By Bryan Donoghue
Strong aromas mixing in with contemporary Indian music fill the dining area of Tandoori Bites Indian Cuisine with plenty of charm. Tandoori ovens are cylindrical clay or metal ovens that are used in many Asian cuisines, and they’re used to create a variety of unique dishes. Typically, marinated meats are put into these ovens on skewers and cooked at high temperatures. It’s an efficient way to cook the meat the thoroughly, from every angle. Indian cooking incorporates these ovens in many of their meals, and recently, I had the pleasure of eating my fill at Humboldt’s own Tandoori Bites restaurant.
Tandoori Bites is located in Eureka off Highway 101 on Fourth Street. Inside is a natural wooden bar, a row of golden buffet displays, and Indian artwork covering the walls. It provides a peaceful and quiet atmosphere for the person who’s in a hurry, or who likes to stop and enjoy their tea. As the latter, I indulged in a full course.
Aside from tea, I first ordered my drink, the mango lassi. Maintaining the thick texture of a smoothie, the highlight of the drink is its smooth consistency. The yogurt and cream are pronounced in the flavor of the lassi with subtle hints of the mango pulp. It’s a suitable pairing for anyone who wants contrast to the spice that’s cooked with in Indian food. The mango lassi is $3.
From there, I ordered naan bread. Naan bread is a white flour bread baked in a tandoori oven. It adorns a fluffy texture and is nearly weightless, but Tandoori Bites’ naan is especially complex. There’s an added layer of flavor from the tandoori oven that gives it a smoky taste. The original is delicious in it’s simplicity, as my focus was on the smoky undertones. Although, Tandoori Bites has multiple options on the menu that are centered around naan. I also ordered the keema naan, which uses the same baked bread and is stuffed with spiced minced beef (or chicken). The basic naan is $2, while the keema naan is $5.
A balanced meal always needs vegetables. Examining the menu, the best option to complement the rest of my meal had to be the vegetarian samosa. A crispy turnover, fried until golden brown and then stuffed with seasoned potatoes and a green pea filling. This dish was the highlight of my experience, as it showcased the complex spice seasoning that went into each dish. Spicy and savory, the samosas alone have plenty of flavor. The component that accentuates the dish are the sauces brought out to be paired with the samosas. One is a dark maroon sauce made from tamarind, and the other is a light green sauce made from mint. Encapsulating almost every type of flavor, this dish loves to play with your taste buds. The vegetarian samosas are priced at $4.50.
Finally, I ate my main course, the seekh kabab. True to their name, Tandoori Bites cooks many of their menu items in a tandoori oven, and the seekh kabab is one option known for being prepared in such an oven. The kebab consists of minced lamb, onions, and bell peppers that are seasoned with various herbs and spices. It’s served in a similar style to Mexican fajitas, on a piping hot platter, so it’s meant to be eaten immediately. The lamb is set with the perfect balance of spices like coriander and garam masala to even out out the dish, making it intriguing with at every bite. The seekh kabab is $14.
Not stemming far from tradition, Tandoori Bites improves upon classic Indian recipes and makes them their own. There are plenty of menu options, and their hours of operation actually differ between a lunch buffet and dinner. Lunch buffet is 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. while dinner is from 5 to 9:30 p.m.. You can find Tandoori Bites in Eureka at 1735 4th St. If you’re interested in deep, complex flavors, along with a contrast of subtly sublime flavors, Tandoori Bites is a restaurant where you can reach that equilibrium.