“If cameraman Korey (@KoreyDavisPhotography) doesn’t shoot it, I won’t eat it.” So, me and some friends from out of town was enjoying each other’s company with my honorary granddaughter (My Godson has a beautiful baby girl “Minnie” that I love like the sun), and decided to eat dinner before heading to Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a function. It was advantageous for us to find a place around the Hotel so we could cut driving time. As you could imagine, the decision war would commence as alliances were created to defend each desired cuisine and restaurant of preference. However, I was the one driving and simply drowned out any sound beside my own thoughts as I looked through the GPS for nearby restaurants. Most of the options were high end eateries inside the Hard Rock. Accepting my fate, I exited the turnpike and was heading to the Casino to decide from the limited options inside. Then, something unexpected occurred. The GPS reset itself, and I saw Royal Indian Restaurant pop up. I immediately selected it, the GPS uploaded directions, and we were on our way!
My deadlocked group of friends had no idea where I was driving them. Minnie was staring at me with that pre-cry face, so I needed to stop soon. Sometimes you have to emerge as the decision maker for your friends, because if not, you may end up at a 5 Guys or Panera Bread. I pulled up to the restaurant, parked the car, got Minnie, and we rushed inside before the group turned on me. Going inside and engaging the host will obligate us to dine in, especially with me having the baby. Do you feel that was a strong-arm move? Well, it most definitely was. I actually love Indian food, but had never eaten at this particular establishment. Because I had never dined at this particular restaurant, I thought it would be a great opportunity to review, so I asked Korey to meet me with his camera. Our group was mostly comprised of African-Americans, many of which DO NOT LIKE TRYING NEW S@#%. That really bothers me about my people here in Miami. I’m not sure how we are around the nation, but the majority of my black friends and family do not like trying different or “foreign” cuisines, point blank period. I, on the other hand, LOVE trying new foods from various cultures. I am not afraid of getting sick, and no, I’m not allergic to anything to my knowledge. This combination allows for many enjoyable food experiences I desperately would like to share with my family and friends.
Today, they were going to sit down and eat this food if it was the last thing I did. Eventually, our entire group moseyed their way inside the restaurant. I could hear grumblings and comments like, “This place smells spicy”, “I don’t eat this”, “Starex, you always want to go to some s@$% like this man”, and on and on. I didn’t give a damn. I was resolved in them eating this, because I knew if they tried it, they would love it. Indian cuisine is so awesome and filled with flavor, there is something for everyone in addition to having many parallels to Afro-Caribbean cuisine, which I knew many of them liked. See, you have to help your friends and family along in trying new culinary experiences. It will enrich their lives, in addition to increasing their vocabulary and knowledge of other cultures. Then, they will eventually venture out and explore more varied culinary experiences on their own time. It may even open the door to traveling abroad. If you’re a person of color and reside in the United States, please make it your personal goal to travel outside of the U.S. and not only on cruises or to other “U.S. like” places. Don’t go to Canada, where it’s just a weird variation of the United States, with nicer people; go to countries in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe, to get a true glimpse of the vastness of cultures that make our world so amazing.
I assured the group they wouldn’t have a negative experience. I have eaten at some of the most prestigious Indian kitchens out west and in New York, so at least, I know what to expect. I convinced them to give it a try, and what a great decision. Upon entering, you will encounter the oddest hosting staff. They seem to have been extras on the show “The Love Boat” who formed friendships and decided to all work at Royal India. They were nice, just weird. We were seated in a nicely decorated area with white draping over circular tables, in addition to a water view (It’s a canal…lol, but a nice clean canal with boats and s$%#.
The waiter came with menus and water. I asked him if the owner or manager was available, and he said yes and went to get him for me. A mature Indian man walked toward our table with arms stretched for a double handshake. I received the double handshake, even though I hate double handshakes. He introduced himself as “Robert”, the owner. I was pleased to meet his acquaintance, and wanted to let him know I forced my friends to dine in his establishment and would hate to see them disappointed. He laughed and assured that they wouldn’t be. Robert provided a brief explanation of the history of Indian food (I found out the only reason Indian curries have cream in them is due to the English occupation of India, in that Queen Victoria fat ass liked cream to soften the spice. Thanks for that Queen Victoria). He further explained he has been in business for over 25 years, and maintained the same staff since opening his doors. That explained the oddness of the staff. You know how it is if you’ve been working at a place forever, you just relegate yourself to the reality that you will retire from this place and at times, you just don’t give a flying f@#$. Robert is originally from Bombay, along with his head chef. The spot is very common to locals, but not so much to visitors. As you can imagine, I was super excited to try the food and see how the locals eat! Robert further explained that Indian cuisine is extremely regional, and that most of his dishes were reflective of a northern Indian style, where in the south, the foods are more spicy with very little European fusion.
We started with drinks. We ordered three (3) different yogurt based drinks called Lassi, each ($2.95). I had the Mango Lassi, which was great. I had better, but this is definitely the Lassi you want. It’s pretty much mango puree with yogurt. The other Lassi was the Sweet Lassi, which taste like the Mango Lassi without mango, and the last Lassi, I didn’t like at all, the Sweet and Salty Lassi. It was very bitter and just taste like the healthy yogurt you get from the supermarket. I mean, if you like the taste of just plain white yogurt, then you will love that. The last drink I ordered was the mango nectar. That was delicious.
Following the drinks, we put in an appetizer order of Vegetable Samosa ($3.95) (One order comes with two pieces). These little fried veggie stuffed triangles were freaking amazing. Each stuffed triangle was nice and crispy stuffed with spiced peas and potatoes. We also ordered the meat Samosa, but didn’t like it at all. DO NOT GET THE MEAT SAMOSA (For some reason, they were simply not good here, however, the meat Samosas is usually the ones I like the most). The veggie samosas came with two really awesome sauces called “chutneys”. The first chutney is red with onions and is called Onion Chutney, and the second taste like barbecue sauce and is called Tamarind Chutney. I like to dip my samosa whether meat or veggie inside these awesome sauces.
