Bill of Fare: West Windsor's Anjappar Indian Bar & Grill on the rise

By Susan Sprague Yeske | For The Times

Chennai, in Southern India, is the home of Chettinad cuisine, considered to be among the spiciest and most aromatic of that nation. It is that cuisine that Anjappar Indian Bar & Grill has brought to West Windsor, opening last fall at the site of the former restaurant Pure.

With a full bar and a daily happy hour it is an exception among the Indian restaurants in the region by offering alcohol, a feature that has helped to pack Anjappar each weekend, said manager Saravanan Radhakrishnan.

It is also drawing enthusiastic diners thanks to the carefully applied spices in each dish, which are ground fresh daily. In keeping with Chettinad tradition, the food is mostly non-vegetarian, although the menu has plenty of selections for those who don’t eat meat as well as some dishes from northern India.

We started with kozhi rasam, $4.45 for a bowl of aromatic chicken soup. The spiced broth was perfect, with just a dash of heat, combined with vegetables and a large piece of chicken.

From among the many entrees we tried a chicken biriyani, $14.95, flavored with hints of clove, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, ginger, garlic and mint. The heaping pile of scented rice included plenty of flavorful chunks of marinated chicken and bits of onion. Topping it was a traditional Southern Indian hard-boiled egg, and it was accompanied by small cups of sambar and tangy onion raitha that was thick with onions. This dish is Chettinad cuisine at its best.

We also tried a masala dosa, $9.45, which stretched wide across the plate. The dosa was fried to crisp perfection and filled with a flavorful chunky potato mixture that was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.

Paneer tikka masala, $13.95, was a fragrant and delightful tomato gravy with cubes of fresh farmer’s cheese. Again, the dish was peppery but not overly so, with a perfect blend of spices in the smooth tomato gravy.

From among the steamed Chettinad dishes we sampled idiyappam, $12.95, nicknamed “string hoppers.” The dish has the flavor of an excellent idli that has been shredded and is served with sides of coconut milk and an aromatic vegetable korma. For authentic Southern Indian food, this is among the best.

No chai tea was available but we tried the mango lassi, $4.25, which was creamy and light with plenty of fresh mango flavor.

For dessert, the cheese-based rasmalai, $5.95, tasted fresh and homemade in a creamy sauce with a topping of crushed pistachios. A dish of pineapple kesari, $6.95, was rich and sweet from the combination of fruit and semolina.

Considering that Anjappar originated in Southern India and has since branched out to several continents, it would be easy to think that it is yet another chain of commercialized food. But that is not the case. Everything tastes fresh, fulfilling the promise of dishes that are seasoned with care and expertise. For an authentic taste of Southern Indian, Anjappar is a good choice.

One caution regarding the bill: for parties of four or more, an 18 percent gratuity is automatically added. This could be easy to miss when you get your bill.