It was the sort of night when I wondered if I was ever going to get something to eat. Spring Fest. Prom. Packed restaurants and wait times that ranged from an hour to “we aren’t seating any more walk-ins.” And then I discovered Khana Indian Grill, and it was fantastic. Coincidentally, our Arkansas Wild intern Zoë sent me a review of the place the following week, so here’s our combined look at a great pick for cheap, tasty Indian food in Fayetteville.
Located on College Avenue, Khana opened shortly before Fayetteville’s first attempt at Indian food, Cardamom and Curry, closed. Khana’s sparkly and bright interior provides an otherworldly vibe matched by their interesting (yet accessible) Indian cuisine. It boasts a bold and flavorful menu that isn’t afraid of spice and also has options for picky and intrepid eaters alike.
Khana’s dining room is lit by a series of lamps that change color to fit the mood—light yellows and whites for lunch time, and darker, rainbow hues for the dinner hours. The colorful luminescence is reminiscent of Holi, or a festive daytime street market, matched by the addition of a colorful, hand-painted truck that serves as a sign for the restaurant.
The menu, though not expansive, has just enough options to satisfy adventurous eaters and first time Indian consumers alike. There are Chaats, or vibrant street food style appetizers that are a potpourri of different flavors and textures. A particular favorite is the Bhel Puri, which combines a colorful array of puffed rice, peanuts, warm bits of potato, spicy slices of cucumber and radish, hearty chickpeas, and a subtle yet flavorful tamarind chutney topped with zesty green chiles. The Bhel Puri is a great example of what Khana does best: combining the familiar and the exotic into a delicious medley of color and texture.
Next comes the main event, a hearty and tangy Basmati Plate with chickpea chole, a spicy and buttery curry served over softly herbal basmati rice. Rice, though often used as a mere blank canvas over which to serve the more flavorful curry, is just as delicious as the main courses at Khana. It is subtly flavored with fragrant jasmine that works with the spicy yet sweet chole to make a wholesome and satisfying dish with layers of flavor. The chole itself is hearty and spicy without overwhelming the delicate sweetness of the rice. As lover of all things spicy and exotic, I am satisfied in the pleasantly zesty dish, though I imagine that even those new to the exciting and exotic world of spices like tamarind, cardamom, and tumeric would be satisfied as well. Khana isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but they set it on a pedestal to be reevaluated and appreciated in a new and fresh way.
For carnivores, the Chicken Tikka Masala is a delightful mix of sweet and spicy flavors, served with cucumber slices to help sooth a burn that seemed to grow with every bite. The Desi Khati Roll is another delight, with flatbread wrapped around Tandoori Chicken providing a tangy delight. The vegetables and fruit served to the side were fresh and vibrant, and while a few pieces of chicken suffered from being a bit overcooked, the overall experience was delightful.
Drinks are well worth trying at Khana, too. The cocktails too are spicy renditions of old-world classics. Of particular note is the Coromandel Coast, which combines Bombay Sapphire gin with passion fruit juice and pomegranate puree. It’s sweet without being cloying. More adventurous drinkers will love the Fireball Chai, a warm chai tea infused with, of course, Fireball Whiskey. Once again, Khana combines the familiar and the exotic to create and update classic recipes that are sure to appeal to diners at every end of the spectrum.
The ambiance is friendly and casual, and combines an old India feel with clean and bright modern interiors. It feels appropriate for a casual family lunch or fancy first date. I’m already looking forward to ordering a Khati Roll for a quick, carry out lunch, and my only misgiving is that it won’t be possible to get a cocktail to go.