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While at lunch at Dickey's Barbecue Pit, I saw this place being reconstructed from a short lived California Tortilla shop next door. I dragged my usual Sunday night dinner companions there last night and we were pleasantly surprised. It falls into the fast-casual design where you order at the counter, find a table, and they bring out your food when it's ready. The decor is dark wood (probalby plastic wood) mostly, sturdy tables, and they provide real metal tableware, including plates and bowls. Definitely more upscale than the former tenant.
Variety was good, service was quick, and the food was tasty and well prepared. Now these friends aren't very adventuresome and tend to always order the same thing for any given cuisine. When eating Indian, she always orders butter chicken and he always orders lamb vindaloo. I had warned him before we decided to try this place that they didn't have his regular choice on the on-line menu, but he was willing to go anyway.
They did have butter chicken though, and that's what she ordered. It was a bit too spicy for her (she ordered "medium") but she enjoyed it anyway (haven't heard yet about any repercussions). While he often uses the phrase "vegetables are what food eats" when talking about vegetarian dishes, he likes mushrooms and ordered Matar Mushroom, a mushroom and pea curry with a creamy tomato based sauce. He ordered it spicy and, while it wasn't vindaloo spicy, he liked it. I had a taste and thought it was pretty good.
I had chicken malai masala, yogurt marinated chunks of chicken breast cooked in a tandoor. It was excellent, very juicy and nicely spiced. There was a little confusing over my order. The host asked if I wanted to order rice since my choice didn't come with rice, though the others did. I said that was a bit odd, and he said, why not order the platter, which comes with rice and lentils? I had seen that on the menu, but where it was placed, I thought it was a lunch special since it was $10.99, and the entree was $13.99, so I got the platter and there was plenty of food there. A real deal!
The Indian hip-hop music was a bit on the loud side, but not enough to complain about. Tea here is only chai, but the menu says only "tea." She ordered tea and when it arrived, asked if she could have some without milk, then came the explanation. No Earl Gray here. Parking (free) is in a garage in the same building. There's no indoor path from the garage to the restaurants, so it's about a half-block walk. They do have wine and beer.
All in all, this place was a pleasant surprise. Nothing fabulous, but then again, nothing slapdash, all well prepared and nicely served, particularly for a place where you order at the counter. There are two other Punjabi By Nature restaurants in the area, one in Leesburg and one in Chantilly.
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