One of the best things about living in South Jersey is that there is a restaurant for every taste. Last week, the Discreet Diner had a taste for Indian food.
I called a deputy and off we went to Gagan Bistro in Marlton. It's an offshoot of Gagan Palace in Lindenwold, which we had enjoyed in the past. So we had high hopes.
The Bistro took the place of the Hardshell Cafe. Gone is the seashore theme and heavy garlic smell, replaced by soft music and a hint of curry and coriander.
The afternoon we visited, the buffet was available. It was loaded with lots of selections, but we decided to stick with the menu.
Since we were dining with a small child, we ordered several appetizers that the short set could savor as a meal: vegetable samosa ($2.95); meat samosa (3.50); and chicken pakora ($4.95).
The samosas, two per order, were light, flaky pastries filled with spiced potatoes and peas or minced lamb. We enjoyed them with the hot and spicy mixed Indian pickles and the mango chutney sweet and sour relish.
The chicken pakora was similar to American chicken fingers: strips of mildly spiced chicken deep fried in lentil flour batter. I liked the batter; the little one didn't.
For my entree, I chose the chicken shahi korma ($10.95), served with basmati rice. It was a beautiful copper bowl filled with pieces of boneless chicken in a yogurt sauce with fresh coriander. A spicy dish, one that I asked to be served mild. That left my tongue tingling, but it was not uncomfortable. The flavors blended nicely and korma has always been a favorite. These ingredients were fresh, and when the tingling got too intense, the raita (yogurt with grated cucumber) soothed the palate.
The deputy selected the lamb biryani ($12.95), pieces of lamb slow-cooked with basmati rice and herbs. It was mildly spicy, and the raita kept the fire down.
No Indian meal is complete without bread (I knew this, and the menu said it was true), freshly baked in the tandoor. We selected naan ($1.95), the traditional white bread, served warm with melted butter, and onion garlic kulcha ($2.95), also served warm. Both were wonderful.
The iced tea is already sweetened; a pleasant surprise for a Southern girl.
Gagan Bistro has much to recommend it, especially the attentive service. It also offers traditional Indian desserts: milk balls dipped in honey and served warm; rice pudding; Indian ice cream flavored with rose water. We didn't have room for dessert.
But we did have enough takeout to enjoy both entrees again, and we savored every bite.
150 State Highway 73 North, Marlton
Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; dinner, 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Children's menu: No
On the Web: www.gaganindianbistro.com