East India Co.

I’ve never been to the Taj Mahal, but when I imagine myself there, I’m floating through its hallowed chambers in a shimmering sari woven of 24-karat gold thread and crusted with mango-sized sapphires, petting the baby elephants and leopards and peacocks and cobras (oh my) that roam the halls, and then when I’m tired of floating around looking ravishing, I plunk down in a dreamy white leather banquette  draped with long flowing curtains and padded with jeweled pillows, and drink mango lassis and eat hot nut and raisin-studded Naan until the tigers come home.

When I’m tired of floating around the Taj Mahal looking ravishing, I plunk down in a dreamy white leather banquette  draped with long flowing curtains and padded with jeweled pillows, and drink mango lassis and eat hot nut and raisin-studded Naan until the tigers come home. That’s kind of what it’s like at East India Co., except without the menagerie and snakes.

That’s kind of what it’s like at downtown Portland’s East India Company Grill and Bar, except without the menagerie and snakes. Venturing in through the neat, long, and narrow bar, you’ll think that it’s a pleasant, classy sort of place that smells very nice. Then, you’ll enter the voluminous back dining room, where you’ll be dazzled by the all-seeing eye in the ceiling that closely resembles a roulette table or a spaceship, depending on how many Masala Mojitos you’ve had, and then, you’ll see those magical white booths. You should sit in one, unless of course it’s already occupied.

But back to the food. I get excited about naan. I really do. I can’t help it. Soft, warm, chewy, blistery, dipped in fragrant, exotic sauces–Naan is one of my favorite comfort foods. And if you judge a restaurant by its bread, East India Company gets a blue ribbon, even if you haven’t yet tried their wickedly good Muchli ka Tikka–grilled fish marinated with roasted garlic, mustard, curry, fresh ginger and lemon, or the silky Murg Korma–chicken with cashew, ginger and fenugreek in the house Korma sauce. Spice lovers, prep your taste buds with an icy hot Rangpur Chill (fresh cucumber and Indian green chiles with lime gin), then dive into the explosive Gosht Vindaloo–slow-cooked leg of lamb with potatoes in a hell-fiery Vindaloo sauce.

Details

Cuisine: Indian

Atmosphere: Rather dazzling interior with lofty bejeweled ceilings, swanky leather booths and a hushed, relaxed ambiance

Outdoor seating: No

Best Seat: The curtain-swathed white leather booths are a must-sit

Noise Level: Hushed to Normal

Dress Code: Casual, but the interior is elegant enough that you could wear your best sari

Bring the Kids: Yes, but the restaurant can be on the quiet side, so don't bring your loud kids

Bathrooms: Yes, along the south wall of the restaurant, en route to the kitchen

Parking: Metered street parking (Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 1-7pm) surrounds the restaurant, and is generally easy to find within a few blocks. There is also a Smart Park pay lot two blocks away at SW 10th & Yamhill.

Cocktails: Yes, a list of signature cocktails that lean to the sweet and fruity side, from mojitos to vodka-enhanced lassis, all $7.50

Beer: Yes

Wine: Yes

Ideal Meal: Onion Kulcha (Bread with sweet onions, bell-peppers & “chaat” masala), Muchli ka Tikka (Grilled Fish), Murg Korma (Chicken Korma), Aloo Gobi (cauliflower with potatoes)

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes

Vegan Friendly: Yes

Good for the following occasions: Family Meal, Happy Hour, Power Lunch, Romantic Date

Reservations: Yes, call or go on OpenTable

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No

Deals: If your budget is more sugilite than sapphire, opt for East India Company's prix fixe menu--for around $25, you partake of a three-course feast. The restaurant also offers many different seasonal tasting menus through the year, so check the website before you go for a heads-up.