Friday, September 2, 2011

Tandoori Chicken USA Mobile - Butter Chicken

Every so often a new food truck pops up at Off the Grid Haight, my usual stomping ground on a Thursday night. Regardless of the type of cuisine, I am always excited to try something different. But last night I was even more excited because the newcomer truck, Tandoori Chicken USA Mobile, featured one of my favorite ethnic cuisines: Indian. They had a menu chock full of tasty treats, and I had an empty stomach eager to be filled. To be truthful, all of their items sounded so appealing that I wanted to try everything, but I eventually settled on their Butter Chicken over rice with a side of Buttered Naan Bread. All I can say is, "Wow!"

Before ordering from Tandoori Chicken USA Mobile, I browsed around to see what was happening, and it seemed like a lot of the trucks either had new food items or were offering specials. In addition to the usual trucks there were a few non-regulars, which always adds some spice. But once I ventured over to the bright red truck with a giant chicken logo and saw that they had Butter Chicken, also known as Chicken Makhani, I was sold. And since I arrived at Off the Grid early this time, the line was pretty short.

Tandoori Chicken USA Mobile is the sequel to the original restaurant in El Sobrante that closed a few years ago. Their menu is pretty varied, ranging from their signature (from the restaurant days) Tandoori Chicken Sandwich to Veggie Curry to Pakoras. All of the items are familiar to fans of Indian food, and they offer both main courses and appetizers to please both carnivores and vegetarians alike.

When I ordered the Butter Chicken I was told that they serve it with medium heat but that I could choose to have it spicy. If it's my first time ordering a dish, I always want to try it as the chef has originally prepared, so I didn't make any modifications. The woman who took my order was super friendly and nice, and my food was ready in just a few minutes. I barely even had time to take pictures of the truck! When they called my number I was given a stack of heavy containers, the biggest housing my Butter Chicken, a smaller one for my Naan and then a small container of bright green chutney. Without even opening them, my first thought was, "Wow, that's a lot of food for $8.50!" It's a good thing I was hungry.

I joined my family on the grass, opened my container of Butter Chicken and confirmed that my original thought was correct: it's a huge portion! Heaps of chicken floating in a creamy sauce adorned a bed of basmati rice. The colors were vibrant, the smell aromatic and the overall presentation made it impossible for me to even wait for it to slightly cool. I let the first bite linger on my tongue, slowly absorbing the rich, creamy flavors and fragrant spices. The chicken was tender and completely void of any dryness, a feat that can be a challenge to pull off when cooking a curry! There was just the right amount of saltiness, and a pleasant appearance of spiciness at the back of my throat. The basmati rice was cooked to perfection, and even amidst the succulent sauce had a distinct flavor that stood out on its own.

After a few more bites, I thrust the container into my husband's hands, inviting him to try what I described as "the best Butter Chicken I have had in a while." Brian, another aficionado of Indian Food, quickly agreed, taking many more bites than just the one I had offered. The buttered Naan bread was a great accompaniment—light, soft and chewy, perfect for sopping up the sauce. Yes, it was a huge portion, but I ate every last bit, even scraping my container for the last kernels of rice.

I enjoyed my meal so much that I felt compelled to walk back to the truck to tell them how great I thought their Butter Chicken was. When I asked where their usual truck location was, they informed me that they are all around the Bay Area, and that's when I learned about the original brick-and-mortar restaurant in El Sobrante. It seems like they had a quite a following, so I am sure that as word gets around that they have now gone mobile people will be lining up to once again enjoy their yummy food! They'll have to take a spot behind me, though.

Rating: 5/5 (ratings guide)

Tandoori Chicken Usa on Urbanspoon

Tandoori Chicken USA Mobile (@tcusamobile) $7.00 for Butter Chicken, $1.50 for Naan

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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