Address: 1600 Kenaston Blvd
Entrees: $19 – $31
Indian cuisine offers a thrilling food experience reflecting magical combinations of spices used for generations. Yet exotic ingredients and unfamiliar sounding dishes can be just as intimidating as exciting. Dip beyond universally adored chicken tikka masala or butter chicken and discover a new language of southeast Asian cuisine. A little guidance from a helpful server, is all it takes to be rewarded with spicy, sour, sweet flavours at Clay Oven.
Learning the basic spices of this cuisine is a good start. Cumin, cardamom, coriander, turmeric and ginger connect a wide variety of diverse dishes across regions of the country. Many spices sprinkle health benefits with exciting flavours so go ahead and eat with gusto.
The restaurant’s three locations in the city each boast stylish digs that elevate the dining experience. Kenaston Common’s suburban strip mall locale opens into an espresso-coloured room sparkling from pendant lights above.
The menu touches multiple regions of India, notably recognizing tastes of the Hakka people, reflecting a fusion of Chinese and Indian flavours. Gleaming on a silver plate, garlic prawns are a standout appetizer. Large prawns are breaded and tossed in a sweet and slow burning sauce piqued with chilli.
Traditional Indian dishes are equally impressive. Chewy and charred, freshly baked naan is superb, especially when stuffed with sweet onions or cheese. Hearty curries in chic silver bowls (holding more than meets the eye) encourage eating family style.
Vegetarians will delight in the diversity of flavour profiles. Tuck into layers of textures on a plate of aloo tikki. Fenugreek, cumin, ginger add warmth to the potato cakes atop channa masala. Tamarind adds a tangy finish. Labab dar accented with sweet tomato and kicky ginger cashew cream packed with cubes of soft homemade cheese is one of many exemplary paneers. Favourites like aloo gobhi masala (warm spiced cauliflower and potato) and subtly sweet navratan korma (vegetables in cream sauce) flecked with raisins are can’t-miss picks.
Meaty lamb chops are a luxurious bargain here. Bathed in mellow garlic ginger sauce, slightly sweet, braised cabbage adds zing to the rich gamey bites.
Like all good fusion food, Clay Oven weds seemingly disparate elements into a seamless whole. Char-touched, blistered flatbreads and smoky curries show that traditional Indian cooking methods inspire more than the name.