It’s hard to remember a new restaurant that from start to finish made as good of a first impression as Viceroy Indian Cuisine & Bar.
This new Indian restaurant tucked into a small space near the Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx at the Shops at River Walk wowed us from appearance to service to the breadth of the menu and the quality of the food. This is no amateur hour operation, and if you are as big a fan of Indian food as my companion is you need to visit posthaste for a fine dining experience that is bound to satisfy.
The atmosphere on first glance is classy but still casual, in sync with minimalist design trends but still offering some comfy booths if you like all the padding beneath your posterior while you dine and the marvelous sound-deadening effects of such décor that encourage conversation. A recent article in The Atlantic mused about the issue on why restaurants are getting so noisy and it put some of the blame on stark design trends, which are moving away from upholstery and carpet that can keep background noise reasonable. The interesting thing is that some people like the mood-elevating experience of a bustling, noisy place. Others, like me most of the time, treasure the conversations as the meal commences. My companion thought the décor very tasteful for a small space, with a gold bead drape room divider and pendant drum lighting above the table on our booth, enough light for us to read the menu but not too bright. The only odd note was that the TV in the corner was playing previews for on-demand TV shows and movies. Odd channel choice.
The menu is amazing, stretching on for pages and offering entrees that include bone-in goat dinners. Although I’ve had goat before I’m not passionate about it, but nutritionists are touting it as the red meat that is actually healthy for the human body. Maybe all those regions of Mexico that feature goat had it right in the first place. Vegetarians have got to put this place on their list as there are 18 entrée choices on that part of the menu and the front page points out the kitchen cooks vegetarian entrees separately from the other food.
On this visit we sampled the rosemary naan ($3), the onion kulcha (stuffed bread, $4), the lemon basmati rice ($6), and a couple of the specialties, the Zaffrani shrimp ($17) from the tandoori grill menu and the Viceroy curry chicken ($14).
My companion is something of a Will Rogers type when it comes to curry: She never met one she didn’t like. She loved this one. The chicken was cooked in a yogurt/onion/tomato sauce with garlic, ginger and curry, the poultry chopped into small chunks rather unevenly. It was amazing with either of the breads or that fabulous rice, which had mustard seeds and turmeric in it with a light, perfect amount of citrus. The shrimp was presented on a sizzling platter like fajitas with onions and tomatoes and the jumbo shrimp had been seasoned with more garlic, ginger, saffron and yogurt. It had a bit of presentation pizzazz as it was sizzling when it arrived, but the shrimp were fully cooked and delicious. The sizzle, I think, did cook the veggies as it sat on the table.
Both breads were fantastic. The rosemary naan was a simple white bread with the seasoning on the side away from the oven, embedded in it pre-cooking, and the kulcha had encrusted into the top side nuggets of white onion, cooked, no longer raw but still tender. Liked both, but next time we’ll get the family basket ($10), which offers whole wheat naan, garlic naan and the onion kulcha.
Speaking of variety, there's a lunch buffet available if you want to sample more of what the kitchen offers.
Prices are very reasonable for the quality, and the wine list has a respectable Hess chardonnay for $24 (or $7 a glass).
How good was the service? During the ordering process, our waitress took one look at us and asked us if we wanted our order mild, medium, hot or extra hot. My companion was about to go for hot but she correctly sensed that we should be dialed down to medium, and that was the perfect spice level for us, though it did seem spicy. She was also observant but not intrusive as we were working our way through the food, not interrupting conversations that looked engaging and waiting in such a professional manner. She used her eyes. I felt like we were in good hands with KD. And the whole place gets a lot of details right, such as leaving a cool tall bottle of water at the table with a stopper on it, so you can refill as you wish.
Owners Kulraj Dhillon and Jagdip Singh are off to a fine start. Viceroy Indian Cuisine & Bar can be recommended for a fine dining experience.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.