When one of the most respected chefs in San Diego was discussing his favorite places to eat around town on my radio show, the Indian burrito at KC’s Tandoor came up and it immediately went on my short list. That chef was Encinitas resident Jeff Jackson from the renowned A.R. Valentien and when a chef of that caliber gives a culinary endorsement, I take it seriously. That and the fact that this sounded like such an obvious good thing that I had to give it a try.
First off I feel like I need to address the whole authenticity in cuisine conundrum. Sure, it's great to find a restaurant that serves up great food in a manner that is consistent to where it originated. But really, are you going to turn down an improvement or a fun twist on that food because it’s not authentic? I remember a certain local Mexican restaurant owner scoffing at Mexican joints with their California burritos and the like because they were invented to appeal to the Southern Californians who consume them in mass quantities. I think I joined him on that high horse for about a week then wandered into Juanita’s after a night out and nothing sounded more magical to me than a California burrito with extra cheese. Could Juanita's survive by selling just their authentic carnitas, possibly, but they thrive instead because they are smart and creative restaurateurs. I'm sure there is a contingent of foodies who would probably scoff or even take offense to the thought of an Indian burrito and well, you should probably just lighten up and give it a try.
So what is it about this delightful concoction that warranted an entire column devoted to it? Well first off I just think it’s a great idea and a fun way to enjoy Indian cuisine in a vehicle designed for convenience and to appeal to the locals. But great idea and convenience aside, it just tastes really good and can be filled with something that would appeal to just about anyone.
There is a foundation to this crazy goodness though and it consists of a roti burrito, which is basically a tortilla, spinach bean spread, rice, romaine lettuce, cabbage, chutney and lemon spiced onions. The chutney is a key ingredient here as it gives it that same sweetness that makes lingonberrys so good on Swedish meatballs. You then have your choice of 8 fillings that include mixed veggies, potato and spinach, grilled tofu, paneer (marinated Indian cheese), chicken, lamb, fish, or shrimp. I’ve had it with the chicken…dark meat of course, and the lamb and loved every bite of each. The potatoes and spinach and paneer are next up though I will say this is probably a dish that goes well later in the day. I try to keep my lunches light and there is no way I could control myself from eating a whole one of these. They serve it with a hot sauce of some sort but I found it had plenty of flavor and moisture within to skip that. This was just a lunch item until recently when it was made available all day due to popular demand.
Chef-owner Kamlesh Israni opened her first restaurant in 1990 and grew to four locations quickly. She sold three of them over the past few years to focus on the Encinitas location…lucky for us! Besides my obsession with her burrito, I’ve sampled just about all of her menu and it’s full of traditional Indian dishes that really satisfy. From a full list of vegetarian dishes to signature curries to tandoori chicken, kababs, seafood and South Indian favorites like dosa. All the combination plates include dal (lentils), naan (leavened bread), rice pulao (basmati), and raita (yogurt with grated cucumbers).
Don’t forget the condiments that include pappad (lentil wafers), mango, mint, tamarind or coconut chutney and cottage fries. I’ve never tried the desserts but looking at them again I will soon along with the lassi (yogurt smoothie) and masala chai. I typically carry Indian food out but there is a nice little dining room and orders come out quickly. KC’s Tandoor is one of those places where you want to explore your way through the menu over a period of time. And don’t forget to include the Indian burrito in your exploration.
Located in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center at 1070 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas. Check out their menu and hours at www.kcstandoor.com or call 760.753.7452