Priyaa

You could poke my eyes out and deafen me, then wheel me into almost any Indian restaurant in town and I could order without seeing the menu or letting anyone read it to me. One chicken korma! One saag paneer! Tikka masala, please. It seems like they're all your typical North Indian restaurant serving the same dishes with nearly the same quality and taste levels.

That's not to say the food is bad - it isn't - it's just that there is no range in quality or choices.  India is huge. Go on Wikipedia and you'll see 37 types of regional Indian cuisines listed. Give me some Goan seafood dishes with their Portuguese influence. It's just like Japanese restaurants in the US: there's more to Japan's cuisine than ramen and sushi.

After eating lunch at the forgettable Chihuahua's Mexican at 270 and Dorsett, I noticed Priyaa Indian at the corner of the strip mall and got to Googling. South Indian dishes! Two days later, I was there.

 Interior at Priyaa Indian

Interior at Priyaa Indian

I love South Indian food; there was a hawker stand I went to weekly in Singapore that served up an enormous dosa with rainbow of sides for something like $6. South Indian food is typically spicier and contains more tamarind and coconut to replace the dairy often seen in the north (paneer, cream), which is a-ok with me.

As I tout my love of the South, I order a Punjab (North Indian) entree: the Chole Bhatura. Our waitress told us it was one of her favorites and not something seen at most other restaurants in town, so we went with it. This was one delicious, spicy bowl of chickpea curry. It looks like your typical American chili, but the flavors - cinnamon, fennel, cardamom, turmeric - let you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

The dish is served with three giant bhatura, a puffed fried bread.

I let me stomach dictate my photos of the rava masala dosa. I knew they weren't great shots, but the smell was so tempting, I couldn't resist. I had to start eating.

For the unaware, a dosa is basically a gigantic crepe that is filled with a thick vegetable curry (if it has masala in the name), then folded or rolled. The rava (semolina flour) masala dosa's batter contains onions, peppers, and all sorts of spices, making every bite a flavor-filled one. It's crispy, it's comically large, and I devoured it. I went in with low expectations, but after tasting how spot on the dosa was, I wanted to try every type they make.

 Chickpea Stew at Priyaa Indian

Chickpea Stew at Priyaa Indian

 Dosa at Priyaa Indian

Dosa at Priyaa Indian

 Tandoori Chicken at Priyaa Indian

Tandoori Chicken at Priyaa Indian

We had expected all of the entrees to come at the same time, but the tandoori chicken came 10-15 minutes after everything else. By that time, we'd gone through the entire dosa (see below) and most of the chickpea curry - there wasn't much room left for chicken. And, as if a dosa and the bhatura bread weren't enough, the chicken came with naan (see below again). Suffering from Celiac? Don't come here.

The chicken was standard: charred and juicy. It was good, but not an item that I'd return to Priyaa for specifically.

I wish Priyaa had more South Indian dishes on their menu, but I understand that they probably aren't their money makers - yet. If you enjoy Indian spices and want to try something different, head over and get some dosas to share. Or, better yet, get one dosa and one of their Thali, something like a sampler platter.

What's your favorite Indian restaurant in St. Louis?

Priyaa Indian Cuisine

1910 McKelvey Rd

Maryland Heights, MO 63043

314-542-6148