Published on October 23rd, 2012 | by Daniella Renee
Naan Heaven @ Punjabi Tandoor – San Diego
Punjabi Tandoor Review
Dubbed by many as the best Indian food in San Diego, Punjabi Tandoor has been on my “must try” list for far too long. After mapping directions on countless occasions, I finally committed, enticing friends to join me. Already familiar with the area, I knew that Punjabi Tandoor was unexpectedly tucked amongst the monotony of warehouses and office buildings.
Arriving shortly after the doors were opened for dinner, I walked up to the tiny shop to find a handful of indoor and outdoor seating options and no one in line yet. The counter is crammed with self-service items (napkins, plastic utensils, etc.) as well as a cash register manned by an alert employee. An overhead menu rambles across two walls. While I’ve had Indian food on numerous occasions, my ability to identify dishes still has yet to extend beyond nan (Punjabi Tandoor’s spelling) and rice. Upon asking for recommendations, I was promptly and pleasantly directed to combo #4.
Combo #4 consists of rice, a choice of 2 meat curries (once again, I deferred to the judgment of my cash register savior and she suggested the chicken makhni and rogan josh), garlic naan (the garlic runs $1 extra) and kheer. I added a mango lassi for good measure, proud of myself for having some useful knowledge to exercise. After about 20 minutes, my number was called and I giddily ran up to claim my food, sighing contentedly at the sight of the fluffy, aromatic rice.
Initially unsure which curry was which, I dug into both, alternating between dousing the rice with the brightly colored sauce and digging a carefully rationed piece of the naan around as much meat as it could hold. Word to the wise: order extra naan so you can unleash your inner carb glutton with abandon.
- Chicken Makhni: delicious. The bird was juicy, tender and practically melted in my mouth with the sauce providing a delightful vehicle of delivery.
- Rogan Josh: a letdown. The meat was gamey and tough, forcing me to discreetly deposit my bite into the nearest napkin fold. The sauce was good but it couldn’t compensate for the loss of part of my meal.
- Garlic naan: yum! I have a gluten sensitivity and avoid gluten 90% of the time. To satiate my overwhelming love for carbs, I will occasionally allow myself a “cheat” snack and when I do, I endeavor to ensure it will be the most delightful treat possible. The naan did not disappoint. It was crisp on the outside and velvety soft chewiness on the inside. The garlic added flair but the naan needed nothing to elevate its flavor.
- Kheer: a bit watery and lackluster. It’s often made with nuts and bits of fruit, both of which were absent in this offering. I adore plain rice pudding but the kheer fell into the “Glad I tried it – will order something different next time” category.
- Rice: soft and fluffy success. Wisps of aromatic flavor throughout. I could have eaten a whole carton.
- Mango lassi: decent. I’m very finicky about food/drinks with creamy, dairy-filled textures and this iteration of the lassi didn’t hit my happy spot as a “with the meal beverage” option. I suspect I would have enjoyed it much more as a standalone treat.
Make no mistake: Punjabi Tandoor is a shrine to good food, minus a few detours. This is home cooking without fanfare, not a candlelit venue replete with farm to table fare. I look forward to sampling additional curries but the Chicken Makhni, naan and rice will be my go-to dish in the future.
9235 Activity Road
San Diego, CA 92126
M-F: Lunch 11am-4pm
M-F: Dinerr 5pm-9pm