The photos in this post were taken with an iPhone
“Could it really be?” I thought during one of my routine Yelp rounds a couple of months ago. People were submitting reviews on a new restaurant called Karma Indian Cuisine.
Indian food in Fargo has left the ranks of single-option cuisines (like pho or African food) and joined the two-option tier (i.e. Greek food). While eating through Australia on an episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain states that as neighborhoods diversify, the food can only get better. The opening of Fargo’s second Indian restaurant is a promising sign of a diversifying food scene.
Last week, I read It’s That Good: New Indian Restaurant, an enthusiastic review of Karma published in The High Plains Reader. This review instigated our Friday date night at Karma. It’s located inside the dingy Vista Inn & Suites that sits in a concrete armpit of land near Interstate 94.
I’ve often passed by the Vista, noticing its advertisement as a hotel, lounge, and casino. These dual/triple types of establishments that also serve as casinos don’t seem to exist in the Twin Cities. Before our visit to Karma, I had often wondered if they concealed the glittering lights of Vegas.
We found Karma’s small sign and navigated our way into the Vista Inn. Enter Karma on your first door to the left. It’s a tiny restaurant with dark wood decor. And on this hot evening, its air conditioning was struggling. We were promptly greeted and seated by a gentleman who immediately poured us ice water. Our server seemed to be the front of the house’s one-man-show. As the evening became busier, he somehow managed to keep up as the greeter, server, and busser.
We ordered an appetizer of Cut Mirchi (fried banana peppers), a mango lassi, and our usual favorites of chicken tikka masala, daal, and bindi do piazza (okra) along with garlic naan and a side of raita. Of course, we requested everything to be spicy hot. Before our appetizer arrived, we were treated to a small plate of onion pakora.
The fried banana peppers were also fried equally well and perfectly salted. Unfortunately, they turned out to be the spiciest item we tasted that evening.
The chicken tikka masala contained large chunks of white meat chicken in a sauce that tasted fine but lacked intensity.
The Binda do piazza’s best asset was the freshness of its vegetables and inclusion of lots of okra. The vegetables were cooked long just long enough to be tender yet crisp.
We love okra’s natural sweetness and crunch. The sauce was, again, fine. Acceptable, but lacking the depth we hoped for. Karma manages to trump Passage To India’s garlic naan in regards to price.
A portion of Karma’s garlic naan costs $2.95, while Passage’s costs $4 for two, small pieces. Both pillowy versions taste homemade.
The mango lassi was infused with a heavy dose of cardamom. A scent of cardamom would have been ideal, but the lassi was a little gritty with the spice. The lassi was refreshing, but I prefer Passage’s tarter version, sans the heavy cardamom.
In summary, the prices are mind boggling low. We ordered an embarrassing amount of food that totaled about $40, plus tip. The same bill would have been significantly higher at Passage to India. The fried appetizers were solid; nicely seasoned and complimented by chutneys. We also enjoyed Karma’s use of fresh ingredients and garlic naan. I’m intrigued by two of Karma’s other naan offerings filled with ground lamb, or raisins, nuts, and cheese.
While we felt everything was cooked well, the entrees tasted a little mild and, dare I say, bland, for our preferences. We had requested the entrees spicy, but felt the heat level was mild. The okra and daal bordered on under-salted. When comparing entrees, side-by-side, we prefer Passage To India’s intensely rich gravies that surpass much of what I’ve tried in the Twin Cities. Even Passage’s baseline heat level has kick and when we request extra spicy, they deliver.
We’ll probably lean towards shelling out more money for the flavors and heat level we crave, but try both options for yourself and reach your own conclusions.
Bask in the fact that Fargo now offers two Indian dining possibilities.