Cold weather makes us crave hot (as in highly seasoned/spicy) food, and vittles don’t get much more soulfully warming than the cuisine of India.
So we’ve tucked ourselves into a couple of lunches recently at Origin India to see what Kuldeep Singh was whipping up. While Namaste hews closely to traditional fare, Singh is a more restless spirit, prone to experiments that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.
But man cannot live by Namaste alone, and when we heard Omh Singh had left there, to move back to Tamba on The Strip, we hightailed it to Origin to deal with our disappointment.
And Singh salved our spirits and singed our sinuses splendidly. Perhaps he took our prior criticism to heart, or perhaps we were just catching him on off days, but the cooking here seems remarkably improved. His amuse of roasted spicy pumpkin soup, started the meal on the right track, and from there on, his spice pedal was to the metal, dazzling us with tandoori black tiger shrimp Infused in ajwain seed and kaffir lime with tamarind and raisin chutney and balsamic reduction; tender, rare tandoori lamb chops; and a corn-fed chicken thigh tikka marinated overnight in roasted cumin and chilli yogurt, served with coriander and basil sauce.
And those were just the apps. He followed those with rogan josh New Zealand lamb shank with sun dried ginger, tomato and Kashmiri chile, tiger shrimp stir fried in onion and tomato savoury garlic sauce, and Old Delhi style chicken tikka makhani with ground spices and fenugreek-flavoured tomato makhani sauce.
The word “curry” is Indian shorthand for all manner of garam masala spice combos that every cook mixes in in different ways for different dishes. Singh’s home-style chicken curry — scented with kaffir lime leaves, and smooth onion tomato sauce — is rich, smooth, buttery and spicy — bringing a velvety, soothing heat that doesn’t obliterate the taste of the chicken.
Likewise, his Punjabi gram flour and vegetable dumpling in silky yogurt sauce finished with whole coriander seeds, chilies, cumin and asafetida, is so good it could make a vegetarian out of us, as could his eggplant crushed with cumin and ginger.
Just from those descriptions, you can tell this is a spice-fest of the first order. That doesn’t mean you’ll always need one of these to quell the heat. Far from it. Singh knows how to moderate the heat and seasonings to fit the dish. He can blow your head off with a vindaloo or a Goan gashi but it seems to us at Eating Las Vegas that he enjoys mixing up his spice repertoire like a great baseball pitcher enjoys changing speeds.
As Brock Radke mentioned in last week’s Las Vegas Weekly, Origin is by far our most innovative and interesting Indian. It and Singh go far beyond the call of duty in elevating a mundane (in America anyway) cuisine so that it intrigues as well as satisfies. Nothing here tastes like it does in other run-of-the-mill Indian restaurants — which is to say almost every other Indian restaurant in town, save for Namaste. This is not your father’s Indian restaurant. It is an Indian restaurant for the 21st Century.
4480 Paradise Rd. #1200
Las Vegas, NV 89169-6539