Our second appetizer was way more elaborate. It came out sizzling, like a fajita at an upscale Mexican joint. Don’t you just love when you order dishes and they come out either on fire, smoking, or creating some sort of spectacle? I do. It makes me feel like a true boss, like Rick Ross is having dinner with me or something. Anyway, the sizzling appetizer was the Tandori Mixed Grill ($20.95), which included chicken tikka and tandoori chicken, lamb kabab and shrimp. The word Tandori means grilled. The meat has a red texture to it because of the spices used to marinate the chicken. Any Tandori dish is grilled inside a clay oven as well. The taste is simply amazing. Anyone who appreciates great barbecue would love this dish. You can also dip this into one of the sauces of your choice. I prefer to eat it as it is.
The third and final appetizer was the Special Appetizer ($9.95) which came with a vegetable samosa, vegetable pakora, onion bhajia, chicken pakora and mixed kaha. Each of these items were simply delicious. They were either breads or meats with spices. Mostly fried and served with chutneys. I was on a roll so far, with the exception of the meat samosas. My friends were conversing, Minnie was chewing on one of the samosa breads, and I received authorization from the group to order for the table. Indian dining is very communal. It’s not a place where you come and get an individualized plate, eat it, and not share. Everything is meant to be shared. I love that about so many cultures around the globe. Another thing I like is that I can be free and eat with my hands. I love eating with my hands. I think utensils are so restrictive, while evoking the possibility of aggression. Like seriously, you have a sharp object at a table while you defenselessly eat? You got me bent. Even chopsticks can be deadly. “TEAM USE YOUR FINGERS TO EAT!!!”
The first entrée came out with a collection of Nan Breads. The most basic Nan Bread is light and fluffy with a crispy outside made of fine flour and baked in a clay oven. If you never had Nan Bread, stop reading this article and jet out to the nearest Indian Restaurant. Once you’ve eaten one piece, that is the true first day of your life. This bread is simply amazing. Start out with just the Plain Nan ($2.95) and then work your way up to the flavored and stuffed ones, which is exactly what we did. Following the Plain Nan, we ordered the Special Nan ($5.95) which came with chicken tikka (white meat) flavored with coriander and herbs. Yep, it was THE BOMB. The group has now become ravenous. All that s@#$ they were talking went out the f#$@!&% window, as we put an additional order for Garlic Nan ($2.95), which is stuffed with potatoes, fresh garlic, coriander and herbs. The final Nan Bread was the Sweet Nan ($2.95), which taste like awesome cream of wheat stuffed inside Nan Bread. I really liked it. Only get it if you like cream of wheat though.
The actual entrée that accompanied the Nan Bread was Biryani Rice ($18.95), which is aromatic Basmati Rice, cooked with chicken, lamb, shrimp or vegetables, flavored with spices and garnished with nuts. It came out with a delicious curry sauce and Raita. We chose the Lamb and drenched it with the curry sauce because it lacked flavor a bit. It was good, but honestly I’ve had way better Biriyani. If you are new to Indian cuisine, this would be a great option to introduce you the flavor. At this place the flavor is very mild because I was hesitant on spicing things up due to my group. If I were by myself, I would have told them to light that s@$% up.
The next dish was the Sag Paneer ($13.95) which is simply homemade cheese cubes cooked in a spicy spinach puree. I know it doesn’t sound great, but this s@#% was delicious. If you like spinach, you’ll love this. It has a smooth texture with hints of spice. Let your server know that you want medium or mild spice so they won’t light your ass on fire. Use the Plain Nan to scoop up this curry. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Following the Sag Paneer, we ordered the Butter Chicken ($18.95), which comes with cubes or balls of white meat-boneless chicken roasted in a clay oven and folded into a creamy tomato sauce with lots of butter. At my favorite Indian restaurants, the Butter Chicken is my go to dish. However, at Royal India, I really liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite. The Butter Chicken is served with a rich and creamy flavor along with super tender pieces of chicken smothered with hints of spice. The tomato sauce meshed wonderfully with each piece of white barbecued cubes of chicken for a heap of heavenly goodness to go on top of a piece of Nan Bread. EAT EVERYTHING WITH NAN The aroma of this dish is very inviting; you may end up eating the whole thing if you’re not careful.
After devouring the Butter Chicken, we ordered our final dish, the Lamb Rogan Josh ($18.95). I usually don’t like this one, but at Royal India, this was my favorite main entree. It was super spicy because I asked for the spice to be light your ass on fire level, and it came up smelling up our entire table with its spicy goodness. The tenderness of the lamb along with being cooked in a traditional light sauce with various spices and herbs created a marvelous gumbo of flavor. I love this dish so much that I ate it before we could take a picture. I’m super sorry for that.
So there you go, Indian food is great! If you don’t have an opportunity to visit Royal India in South Florida, I’m sure you can find an Indian Restaurant in your city. You can use this as a guide to order since we provided you with a head start. You won’t’ be disappointed. Oh I completely forgot! This place has a full bar. I didn’t get any cocktails, but I did have a nice shot of Jack Daniels.
3801 GRIFFIN ROAD
Atmosphere An elegantly dated dining room that has character without lapsing into exotic tropes. Servers are personable, outgoing, eager to explain.
Drinks and Wine – Full Bar
Price $$ (expensive)
Open Monday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.
Wheelchair Access A ramp descends to the dining room and accessible restrooms.