DINING Tandoori Tingle & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & rom the outside, TOP OF INDIA looks the same as always. Inside, though, new owners have made numerous upgrades: adding cloth napkins, moving the steam table to an area nearer the entrance, and creating a private meeting space for 10 in a back room. Planned improvements include new flooring in the dining area, three TVs all playing Bollywood movies, and a new sound system. A grand opening celebration began this week.
The menu has changed to include the broader range of shrimp, lamb, chicken and vegetarian dishes plus desserts offered in the five Indian restaurants the family owns and operates in California.
Maybe it's the coconut sauce, but the flavor and aroma of the Chicken Goa Curry ($10) always smells and tastes like summer to me. And the Tandoori chicken ($12 at dinner) reflects the true taste of this traditional Indian dish. Owner and chef Gurmit Singh, with 15 years experience cooking Indian food, sees to it. Simple chicken is coated in yogurt and seasoned with a blend of spices including garlic, cumin, ginger, turmeric and red peppers that give it the traditional red color and a pleasant slow burn. After marinating, the chicken is roasted in the tandoor (clay oven) to bring out subtle nuances of the spices and give it a succulent, somewhat smoky flavor. It's then served on a bed of sliced onion and bell pepper cooked tender-crisp to perfection.
Whatever your mother tongue, the word for this is "Yum." My lips tingled, but in a happy way.
Helpful hint: Tandoori chicken is always on the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($9), which also comes with freshly baked naan bread. My personal favorite, the garlic naan ($2.50 at dinner), is brushed with butter, covered with fresh garlic and herbs, and -- like the chicken -- baked in the tandoor.
If the slow burn gets to be a bit much, but you're really wanting to continue enjoying the experience, do what I did: Order the mango lassi ($2.50). This smoothie-like fresh yogurt and mango drink cuts the burn in an oh-so-delightful way that works in harmony with the other exotic flavors.
Manager Ranjit Gill, son of the owners, says of his customers, "They come happy, and they can go happy" -- and may I add, they will be back.
-- M.C. PAUL
Top of India, 11114 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley, is open Mon-Sat, 11 am-3 pm and 5-9:30 pm; Sun, noon-2:30 pm and 5-9:30 pm. Call 927-0500.
DINING Jetty Set
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ocation -- it's the first rule of real estate, and a big part of waterfront dining.
That's the first plus for the newly reopened JETTY BAR AND GRILL in Hope, Idaho. Formerly the Dock of the Bay, the Jetty is located smack-dab in the middle of busy Holiday Shores Marina along the north shore of Lake Pend Oreille, just 20 minutes east of Sandpoint on Highway 200.
The second thing working in the restaurant's favor is experience. Owners George and Melissa O'Leary have owned a beachfront hotel in Mexico, a Santa Monica, Calif., beach club and -- more recently -- the Beach House restaurant at Sandpoint's Edgewater Hotel. George, who doubles as Sandpoint's airport manager, heard about the location's availability from former proprietor Barney Ballard, a sometime pilot, who left Hope to start Tango Caf & eacute; in Sandpoint.
But, since you can't eat location or experience, let's talk food. Jetty has a United Nations menu of seasonal fare that reflects the eclectic tastes of owners and crew. Mediterranean empanadas ($9), for example, with goat cheese and Kalamata olives, point to the Greek heritage of chef Tasos Garantziotis, formerly of the Landing and the Garden. Mamasan's Amerasian Grill chef/owner, Nadja Lane, brings the heat with crispy shrimp wraps ($8) in panang curry and peanut sauce. Other bounty includes pan-fried chicken Milanese with roasted garlic, honey-Dijon-orange sauce and grilled veggies ($16), and salads that pair avocado with oranges and jicama, or with scallops and mangos, or steak with bleu cheese, or chicken with apple, grapes, mint and grilled asparagus ($8-$15). The Jetty Fry ($23) is meant to be shared: succulent scallops, coconut prawns, spicy calamari and macadamia-encrusted halibut with sweet potato fries and prettily garnished with flowers.
Northwest reds and white wines from California, Washington and Idaho are offered in a casual atmosphere that's equally welcoming to fancy shoes and flip-flops fresh off the boat.
In addition to revamping the menu, the O'Learys added new interior high-top tables for about 70, including along the wood bar that George built. Outdoor diners enjoy marina views in the covered patio or the garden. Other future changes include adding live music and staying open past Labor Day if business warrants it... and we hope it does.
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
Jetty Bar and Grill, 46624 Highway 200, Hope, Idaho, is open Wed-Sun, 4-9:30 pm. Call (208) 264-5057.