Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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Gopuram Taste of India
4559 N.W. 23rd
What works: Everything on its menu is spectacular and carefully spiced.
What needs work: Nothing, actually.
The tip: The buffet is hard to beat and offers you a chance to try everything the menu has to offer.
Some cuisines are so heavily entrenched with cultural customs that the two become intertwined and, eventually, synonymous.
Indian food is very much that. Even within India, there are significant regional differences in cuisine and culture.
Gopuram Taste of India is an expansive sampling of northern and southern Indian cuisine.
Found especially in southern India, gopurams are ornate towers usually situated near a temple entrance. In OKC, Gopuram is a temple of sorts — a temple of saffron-, curry- and masala-scented dishes.
Since it’s been around since 1994, the chefs have had time to meticulously cultivate their menu to suit and challenge the tastes of those who’ve never tried Indian food, to those fans who wish they could hop on the first plane to India and delight in an authentic meal.
For a traditional experience, it’s important to have the naan ($1.50), a flat bread made with flour and yeast. It typically has air pockets and glistens with butter or oil on top for a little flavor. Try it with the raita ($3), a yogurt sauce with cucumbers. Keep it on your table, because it’s a nice break if something gets too spicy.
If you’ve never delighted in a samosa ($2.95) or pakora ($3.95), both are tasty starts to any feast. The samosa, frequently served as delectable snacks from street vendors in India, are triangular fried pastries packed with veggies and sometimes meat. Gopuram’s version is filled with mildly spicy potatoes, peas and served with a mint and tamarind chutney. Pakora is a deepfried spinach fritter, also served with the chutney sauce.
Gopuram prides itself on offering food for all religious and ethnic groups, regardless of dietary restrictions. So, if you’re sticking with veggies, that doesn’t mean you have to opt out of taste. The masala dosa ($7.95) is an excellent example. It’s a crêpe made from rice and lentils, then stuffed with turmericspiced potatoes and onions. It’s more than enough to share and comes with raita and chutney, as well as a few other traditional dipping sauces ranging in level of spice.
Another filling and meat-free dish is the vegetable biryani ($9.95), a fragrant basmati base with marinated veggies, served with raita and rice.
If you’ve no objection to meat, don’t leave without trying the lamb vindaloo ($12.95), a southern dish that tends to be on the spicy side and accented with cumin, clove and coriander.
The chicken tikka masala ($10.95) is carefully marinated in the creambased, spicy tomato sauce, making the boneless chunks of chicken incredibly tender and full of flavor. All dishes are served with rice, and the tomato sauce is quite tasty with naan.
Try to save room for dessert, because you’d be remiss if you didn’t relish the refreshing mango custard ($3) or the gulab jamun ($3). The custard is a nice contrast to the spiciness that you’ll likely feel after eating. The indulgent gulab jamun — dough balls swimming in sweet, cardamom-infused rose water — is an interesting flavor and texture that’s really hard to resist.
If you absolutely can’t decide what to order — you don’t have to! Try a smattering of everything with the lunch or dinner buffet ($8.25- $10.95). It’s always fresh and varied, and an incredible way to get an adequate sampling of every dish that looks appealing.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.