The tantalizing aroma of steaming chicken tikka masala, tender chunks of chicken in a house made red curry sauce; palak paneer, a fresh cheese and spinach curry; and vegetable samosas, savory vegetable pastries; greets guests as they walk through the door at India House in The Fountains at Arbor Lakes. These are just several of the many authentic Indian entrees offered at the Maple Grove location, opened last year.
The restaurant’s rich canyon-red walls, spacious dining area, ample windows and warm lighting provide a comfortable dining atmosphere for customers. Spacious booths line the perimeter of the restaurant while the rest of the dining room is filled with tables immaculately set with water goblets and polished silverware. The staff, gracious and attentive, is ready to assist diners enjoying the lunch buffet or an evening out for dinner.
Before India House moved into Arbor Lakes last year, finding authentic Indian dishes in the Maple Grove area was tough. Thankfully, India House chef, Majit Singh, and the rest of the staff had been searching for possibilities for a new location in Maple Grove. When a vacancy opened up on Fountains Drive, they were ready to make the move.
“We chose this location because there were no Indian restaurants [around here] for a long time,” owner Ghuman Singh explains. India House is a popular choice for Arbor Lakes employees and shoppers. “Lunchtime [is] always very busy and the weekends are always packed,” he says.
Gurwinder Singh also owns the India House in St. Paul, which has been a staple on Grand Avenue for the last nine years. “People asked for us to move to Maple Grove for a while. They had been coming across town to eat here at this location,” says Gurwinder.
Now, a year after its doors first opened, the Maple Grove India House has garnered quite a few loyal fans. Ghuman Singh attributes the success to really knowing what their guests want. “Other places use the same recipes for a long time, they serve the same food every day. But we do change [our buffet] every day. People like that,” he says.
The site runs with a staff of only eight people, but they are all family, so they make a good team. “Because it is a family restaurant, I especially take care of it,” Ghuman Singh says. We always decide [on any changes] together. Then we make decisions from there.” They continue to make the establishment more satisfactory to patrons; for example, they installed a set of extra double entry doors for the winter months, and set up partitions for private dining, giving the Maple Grove location a modern, updated look.
Two of their patrons, Jerry Prindle and Mark Manyen, work nearby and have established India House as a frequent dining staple. “We come here at least once a week,” Prindle says. “I was here on Sunday for my birthday dinner, and now I’m here again. This is some of my favorite food in the whole world.”
How did they first discover the gem? “We drove by and said, ‘Oh! Indian food. We gotta go back.’ We went once and we’ve been here pretty much once a week since,” Manyen says. “The staff knows us well, too. When I came in the first time with my wife, they were ribbing me about ordering it hot. ‘Would you like some more hot on that [they’d say],’” he laughs. “They’re really friendly here.”
The menu, though extensive, is easy to navigate, even for the most inexperienced Indian cuisine diner. Any member of the staff is more than happy to explain the intricacies of traditional Indian dishes.
Entrees are listed according to whichever protein or vegetable is the main ingredient, and variations on a sauce or seasoning give each dish its own unique flavor. The menu flows from appetizers to naan—clay oven flatbreads—to vegetarian dishes like makhani, a fresh tomato sauce base with cream and vegetables, to chicken entrees like the popular chicken tikka masala, with sliced onions, tomatoes, ginger and bell peppers; masala is a blend of various Indian spices.
If you’re timid about spice, the kitchen makes the orders mild, but can heat up the spiciness factor if desired. They also have an entire list of accompaniments: mango chutney, pickles, papadum—thin, crisp round bread—chicken salad or homemade yogurt to complement each entree to your liking. A basket of hot, fresh naan is served with every meal.
When asked about the best compliment they’ve received, Ghuman Singh pauses for a moment. “I’ve heard people giving comments that this is best Indian food in Twin Cities,” he replies. He is grateful and humbled by the positive response from so many customers.
At meal’s end, Ghuman might suggest a house made Indian chai or Darjeeling tea. With stomachs pleasantly full, the only regret some diners may have is lacking room for seconds. Of course, there is always room for a little homemade mango pudding or kheer, a creamy rice pudding, for the perfect finish.
Manager Ghuman Singh’s personal favorites: “I like lamb and chicken most of the time, lamb shahi korma or rogan josh.”
Make Your Own Lamb Shahi Korma
Owner Gurwinder Singh shares a recipe for a traditional Indian favorite at India House: (Serves 3 to 4 people.)
Lamb Shahi Korma
This version of korma, a delicious creamy curry, is made with boneless lamb, homemade paneer and garnished with cashews and raisins.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 tsp. garlic
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 2-3 tsp. ground black cardamom
- 1 Tbsp. turmeric
- 2- 2 oz. pieces paneer
- ½-1 cup water
- 1 leg of lamb, fat trimmed and diced
- 1 Tbsp. each cashews and raisins, to garnish
Heat olive oil in large cooking pot on medium to high heat. Combine onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom and turmeric to pot; stir well. Add water as needed, continuing to stir. Add diced lamb, boil for 20-25 minutes. Once water has cooked off, add paneer and heavy cream to the mixture. Serve on plates and top with cashews and raisins. Serve with a side of basmati rice, if desired.
India House Favorites:
Chicken vindaloo— Chicken and potatoes sautéed in a spicy, tangy sauce. Vindaloo is a highly spiced hot Indian curry.
Lamb biryani— Tender cubed lamb seasoned with saffron, served with raita—a cucumber and spice yogurt—and garnished with cashews and raisins. Biryani is any dish made with highly seasoned rice beside vegetables, meat or fish.
Palak paneer— Garden fresh spinach and chunks of paneer—a mild and milky homemade cheese— in a flavorful curry sauce.
Chicken Kashmiri— Tender boneless chicken sautéed with fruit, tomatoes, onions, green peas in a mild curry. The dish is named for the region of Kashmir.
Dal makhani— A dish of black lentils made with garlic and ginger with a touch of butter. Dal is a dried lentil, pea or bean.
Shrimp saag— Shrimp prepared with seasoned spinach; saag is a leaf-based Indian dish traditionally eaten with naan or rice.
Rogan josh— Lean cubed lamb cooked in a yogurt sauce and special spices. It is a signature dish of Kashmiri cuisine. Rogan means “clarified butter” or “fat” in Persian. Josh is derived from a Persian term meaning, “to boil.”