Let’s play a little game of word association. When I say “Indian restaurant,” what comes to mind? If you say anything but “buffet,” you’re lying. Indian restaurants evoke strong images of all-you-can-eat lunch lines with curries and samosas lying in wait in heated trays.
The recently opened Urban Turban is a different beast, approachable while maintaining traditional flavors—with nary a buffet line in sight. It does offer bottomless curries, perhaps a bit buffet-esque, but otherwise this place is more gastropub than run-of-the-mill ethnic eatery.
The first inkling that something is different comes upon entering. Apart from a motorized rickshaw near the hostess stand, neither the clean, contemporary décor nor the stream of ’80s music (Soft Cell, anyone?) would lead you to believe this is an Indian restaurant. But once you’ve had a chance to sample the wares, there’s no mistaking where you are.
The journey begins with Bombay Bites, a section so prolific you could fashion any number of meals from it without wandering anywhere else. Urban Turban does some damn fine chicken dishes, and coming from someone who doesn’t ever order chicken when dining out, that’s not faint praise. The cream-blanched grilled chicken bites ($9) are enhanced with a drizzle of a mellow cheese cream I couldn’t get enough of, while the chili basil chicken bites ($9) accentuate the fowl with a finely tuned combination of flavors.
On the vegetarian side, paneer tikka ($8) presents the ubiquitous Indian cheese in a different light—oven-grilled, tandoori-marinated cubes with a dusting of curry. The result is sharply flavored with a consistency just this side of cheese curds. Interesting but a little less successful is the masala cup corn ($5), which promises garlic and butter but came up a bit boring.
Those never-ending curries are Urban Turban’s claim to fame, and while a single bowl seems ample for most, the bottomless option gives you the opportunity to sample. Classic Bombay butter chicken ($18) is slightly sweet without being cloying; you’ll find yourself scraping the bottom of the bowl with any leftover naan. More robust is the Bombay lamb masala ($19), which puts forward a complex medley of flavors with more traditional curry composition.
If you’re in the mood for something a little less mainstream, seek out the parda chicken biryani ($15), essentially an Indian pot pie. A curry rice and chicken mixture is cooked in a copper bowl with naan as a cover to keep the moisture in, resulting in a well-seasoned medley enhanced by the accompanying raita, a traditional cucumber-yogurt sauce. But beware the whole cloves lurking within, which will mutilate your palate if you bite into them. The more you know, right?
Urban Turban 3900 Paradise Road, 702-826-3216. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.