Best Indian in ABQ? Undoubtedly…
Thirty-seventh visit: April 13, 2014
First visit: November 10, , 2008
As we walked in, we were welcomed with a warm greeting, Namaste, a sweet smile by Sandhya Gurung, and heavenly aromas wafting from the kitchen. Namaste means “I bow and respect to the divine spirit within you,” used in India and Nepal to greet each other. The term has many meanings — my favorite is, “I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me.”
Namaste Cuisine of India and Nepal was started August 2008 by Shree Prasad Gurung, his charming wife, Sandhya, and hrother-in-law Hem. This family-run restaurant is the first Indian and Nepalese restaurant in the Duke City area. The room is quite lovely, the staff quite friendly, and the service is exemplary. But this is true of many Indian restaurants here. What sets Namaste apart from the pack is the food, and that’s why we go there.
Aah, the food! The spicing is delicate and the sauces are complex — never over-the-top shouting at you, “I’m Indian, therefore cayenne-hot.” The balance is so close to being perfect that you can taste everything — amazing in this Enchanted Land of Chile.
The menu is not so huge as to be overwhelming. But you will surely find your favorites here. Chicken, lamb or goat, seafood, biryanis, vegetables, and much more. Tandoori, korma, vindaloo, tikka masala, and more.
Visiting sister had the Seekh Kabob (ground lamb, spiced, and cooked in the tandoori), which she declared first-rate. Jane had Saag Paneer (spinach and paneer cheese in a gentle creamy sauce), which we all declared among the very best we ever had. I ordered off-menu (as I often do) and asked Sandhya to see if the kitchen would prepare Fish Korma for me. White fish cubes prepared in a complex, cashew-laden white sauce. Simply perfect. [About a month after I had this dish, it appeared on an updated menu.] The basmati rice with peas was fine. The Nan was beautifully done.
This quickly became one of our favorite restaurants. It’s just up the hill from where we live. Perfect Friday night place for us. You, too, maybe.
Here is a sampling of the table:
Tandoori Chicken, Meat Balls, Dal, Saag, two desserts, salad, fruits, chutney, raita, dressing, an appetizer, rice, naan are daily featured on the buffet, along with two other meat items are changed as given below on the day-by-day chart, and two vegetables are changed daily.
Lamb Curry, Chicken Makhani, Gajar Ka Halwa, Spinach Pakora, Chicken Tikka Masala
CTM, Ch vindalu, Fish pakora. Spinach pakora
Veg Noodle, Chicken Makhani, Fish Pakora, Sheek Kabob, Spinach Pakora
Goat Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Gajar Ka Halwa, Spinach Pakora
Noodle, Sheek Kabob, Fish Pakora, Chicken Makhani Spinach Pakora
Chicken Vindalu, Chicken Tikka Masala, Shrimp, Samosa
Goat Curry, Gulab Jamun Spinach Pakora
The buffet lunch is a fine way to sample many of the dishes on the regular dinner menu. Among my buffet favorites are Saag Paneer (perfect), Chicken Tikka Masala (with dark meat — my favorite way to prepare this dish), and the Meatballs, which are melt-in-your-mouth tender and as delicious as anything Indian you are likely to encounter in this city. But nothing’s perfect — the Tandoori Chicken was a tad too dry.
Most buffets are but a mere shadow of the wizardry of the cooks. Not the case here, where each dish stands on its own merits. Never stale or lukewarm, each dish is carefully replenished as necessary. This is among the very best buffets of any kind that I have had anyplace, and outshines the regular menu in most other (and lesser) Indian restaurants.
Bargain, too. Accompanied by Naan and Black Tea, it came to $10.14 including the Governor’s contribution. Around the same price as a Green Chile Cheeseburger with fries, but lots better tasting and better for your arteries. And waistline.
Return to our spicy favorites
On our latest visit, I decided to abandon my Fish Korma favorite for something very spicy. Green Chile Chicken Curry popped off the menu at me. But I really wanted Lamb Saag, another of my favorites. Jane ordered her favorite, Saag Paneer, I ordered Lamb Saag, and we both decided to share a half-order of the chicken. Onion Naan completed our choices.
Green Chile Chicken Curry
This dish is not some lame New Mexican imitation made by adding green chile to chicken stew, but a phenomenal scratch Indian curry to which fine New Mexican green chile has been added. The spice blend is stunning. This is a highly complex dish, and at the end of the year, will place prominently on my Best Dishes of 2012 List on mu blog.
Thanks, Shree. You did it again. Anazing.
I asked for this dish to be prepared very spicy (hot). It was But like every other dish at Namaste, the heat never overshadows the other spices. Very tender and tasty cubes of lamb with an incredibly tasty and creamy saag, this dish has become my benchmark with which I shall judge any other Lamb Saag that I come across. Perfection. Phenomenal.
Jane’s Saag Paneer was, as usual, perfect. This has become her favorite Indian dish, and she uses the Namaste version as a benchmark.
This was yet another perfect meal at Namaste. But why not — this is the best Indian restaurant in New Mexico.
The real surprise of the evening was the chicken. Sandhya told me that it has become teir most popular dish. But of course. My only regret this evening is not ordering a full portion of that stupendous chicken. I’ll know better next tine.
What Others Say
My friend Gil Garduño on his blog rates Namaste at 24, and especially likes Naan, Kasmiri Naan, Lamb Momo, Mix Grill Tandoori.
Sally and Andy Wasowski, hypercritical gastronomes, and our dear friends and dining companions from Taos, declared, raving, that Namaste serves the very best Indian food in the state. And who am I to disagree. I took them to Budai for lunch the next day, and it, too, blew them away, cementing in their minds my reputation as a best-of-breed picker.
Go there. Eat. Enjoy.
1520 Deborah Rd. SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124