The enticing smells of ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric and fried onion lure the casual passer-by with the warming mix of the exotic and the familiar. The myriad of Indian colours – blues, greens, oranges and yellows – and the frantic energy of Bollywood music transports the hungry patron to a faraway land before the waiter has even approached the table. Creston’s newest restaurant, Memories of Indian Cuisine, opened its doors recently. Those familiar with the flavours of India, and those excited to try something new, were advised to reserve ahead of time. Now that the initial excitement has died down a little, owner Kiran Sandhu discusses the journey so far.
Sandhu’s warm demeanor and genuine interest in customer satisfaction combine with her shy and unassuming nature as she relays what ultimately drove her to open an Indian restaurant in downtown Creston. “It is a small population here, and there are not a lot of Indians, but my friends and family convinced me that the people of Creston wanted authentic Indian dishes. They told me an Indian restaurant would be a success.”
Sharing her country’s gastronomic delights might seem a risk when so much of the Western world associates the Indian subcontinent with the ubiquitous ‘curry’, a blanket term for all dishes that does nothing to describe the wide-ranging regional varieties. “I wasn’t sure about how many people would like Indian food,” said Sandhu. “So I just tried making dishes that I would cook at home, and lots of people told me they loved it. So I started the restaurant. It seemed like a big step right away.”
Sandhu smiles before commenting on the food laid out for the lunch buffet. “The menu features all the best recipes I know. And our chef from New Delhi has some of his own on the menu. It is very important that there are no artificial colours or flavours in the recipes. This is authentic Indian food.”
A cuisine that has developed over thousands of years is not only healthy, but also features many vegetarian dishes. “Aloo gobhi (cauliflower and potatoes) and malai kofta (potato and Indian cheese balls) are two popular vegetarian dishes,” notes Sandhu.
Indian food specialties extend from their breads, salads, to both meat and vegetarian dishes of lentil and bean variety, vegetables, desserts and even drinks. For someone not familiar with Indian cuisine, the menu can seem intimidating. “Many people know samosas, butter chicken, naan bread and maybe mango lassi, but we can recommend other dishes that they may have not tried before,” says Sandhu. “Our tandoori sizzlers are very good. Lamb vindaloo or lamb masala is also very good.”
The popularity of the lunch buffet has introduced many residents to the flavours of India. “Response has been positive. Right now we are seeing a lot of repeat customers,” said Sandhu.
But running a restaurant is never predicable. “When the power went out throughout most of the city, we still had power. And many people wanted to come to the restaurant. I had just given most of my staff the long weekend off, thinking it might be slow. We did the best we could. I apologize if the service was slow. I feel bad about that.”
Sandhu is always keen to hear customer input. “If anyone notices anything about our food or service that can be improved, I am very interested. I want my customers to feel comfortable and to always let me know.”
Offering a catering service, later hours, and new menu items (which will include butter chicken samosas), many Creston residents and tourists are making several trips to try and try again.
Memories of Indian Cuisine is located at 1403B Canyon Street and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Fri and Sat). The menu can be viewed on their Facebook page.