloo and also helped tone down the spice, which seemed to build with every bite.

Normally, Julie is a chicken tikka masala kind of girl. But she expanded her horizons (a little) by ordering the chicken kabobs.

The chicken was not served on skewers but was instead served with onions and peppers on a sizzling skillet as you would expect for fajitas with sauce on the side.

The sauce was what made the dish. It was a creamy sauce, not hot at all, but with a nice mix of herbs and spices that brought the chicken to life. And she brought home quite a bit of the chicken, unable to finish it at dinner.

Julie washed her meal down with a mango lassi, her favorite part about any meal at an Indian restaurant.

For our entrees, samosas, mango lassi and my iced tea (a can of Brisk with a glass of ice), our total was just under $40. It was a very good price for a lot of food.

Nirvana is located just a few blocks away from Laxmi’s Indian Grille, which we visited in a previous blog. Both were very impressive and I would be hard-pressed to choose between the two.

But there’s plenty of room for two, especially in the restaurant-rich suburbs where there are never enough tables to go around.

I was glad to have Laxmi’s. I’m glad to have Nirvana.

And I’m definitely glad that I didn’t wait.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Good
Price: Reasonable

Nirvana Indian Bistro
1137 Berkshire Blvd
Wyomissing, PA 19610

Nirvana Indian Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Road Trip: Saffron Indian Kitchen – Ambler

saffron-indian-kitchen

Berks County Eats crosses the county line to bring you some of the best dining both near and far. This edition takes us an hour east of Reading to Ambler, PA.

Every day I make the trek from my home in Wyomissing to my job in King of Prussia, a 50-mile journey down the Morgantown Expressway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

While I wish that I could work closer to home, my job affords me the opportunity to experience some great places—and great restaurants—in Montgomery County.

A recent outing with some of my colleagues took us to one of Montgomery County’s coolest small towns, Ambler. And it’s there that we found Saffron Indian Kitchen.

Ambler is a lot like West Reading. The main street, Butler Avenue, is lined with independent shops and enough restaurants to keep a blogger busy for months.

Parking is scarce, especially on Friday or Saturday evening when it seems like everyone comes to town for dinner.  But if you are lucky enough to find a parking space (and thankfully, I was), the metered lots are free after 6 p.m.

Saffron has the look and feel of a traditional bistro. A handful of tables and chairs are set up on the sidewalk in front of the building it shares with Caffe Maida. The yellow walls and yellow tablecloths added brightness to our seats in the back of the room, away from the large front window.

Indian food is something that I don’t get to eat very often. There are only a couple authentic Indian restaurants in Berks, and my only taste so far as been a sampling of Aashiyana’s delicious chicken tiki masala at the Centre Park Gourmet Garden tour.

The trip to Saffron was a chance to broaden my horizons, and being with three other people, it meant a chance to share several appetizers, starting with onion bhajai.

saffron-onion-bhajia

Bhajai could be best described as an Indian version of the blooming onion. What made this different was the use of chickpea batter for deep frying. Amazing on their own, they were even better dipped in one of the two sauces. It was hard to choose a favorite between the two: the green sauce tasted like fresh salsa while the red reminded me of a sweet chili sauce. Though very different, both sauces worked beautifully with the fried onions.

saffron-spinach-feta-cheese-samosa

Our second appetizer, spinach and feta cheese samosas, was from the “Saffron Blue” monthly menu. The large turnovers were stuffed full. One of my fellow diners said it reminded them of spanakopita. The main difference between this and the Greek dish is that the samosas had fried dough instead of filo, which gave it a little different flavor and made it feel more like an appetizer.

saffron-naan

The final appetizer on our table was a basket of naan. Saffron offers eight different flavors of the Indian leavened bread, and I would have loved to have tried them all. Instead, we just tried rogini naan, the traditional version. Lightly buttered, I found the bread was best used for soaking up the sauce from my goat korma.

saffron-goat-korma

Goat korma was another offering on the monthly menu. I had planned on ordering the chicken tiki masala (which came highly recommended), but changed my mind when I read about the goat dish served in cashew cream sauce.

Saffron will make the dish to your desired spice level—mild, medium or spicy. I went with the medium, and it offered plenty of kick. The sauce was thick and rich, with just a hint of sweetness to go with the nutty flavor of the cashew. I happily ladled all of the sauce atop my bed of rice, which we served ourselves out of communal bowls.

saffron-rice

Goat is a very tender and flavorful meat, but the one problem with it is that there are a lot of bones. But there was still plenty of meat to pick at, and with the help of a couple slices of naan, I cleaned my plate.

My meal was one of the more expensive items on the menu at $20, which brought our total check to $90 for the four of us. That included four entrees, two appetizers, a double-order of naan and a bottle of Pellegrino (not my choice).

Walking from my car to Saffron, I passed about a dozen restaurants and bars, all of which looked welcoming and intriguing.

I have no doubt that I will find myself in Ambler again. I just hope all of the restaurants are as good as Saffron.

Saffron Indian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Indian Lunch & Dinner Reviews