In the realm of different food cuisines, I find that Indian food tends to be more feared than others. You can convince your friends to order or grab some , but I’ve noticed when I mention Indian people suddenly wrinkle their noses. I can certainly understand where they’re coming from; Indian food is less common and it uses less familiar ingredients. Trying Indian food is a bit of an adventure, but I’m convinced that once people give it a chance, they’ll realize they actually do like Indian cuisine. My most recent Eating My Way Through University City adventure was to Gokul Indian Restaurant (6101 Delmar Blvd) on the northern end of Delmar Boulevard.
My husband and I visited the restaurant on a Thursday evening. We’d actually intended to go on Tuesday, but something came up—a stroke of good luck, because the sign on the door informed us they’re actually closed on Tuesdays. The restaurant was empty when we entered, but we were in time for the early bird special, so I wasn’t surprised. Although it didn’t get much busier in the forty-five minutes we were there (empty restaurant = fast service!), I assume they have enough of a customer base to stay in business, despite the minimal number of patrons that evening.
The space is bright—painted in oranges and yellows—and spacious, with two large rooms scattered with tables, a bar in one room, and a buffet set up along the length of one wall.
Gokul features a buffet daily, for both lunch and dinner, at a reasonable price (less than $14/per person for either meal). Their website boasts an all-vegan buffet on Mondays, one of the few advertisements I’ve seen in the area solely for vegans. The buffet was filled when we arrived and appeared to have an assortment of dishes—everything from simple green salad to yellow daal (a lentil dish typically served over rice) to aloo saag (spinach and potatoes cooked in mild spices).
I’ve been to similar Indian buffets that seemed similar, but I can’t comment on the true assortment or quality because we opted to order off of the menu. If you’ve tried the buffet at Gokul, feel free to share your experience below in the comments!
Gokul is actually a vegetarian Indian restaurant, so chicken tikka masala, one of the few commonly known Indian dishes, isn’t found on the menu. Instead, however, there is an abundance of dishes featuring chickpeas, lentils and vegetables. The menu appears a little overwhelming at first, be prepared to sit back and read through each of the descriptions. Many of the dishes seemed similar, with the term “cooked in spices” appearing on a majority of the items. This was fine for me, as I know my taste buds enjoy Indian food. For the Indian food virgin, however, this might be confusing. Frequently featured spices include turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, cumin and more.
I struggled over what dish to order, until the server informed me that a few of the dishes that I was contemplating weren’t sold at this location (Gokul’s first restaurant is on Page Avenue, east of Lindbergh and appears to have a wider variety of dishes available). I ended up with the chhole puri (chickpeas slow cooked with fragrant herbs and spices), but I swapped out the wheat fry bread (the puris) for spinach naan. My husband can never resist any sort of mint flavor, and ordered the cutlet chaat (vegetable cutlets topped with potatoes, onions, chickpeas, tamarind sauce, mint sauce and yogurt).
When our food arrived, I was immediately surprised by how small my portion of chickpeas were. I had ordered off of the “delightfully light” section of the menu, thinking light = healthier. As it turns out, I think light = small portioned. Along with the spinach naan, it ended up being the perfect amount of food. My chickpeas were tender and full of the spicy flavor I love in my Indian food. I used my naan to soak up all of the extra sauce.
Meanwhile, my husband raved about the complexity of his dish. Thanks to the variety of ingredients, his meal managed to be both spicy and sweet, the textures and flavors of the foods complementing one another nicely. I stole a few bites and had to agree; the cool yogurt sauce was a delightful accompaniment to the (literally) hot vegetables. He has also ordered a side of garlic naan bread, which was heavy on the garlic. We shared both orders of naan and twelve hours later, I still felt like garlic was seeping from my pores. Garlic lovers won’t be disappointed by the warm naan that comes filled with roasted garlic. If garlic isn’t your thing, stick to one of the other flavors of naan!
A final word about this naan, because it was the highlight of the meal for me. If you are scared of Indian food, if nothing else go and enjoy an order of naan. The bread is perfectly light, so light you’ve eaten five pieces before you realize it (I would know from experience!). It comes warm from the kitchen and is a great way to soak up extra sauce and flavor from whatever entrée before you, but is equally enjoyable on its own.
I’m quite convinced the naan at Gokul was my favorite to date, and I’m now on a mission to make some at home so that I can get my naan fix whenever the craving strikes!
Indian food doesn’t have to be scary, but it might take a little bit of experimentation to discover what you like. A place like Gokul, with a number of options and a buffet to let you try a number of items, is a great place to introduce yourself or your friends to Indian cuisine. If you give it a try, let me know what you think!