"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'" Winnie the PoohThe Pind became my favorite Indian restaurant shortly after it opened in 2010.
I wasn't alone. Many positive reviews and customers followed over the past couple of years. That's no small thing. Prague now has a fair number of respectable Indian restaurants.
One of the constants of a visit to The Pind was one of its owners, Jayant Sarkar. He was a regular and watchful presence in the dining room. He also got to know me as a regular customer.
Not long ago, Sarkar left the The Pind to start his own new restaurant in Karlín. It's called Indian by Nature. Less than a week after it opened, people working in the area told me the lunch buffet was something special. As much as I like The Pind, I wasn't thrilled with their lunch buffet a year earlier, so I had my doubts.
I stopped by one day before noon.
There's a huge downstairs area which Sarkar told me will become a sports bar with lots of video screens that serves Indian food.
There are two sections below and it is almost twice the size of the upstairs dining room. Smoking will be allowed down there.
First, I tried the Chicken Tikka Masala on the right.
On the left was kadai chicken. A kadai or karahi is a deep pot similar to a wok. I really loved this. Onions made it slightly sweeter than the chicken tikka masala. There was also capiscum and the clear flavor of coriander (cilantro). Overall, it had a richer flavor.
In the next tray, there was aloo gobi. The potatoes and cauliflower get their color and also pleasing flavor from tumeric.
Under the third lid were vegetarian options. On the left was chana masala, made according the style found in northern India. The tomato gravy is a thinner, simpler version of what you'll find on the chicken tikka masala. But it is still quite flavorful, with hints of ginger.
There is jeer pulao rice with cumin seeds, and garlic naan.
That's it for the heating trays, but the buffet continues. There are bowls filled with chopped salad and a nice, tangy raita.
Finally, there is a tray of Indian rice pudding. This dessert is quite simple and only lightly sweet.
The quantity and quality of this lunch amazed me.
My only serious complaint is that some dishes like the kadai chicken came out of the kitchen hot, temperature-wise, but others like the chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi were just barely warm. Perhaps the flames under the trays would change that in about 30 minutes.
When I saw the bill for this spread, I could hardly believe it. The price for all that food, as much as I wanted, was just 109 CZK. I asked if that was just an introductory price and was told that there are no plans to change it.
For my money, this lunch has to be the best value in the city. Let's hope the quality and the quantity stay at this level.
I came back for dinner the following week. I started off with a half-liter of Pilsner Urquell (40 CZK).
The menu has starters that many will find familiar, like vegetable samosas, but some are less common. I wanted something new and different, so I ordered the batata vada (70 CZK).
It's a deliciously spicy combination. It's even nicer when combined with the tamarind sauce on the side. The fritters are served inside a papadum that you can break up and dip in the sauce.
Another new option I didn't try but would like to someday is the masala mogo. That's fried casava or yucca chips mixed with masala tomato sauce, julienned ginger, tamarind and garlic.
I wanted to sample as much as I could from their tandoor, so I had the IBN Platter (220 CZK). There's a lot on top of that iron, with its sizzling onions.
In the middle top and bottom was the lamb seekh kabab. The ground meat, mixed with ginger, garlic, and coriander, was very salty, but dipping it in the sweet tamarind or the mint sauce balanced it out.
Chicken malai tikka sat on the lower left side. It was marinated in cream and cheese before being cooked in the tandoor. The tender meat tasted of fenugreek and cardamom. It was interesting and not something I'd tried before, but not my favorite.
What surprised me was the ajwani fish tikka on the right side of the platter. I loved that the most. The platter normally comes with butter fish. I don't eat that, so they substituted talapia instead. It was fresh, delicate, with the flavor of carom seeds and an incredibly smoky flavor from the tandoor.
Next, I had the lamb pasanda (205 CZK).
To go with this, I had the lemon rice (85 CZK).
Finally, I tried the lamb biryani (220 CZK).
It's served mixed with pulao rice in a clay pot. This was a great combination of flavors by itself, with ginger, mint, cardamom, and sweet fried bits of onion. The lamb also varied from tender to not so tender.
It comes with raita on the side. When it's all mixed together on the plate, it's a great dish.
The bill for the evening came to 880 CZK. I checked the prices and many comparable dishes at IBN are around 30 CZK cheaper than The Pind. I actually live closer to The Pind, so I'm sure I'll still be eating there, too.
But if you're in the mood for a curry lunch during the week, Indian by Nature is an easy choice that's hard to beat.
Indian by Nature
Prague 8 - Karlin
Tel. +420 601 200 198