This exotic new Indian restaurant boasts an adventurous menu in a modern setting
Photographs by Chuck Dorris
When Tawa first moved into the former Ocean 211 space on Summer Street, I wondered: Another Indian place in downtown Stamford? But this is not your average Indian restaurant for several appetizing reasons.
First, there is the Bread Bar. If you’ve eaten at Tabla Bread Bar in the city, you’ll know why those words were music to my ears. At Tawa, the downstairs Bread Bar has a warm yet modern interior with colorful lanterns hanging above—just the right vibe for meeting friends over a quick bite. The Bread Bar serves small plates and noshes, a whole range of Indian breads as well as creative cocktails like the Slumdog Martini (with cilantro muddled with lime) and a Watermelon and Ginger Mojito.
Then, there is chef Kausik Roy’s dis-tinctive cooking. A self-described rule breaker, Roy applies Indian preparations to the best local ingredients. The result is dishes like corn and asparagus chaat (you wouldn’t normally find corn or asparagus in traditional Indian cooking), Pakoda with artichoke and his signature Karari Bhindi, a crispy okra with red onion, cilantro and green chili that is a must-order. It will leave you with an entirely new impression of the pod-like vegetable.
On my first visit to Tawa, a group of us were treated to a bread-making demonstration. “The breads play a very big role in Indian food,” says Roy. “We always make the bread at the moment we’re going to serve it.”
He showed us the restaurant’s traditional clay oven (the tandoor), which heats to a crazy 750 degrees. Roy slapped the naan dough onto the inside of the barrel-shaped oven and it was cooked within a minute and a half. Roy makes naan with an array of stuffings, including creamed spinach as well as jalapeno and garlic. The bread is served with addictive dipping sauces: a tamarind sauce and also a creamy eggplant dip. Tawa’s sweet variation of naan is a treat too, stuffed with dried fruits and nuts.
Of course, there’s much more than bread at Tawa, such as the seafood, meat, chicken and vegetable kebabs, which are cooked on giant, sword-like skewers in the same clay oven. The open flame gives the meat and vegetables a tasty, charred flavor. Of the dishes prepared in the tandoor, I particularly enjoyed the sea bass tikka, which is cooked to perfection with crushed coriander and garam masala.
Sea Bass Tikka
Dinner at Tawa is served upstairs in the long and narrow dining room, where a dramatic lighting fixture that looks like a wooden maze casts a sparkling light into the bottom of empty wine glasses. It’s a romantic and comfortable setting.
Meals are generally family style, which lets you sample an array of dishes. At a recent dinner, one of my favorites was the Chicken Hariyali. This bright-green chicken is wrapped in a special type of basil that’s very fragrant and has a slightly tart taste. I also loved the Lamb Fry, a Karala lamb with red onion, curry leaves, and ginger coconut flakes—nice and spicy. My sister’s pick for best dish was the Signature Dampak, tender lamb in curry cooked in a sealed copper vessel.
I ate more than my share of the Artichoke Scallion Pakoda, a crispy fritter served with the eggplant and tamarind sauces. It was just too good to pass up. Among the vegetarian dishes, the okra dish is superb. I love the crunchiness and the green chili flavor.
Indian desserts are usually not my favorite, but I found some to recommend here: the Mango Three Ways (ice cream, yogurt and fruit) and the Rasmalai, cheese dumplings in milk flavored with cardamom.
Good service is so important and I especially liked the funny and helpful waitstaff at Tawa. By the end of the evening, we were learning some Hindi lingo and even trading a few stories. So, to chef Kausik Roy and his crew, I say, “Shukriya!”
211 Summer Street, Stamford
Hours: Mon.–Thurs. 12 p.m–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 12 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sun. 12 p.m.–9:30 p.m.