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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.5
7.5
$40
Indian
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Sat 11:30am–2:00pm
Mon–Sat 5:30pm–9:30pm

Features Date-friendly, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.eastindiacopdx.com

Downtown
821 SW 11th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 227-8815
East India Co.
Elegant, straightforward Northern Indian food that is, for now, the best in the city

Hiding behind the downtown library, sandwiched into a tiny space between an old parking garage and the Dental Building, is East India Co. Although the entrance is inconspicuous, the dining room is intimidating and cavernous, with white tablecloths and candles against a backdrop of warm wood floors, deep aubergine walls, and indirect lighting. Overhead, an eye-catching and oddly roulette-wheelish glass fixture looms. It’s somewhat elegant, but not the best design we’ve seen.

Here you’ll find prettier, more careful presentations of Northern Indian food than usual. The slightly higher prices seem motivated by this effort and by the atmosphere; service, on the other hand, doesn’t fit. At busier times, tables go unrefilled, guests ungreeted, and waits for food can be awfully long. At best, it’s adequate.

Expect instead to be wowed by the kitchen. Samosa chaat has complex flavors, with a hint of mint and coriander. The crust is fairly thin and flaky but a little forgettable. Split a plate of kebabs; they’re excellent and not at all dry. The tandoori chicken version is inspired by Kashmiri cayenne, and the fish is flavorful and tender. Aloo gobi is a spicy, alluring mix of cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and ginger.

Lamb does its best work in gosht vindaloo with a mélange of spices, sour vinegar, sweet tamarind, and herbs. Warning: this is hot, even for spice freaks. Lamb chops are better than biryani, where the leaner cut of lamb can be drier. Chicken is usually moist and tender, best in silky makhani, especially when tomatoes are in season.

Cocktails are uninspired and not particularly well executed. The wine selection is cursory and uninformed, with no vintages or vineyards on the list, and we’ve had several glasses poured from bottles that were open too long. We’d recommend sticking to a draft beer.

Lunches are slightly higher priced than others around town, and the quality definitely isn’t as high as it is at dinner. It’s fast, though, and a good option if you’re sick of mushy buffet standards. We’ve heard comparisons made between East India and Vindalho, but they have quite different goals. The latter’s Indian cuisine is more loosely interpreted and fusion-y. For straight Indian food, East India Company is some of the best around, with a kitchen that obviously cares…even if a manager is sorely needed.

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