I was not much of a fan of Indian cuisine until the last decade. If someone ordered you tongue-scorching vindaloo chicken on your first Indian outing, you might have felt the same. But Indian cuisine does not at all require a heavy hand with spice. Here are five elegant dishes with chutneys, exotic seasonings and creamy lime coconut sauces:
6290 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941) 706-0793, maharajaindiancuisinefl.com
Tucked in the Detwiler's-anchored shopping center on the corner of University Parkway and North Lockwood Ridge Road, this little gem makes amazing dishes with a tandoor, the clay cooking vessel. Maharaja's tandoor chicken is incredible—flavorful and moist.
3550 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 924-7222, currystation.net
Go here for the fabulous cuisine and the chatty, joking servers who make your entire experience delicious and warm. The Panner Pakoda is made with cottage cheese fried with a spiced chickpea batter and is good enough on its own to make me drive across town. I use it to sop up the flavors of Curry Station's wonderful butter chicken.
8453 Cooper Creek Blvd., Bradenton, (941) 926-3077, tandoorsarasota.net
Tandoor's meat samosas are crispy, pyramid-shaped pastries stuffed with minced lamb and peas. Ask for extra yogurt sauce on the side. One order comes with two samosas, but you might not want to share.
7119 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-9200, rasoisarasota.com
If you are looking for an out-of-the-box dish and have never tried curried goat, order the Malabar Aducurry, a mixture of lamb or goat, plus fresh ginger, coconut and curry leaves with tender potatoes. A hearty Indian stew.
2080 Constitution Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 924-1179, casaitaliafl.com
It may sound confusing to order Indian food at a place named Casa Italia, but this shop's Indian takeout is incredible. Every Friday, Casa Italia offers four different fresh, homemade Indian dishes: a meat curry, a vegetarian curry, a vegetable side dish and a basmati rice. Watch for the shop's Facebook posts on Tuesdays for the upcoming menu, and also check the calendar for the shop's fun Indian cooking classes.