For such a sprawling swath of real estate that encompasses whats called North County, theres a surprising dearth of decent Indian restaurants. Sure, there are a handful of run-of-the-mill buffets, but fewer places with expansive menus worthy of deeper exploration. Fortunately, I found KCs Tandoor in Encinitas, and it might just become my go-to place for a little taste of the Subcontinent.
What started as a successful catering business is now a shiny little nook tucked down in a shopping center off of El Camino Real (1070 N. El Camino Real, Suite A). Whats lacking in foot traffic is hopefully made up for by local word of mouth.
I dont normally go for Tandoori chicken—not because I have anything against it, but because its everywhere and mostly the same wherever you go. But, hey, I have a 2-year-old whos got to eat and she likes the kooky-colored, lemony bird. KCs charges a buck extra for white meat, so keep that in mind. The chicken doesnt rewrite the script, but its juicy and tasty and just what you want.
Dig a little deeper, though, and check out some of the Southern Indian specialties. I dived into a bowl of curried coconut shrimp, soaking up the complex mix of sweet and savory with dosa, an enormous, thin pancake made from fermented rice and lentil batter. Thinner and crispier than the ubiquitous naan, dosa has a bit of tang and a delicacy thats addictive.
On the slightly more familiar tip, I see myself returning for the simple pleasure of the butter paneer tikka masala. Even the most voracious of meat eaters has to appreciate the salty yum of paneer—cubes of cheese that happily swim in a vibrant red sauce. My wimpy tongue asked for the mildest version, but I still felt a lot of heat, so you spice lovers will be delighted.
Maybe its because Im weeks away from giving birth and Ive apparently entered a cravings phase, but my normally moderate sweet tooth cannot be stopped. Thats why I was in Heaven tucking into a small serving of hot, milky balls called gulab jamun. The warm, creamy spheres of sweet milk paste come immersed in simple syrup laden with the exotic flavor of rose water. Its a small bit of dessert, but for less than $2 a serving, it packs a creamy, intensely sugary hit that tastes unique and special.
I encountered a few service hiccups during my visits—like cashiers not always being completely familiar with menu items, or certain things being unavailable—but, overall, I found this little strip-mall treasure to be a wonderful and refreshing find. On one visit, the owner was there, and she couldnt have been more accommodating. She even noticed that Id dropped my plastic fork on the ground and, unaware that I heartily embrace germs, immediately brought me a basket of fresh flatware to choose from.
Ill keep searching for more surprising and unexpected finds when it comes to Indian food, but, for now, KCs Tandoor is tops for me in the top of the county.
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