Restaurant Name: India-Gate
Very good Indian food and a great atmosphere.
India-Gate has a very long menu that focuses on Indian cuisine but also includes some Thai and Chinese dishes. I have only tried the Indian food, and it was consistently good.
Most of the dishes are what one would expect from a mid-range Indian restaurant. We started with a round of samosas for the table - large, nice flaky crust and a well-spiced filling. The filling was a bit homogenous in texture and flavor, but I will definitely start with samosas on my next visit as well. They are served with the usual green hot chutney and red sweet sauce. These were fine, but not overwhelming.
We also ordered a couple of Thai yum salads to start with - the only non-Indian dishes we ordered. The salads were nice and fresh, particularly given the difficulty in finding fresh veggies this time of year. One was a seafood yum, and it was extremely good. The seafood was not particularly inspiring to me, but I don't have a great palette for seafood and the others at the table were raving about it.
The final appetizer we ordered for the table was an assortment of kebabs that came in a fun metal box. These were quite good, but I think I'll stick with the samosas and soup when I return.
I visited India-Gate with a very large group, 10 or 12 people. We ordered a range of main dishes for the table and passed them around so that everybody could get a taste. All were good enough and the spicy dishes were well-spiced for my tastes. If you go with someone who does not like spicy food (like most locals), be sure to order some mild dishes. The chicken with cashew sauce was a big hit at our table and it was very mild.
Probably the most popular dish at our table was the lamb vindaloo, followed closely by chicken tikka masala and black dahl. Any one of these would be a great meal for an individual and the portions were generous.
I was disappointed with the absence of chana masala or any other chick pea dish from the menu. I was also a little let down with the palak paneer. This is usually one of my favorite dishes so I had high hopes. The flavor was alright, but the spinach was pureed into the consistency of baby food and the paneer was kind of soft. I would eat it again, the flavor wasn't bad, but it didn't overwhelm as much as I expected.
There are a number of deserts on the menu and we tried three at the table. They were all extremely sweet and
a bit unusual. My favorite was the "ice cream," which had the consistency of caramel candies. It was extremely hard and served in small cubes with some cream and garnish. As strange as it was, I had a hard time not eating it all even after stuffing myself with the main courses.
The bar is standard for local places with a slightly wider beer selection than many, fresh juices, and lassi. Prices overall are not terrible for Astana, in fact we walked away without paying very much at all thanks to a groupon that one of our friends organized.
The service at India-Gate was among the best I've experienced in my 8 months in Astana. The waitress was very pleasant and good at working with our chaotic group. She was at the table even before we called whenever a bowl or glass was empty. That is a real standout from so many restaurants in Astana where you have to send up a flare to get a drink or even the check. I would probably go back to this place just for the service even if the food were mediocre, fortunately the food is also excellent. It is probably a good idea to make a reservation if you are going to go with a large group like ours, by the end of the night there were not many open tables.
The inside of India-Gate is decorated as you might expect an Indian restaurant to be. Dark lighting with paintings from Hindu teachings and various artifacts to keep the mood. Music is low so that conversation is possible and a live guitarist performed after a certain time. He also played softly enough that conversation wasn't interrupted, but he was also good enough that we stopped to listen. This would be a very good restaurant for a date, a quiet dinner, or a group celebration.
It sounds obvious, but this was the most non-local restaurant that I've visited since coming to Astana. Even other ethnic restaurants still feel like Astana. On the left bank the Korean and Italian places are shiny and modern; on the right bank they have the same basic layout and design as any other place but with an embellishment or two. It's an intangible that's hard to explain, but to me India-Gate feels much like any Indian restaurant in the US or Europe.