A place we've heard about over in Moline, but never had been to before, is a little Indian restaurant that is somewhat audaciously named The Great Indian Restaurant. I always figured that if it had a name like that, the food had better be damned good. On a recent Friday night, we made the trek over to Moline for some Indian food.
The Great Indian Restaurant is located on Avenue of the Cities in Moline, just across 44th Street from the Hy-Vee grocery store. (see map) It's been in business for 12 years, but the current owner - Sam Singh - has been in charge for the last five of those years. Before that, the Arora family - who now own and run Mantra Indian Cuisine in Davenport (click here to see my entry on Mantra) - owned The Great Indian Restaurant from 2004 to 2008.
The building that houses The Great Indian Restaurant looks like it may have been a Mexican restaurant at one time with stucco walls with arches over the windows and over an opening that looks into a side dining area. They feature a buffet at lunch - like most Indian restaurants - with a full menu of chicken, lamb and vegetarian dishes served at night. (Great Indian Restaurant is open every day with the exception of Tuesday.)
One of the things that determines for me if it's a good Indian restaurant is if I see natives of India eating in the place. There were at least two groups of Indians in the restaurant and a well-dressed man who was ordering food for four to go. We sat at one of the booths along the outer wall of the front dining area. A young man brought us water and menus.
In addition to the vegetarian and meat items on the menu, Great Indian also features tandoori cooked foods such as chicken, fish and shrimp. They also have fish and shrimp curry on the menu. But I've been on kind of a lamb jag lately when it comes to Indian food, so I was concentrating on that part of the menu.
They had Rogan Josh on the menu - cubes of tender lamb slow cooked in vegetable oil and a brown gravy sauce with herbs and spices. But right below the Rogan Josh was the Lamb Saagwala - also featuring tender cubes of lamb meat cooked with fresh chopped spinach with ginger, herbs and spices. I remember almost getting Lamb Saagwala at an Indian restaurant I had been to before that evening and I decided to pull the trigger on it this time. The waiter asked how I wanted it on a scale on spiciness from mild - medium - hot. I told him in between medium and hot.
Cindy was asking about tandoori chicken and I cautioned her about making sure it wasn't overcooked. That's been my problem with tandoori chicken that I've got in the past. I usually stay away from tandoori cooked foods for that reason. She ended up getting the Chicken Shahi Korma - boneless chicken cubes simmered in a cream-tomato sauce with a dash of vinegar and Kashmiri herbs added. She got hers mild. I got a Kingfisher beer and Cindy got a glass of cabernet wine.
I did order up some garlic-stuffed naan bread for an appetizer before dinner. It came with a green chutney sauce that was actually a little spicy, some red chutney sauce that was a little sweet. The naan wasn't all that big and it was far from filling.
Unfortunately, service was slow at The Great Indian Restaurant. But it was understandable. The place was nearly full and there were a lot of people who were coming in to pick up to-go orders. But we weren't in any hurry, trying to catch up on conversations since I had been on the road so much up to that point.
After about a half hour after we ordered, our food came to the table. I was ready to eat. The lamb saagwala had sort of a thick brown gravy sauce with chopped spinach tossed in. The portion in the picture below left looks pretty big, but it was a relatively small platter that it was served in.
The spicy level of medium-hot for the lamb saagwala certain got my attention. But it wasn't "burn-your-face-off" hot by any means. The lamb cubes were tender and easy to cut with a fork. The combination of the spices, spinach, herbs and lamb in the thick brown sauce was a great taste sensation. I was very happy with my lamb saagwala.
Cindy's chicken shahi korma was a culinary stretch for her, as in she didn't know what to expect. Actually, I didn't know, either. But it looked rather interesting. There were large chunks of chicken in a thick cream tomato sauce with chopped cilantro on top.
She told me that her "mild" spice level was actually a little bit too spicy for her. I was sort of incredulous when she said that because I thought my "medium-hot" was spicy, but tolerable to my taste. Still, she said her chicken shahi korma was very good. We traded bites of our dishes - she said my lamb saagwala was too spicy for her; and I thought her chicken shahi korma wasn't all that spicy. But compared to the spicy level of my food, it was pretty tame. I was sort of surprised at her as she can handle spicy food. Maybe her tolerance for spicy food was low that night.
We've since been back on another visit and I had the Rogan Josh. I got mine "medium-hot" again, even with the guy taking the order asking me, "Are you sure?" Once again, the spiciness did get my attention, but it didn't burn my taste buds. And the Rogan Josh was wonderful.
Cindy got the lamb vindaloo on that visit - slow-cooked lamb cubes with a special blend of vindaloo spices. She got her dish with "medium" spiciness again, but this time she didn't think it was all that spicy. She gave me a couple bites of her lamb vindaloo and it was also outstanding. There weren't very many people in the restaurant when we were there - but there were at least a half dozen people who picked up "to-go" orders while we were there. Our food came out in less than 20 minutes after we ordered.
We now have another good Indian restaurants to choose from in the Quad Cities if we want to get spicy comfort food. We were both very impressed with the food at The Great Indian Restaurant. The restaurants name lived up to the level of the quality of its Indian food. Just be prepared to wait awhile for your food if the place is busy. But the wait was worth it for us.