Sometimes you find unexpected pleasures in the unlikeliest of places. As a lover of ethnic cuisine, I have eaten dozens of meals at Tandoori’s over the years. When I heard they introduced live music on Saturday evenings along with a new spicy cocktail menu, I had to go see – and hear – what was new.
Simply put, I had the best martini of my life at Tandoori’s. It was a Cucumber-Ginger Martini, made with vodka, ginger brandy, fresh cucumber and lime. Alec, our affable bartender, served the martini ice-cold, with a curl of cucumber peel on the glass rim accenting its presentation.
I think even James Bond would approve.
As Dan and I waited for our friends, Nan and Mike, to join us, we took in the ambience of the bar, which sits between the dining room and a private party area. A large flat-screen TV dominates the back wall; it hangs next to an elephant plaque and a lovely wall decoration. Several people mingled around the three-sided bar as staff members, clad in tasteful black shirts and pants, kept busy with orders.
Dan zeroes in on anything containing Malibu Rum, so it was no surprise when he ordered a Flying Carpet, made with Hiram Walker Blue Curacao, fruit juices and the rum. It arrived with an umbrella, which Dan quickly disposed of, and a slice of orange with a maraschino cherry. “This drink screams summer,” he said after a few sips.
Other spicy cocktails include a Habanero Margarita, a drink I had a few weeks ago with dinner at the restaurant. Complementing the food with a light tanginess, it is a step up from a standard margarita. A Bollywood Blend contains berry-flavored rum with spicy mango. The Mirch Galli Martini is gin-infused with sliced jalapeños while the Chilly Willy features orange vodka with pineapple chipotle. The Mango Lassi Martini, Bombay Colada and Mumbai Manhattan are among the other popular choices to be enjoyed.
“Ravi is a mixology master,” Alec said, referring to the owner of Tandoori’s.
As we chatted with Alec and his colleague, Ritesh, about the origins of the cocktails, we couldn’t help notice the 38 bottles of beer lined up on the right side of the bar. Ranging in price from $5.50 to $8, the suds are a veritable United Nations of beer. Kingfisher Indian Lager is the most popular brew, Alec noted. Other beers, most much larger than an American or Canadian bottle, come from places far and wide: Holland, England, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Belgium, France, Singapore, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Lithuania, Argentina, Israel and Vietnam. The only American beer is the Arrogant Bastard Ale, described as an “aggressive ale.”
Shortly after our friends arrived and ordered soft drinks, we noticed an area in the adjoining dining room being set up for that evening’s entertainment. Situated on the floor beneath beautiful multicolored silk fabric extending from the ceiling down the length of the wall, a young gentleman played a variety of music on his tabla, a percussion instrument similar to bongos. He was joined later by a sitar player.
Since our friends had never dined at Tandoori’s, we took our drinks to a table in the dining room and ordered some of our favorite dishes. Mike commented on how nice it was to have live music in the background, not overpowering the conversation. We enjoyed the classical Indian music and some favorites too, like “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles.
Since I wasn’t driving, I decided to try one more of those innovative cocktails, the Bollywood Blend. The rum and mango was sprinkled with a combination of cilantro and jalapeño peppers and served on the rocks. It was different, delicious and memorable, but I’ll be back for that cucumber-ginger martini before long.
Tandoori’s Royal Indian Cuisine
Where: 7740 Transit Road, Amherst (632-1112)
Scene: Friendly staff welcomes you to the bar featuring the
standards and many libations inspired by the subcontinent.
Drinks: Huge variety of international beers, wide range of wine and creative Indian cocktails.
Specials: Drink discounts during live entertainment (most Saturday evenings).
Dress code: Casual to dressy.