The Indian Oven on 4th Avenue — have you been there? I’ve always been intrigued by the awning out front, screaming “Best butter chicken in town!”, while craning my neck to stare at the place when busing to and from downtown.
Now, I’m not much of a meat-eater, but I adore butter chicken sauce! I knew eventually I’d have to try it out. I’m a sucker like that.
My friend and I went around 7 o’clock on a Saturday night, and it wasn’t crowded at all. Uh-oh.
Bad omen or blessing? Either way, we were going to find out.
We were seated as soon as we walked in, which was nice, and since the restaurant is on the second floor of its building the view of downtown was surprisingly good. There were also two huge flat-screens on the walls (turned off — no Canucks on tonight) and well-priced beer specials, even though the interior didn’t have the air of a bar at all — rather, it was softly lit and full of kitschy gold-painted wall decorations and silky patterned curtains and high ceilings.
At first, our server was a bit slow taking our order — but that was pretty much my only complaint about the service, and she was so quick and friendly for the rest of our meal that it was soon forgotten!
I ordered Paneer Shahi with cashews on our server’s recommendation, and I’m as sure as hell glad I did — it was great! The paneer had a lusciously soft texture and was just salty enough to balance the sweetness of the cream sauce and cilantro it came marinated in. The cashew cream sauce of the dish had a strong flavour of cumin and smokey turmeric, yet it was slightly sweet, and its heat lingered in the back of your throat. Overall the Shahi was rich and deliciously pungent without being heavy.
I would definitely order it again!
My friend let me try a bit of her Butter Chicken sauce, too. As far as the sauce went, it was different that what I was used to, but not unpleasantly so. It wasn’t saturated with creaminess like most butter chicken sauce I’ve had — instead, the focus was on the sweet acidity and tangy-ness of the tomatoes, which worked nicely with the spices and heat of the dish.
Needless to say, my friend loved it!
The basmati rice we got with our dishes was decent — not super fresh, but it didn’t taste like it’d been sitting at the bottom of a rice cooker for hours, either. The naan, on the other hand, were hot and crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside! They had a bit of a subtle smokey flavour that must have been due to the fact that they were cooked in a clay oven (one of the Indian Oven’s claims to fame).
For dessert, we shared a mango ice cream and I ordered myself a chai tea.
The mango ice cream was good, if not a little sweet (you betcher ass I stole the cherry on top with the first deft swipe of my spoon!), but the chai was a big disappointment — you could tell it was just some sort of chai-flavoured syrup with cream and a black tea base. Anyways, for $3.50, the chai felt like a bit of a rip-off — especially since I’ve had better chai in this city.
In the end, though, it was money well spent — between the comfortably quirky atmosphere, the fast service, and (especially) the good food, I would definitely go back to Indian Oven. My friend and I walked out super full and satisfied. I’d definitely like to check it out during a hockey game sometime soon — especially to take advantage of the $10 pitcher specials and to try their Vegetable Korma (with Gulab Jamun for dessert)!