Does Collingswood need another Indian restaurant?
That may seem like a silly question. Haddon Avenue is, after all, not exactly the definition of diversity. While there does exist a plethora of options, Collingswood tends to lean on an Italian-heavy influence when it comes to cuisine. Therefore, the opinion of many folks I’ve spoken to is that anything new that’s not Italian is acceptable.
I only ask that question because Collingswood is already home to one of the premier Indian restaurants in South Jersey. I’m sure you’re familiar; Indeblue has been established in the area for some time and has grown quite a reputation. When you’re talking about a style of food that’s generally considered as foreign and exotic as Indian cuisine is, it seems an exceptionally bold risk to take a chance when there’s already a well reputed competitor in the area.
Not that these views are my own. I love Indian food. I didn’t use to; for much of my life, I was turned off by the thick, heavily spiced aromas that surrounded Indian restaurants. When I finally began refining my palate and decided to give Indian cuisine a fair chance, I discovered a style of food that, when you dug beneath the powerful spice blends permeating a dish, was quite simply delicious, at times both reassuringly simple and astonishingly complex.
I’ve discovered that many people still do have the same phobias toward Indian food that I used to, and aren’t in any kind of hurry to prove themselves otherwise. After all, everyone’s heard the joke about the guy in the office who uses the break room microwave to heat up his Indian food.
With that in mind, I’ll ask again: Does Collingswood need another Indian restaurant?
After having lunch at Indiya recently, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Indiya, if you’ve been paying attention, opened a little more than a month ago in the spot recently evacuated by pizza joint Raymonds (previously Mangia Mangia). The proprietor, Vipul Bhasin, has found success previously with the excellent Coriander in Voorhees.
As you know, I’m always on the lookout for a deal in Collingswood, and Indiya has a darn good one in a daily lunch buffet for $10. The term “buffet” usually causes the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up in repulsion, but due to a great experience in the past at Coriander, I decided I’d give it a try.
As expected, Indiya did not disappoint. The food was delicious, if relatively tame. The chicken kofta makhani was especially good, the ground chicken meatballs tender and flavorful in the heavily scented makhani sauce. There’s plenty of choice vegetarian options as well, such as the tofu mutter and bean aloo, both very tasty.
I was surprised to find that the food wasn’t spicy, I assume out of concern for the general populace. However, as a heat fanatic, it was a bit disappointing. I will note, all the same, that everything else about lunch was spot on. Aside from delicious food, aromatic chutneys and a friendly staff, Indiya holds a distinct lunchtime advantage over Indeblue (and other Haddon Avenue restaurants) in that one can walk in, sit, eat, pay and leave in about 20 minutes. Time constraints for those on a short lunch break aren’t an issue.
I was told that buffet choices, which amount to a handful of entrees and sides, rice, soup, salad, desert, chutneys and a basket of naan, don’t typically change much on a day to day basis. The chicken kofta makhani may switch to a chicken tikka makhani from one day to the next, but everything is relatively the same.
All in all, Indiya is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, and a positive sign that the Italian-centric flavor of Collingswood is beginning to expand.
-I hope everyone fared well during Hurricane Sandy, and my thoughts and prayers go out to those with friends and family in the costal region.
-As always, follow me on twitter, @davevaliante!