By Olivia Overman, Contributing Writer
Looking to stop for lunch or dinner while holiday shopping or celebrating the season with co-workers? Seeking a restaurant with great service and fresh, healthful food and where the hustle and bustle disappears when you enter its doors? Taste of Tandoor, just minutes from the shopping mecca of Potomac Mills Mall, could be the right eatery for you.
Nestled in a shopping center at 13836 Smoketown Road in Woodbridge, Taste of Tandoor may not be noticeable at first glance. But inside awaits an elegant setting with subdued lighting, cloth napkins, Indian artwork and fine Indian cuisine.
“The business has grown one customer at a time. Once they have the courage to come in, then they keep coming back,” said owner and
Executive Chef Devainder Mathur. Indian food is known for its complex spices, which may deter some diners from trying it. However, the restaurant’s chefs are willing to adjust per order the spice level of any dish, and chicken tenders are among offerings on the children’s menu.
The restaurant’s popularity has grown so much that Mathur opened a second eatery, called Guru, in 2003 in Fredericksburg. “People asked me to open up a restaurant down there, so I did,” he said. His wife, Roshni Mathur, manages that food establishment, where she is also head chef.
A Lifelong Love
Taste of Tandoor’s cuisine originates primarily from the northern part of India, where Mathur grew up. Dishes such as butter chicken, lamb vindaloo and chicken and tikka masala stem to his childhood in New Delhi, he
said, adding that there are also a few nods to southern Indian dishes, such as biryani, courtesy of his wife.
“I began experimenting with cooking when I was in fifth grade in New Delhi, when I was getting ready to go to school, and my mother was too busy,” said Mathur. It was from these early experiments that his love for food grew, ultimately leading to his opening Taste of Tandoor in 1999.
Mathur came to the endeavor prepared, with a degree in business management from Delhi University and years of culinary experience under his belt. He honed his cooking skills working at the five-star Hyatt Regency Delhi and Maurya Sheraton Hotel and Towers, both in New Delhi. He also worked for a number of restaurants in Washington, D.C., prior to opening Taste of Tandoor.
Extensive Menu Options
The restaurant offers an extensive selection of dishes, including appetizers, soups and salads, chicken, lamb and seafood specialties
and a range of tandoori choices. Chefs employ the tandoor, a clay oven, to turn out a variety of fresh homemade breads, as well as meats, poultry and seafood, which are marinated overnight and then skewered and broiled.
For those who like a little bit of everything, or are new to Indian cooking and not sure what they would like, a lunch buffet is available daily at $8.99 during weekdays and $10.99 on weekends and holidays. Buffet patrons come to sample the vegetarian or chicken samosas, masala chicken, lamb and seafood options, Mathur said.
“I put on extra dishes for the weekend buffet, and I also include other original dishes so people have more flavor,” he said. In addition, diners will find a large selection of vegetarian offerings. “Vegetarian dishes are made by the same method as non- vegetarian, just without the meat,” said Mathur.
“I come here particularly for the vegan dishes,” said one Woodbridge resident who frequents the restaurant weekly. “I either sit down or carry out.”
Stacey Smith, also of Woodbridge, said she likes the vegetarian menu’s expansive choices and flavorful fare. Smith and Emily Moore, of Lake Ridge, dine at the restaurant a couple of times a month, the two said. “I love the buffet,” Moore stated.
The loyalty of these types of regular customers helped the restaurant weather the federal government shutdown the first half of October. Mathur reported that even though many of his customers were furloughed, they continued to come in to help support the local business—and to get their tandoori fix.
Introducing New Fare
In October, Mathur introduced a new selection of appetizers and entrees. “I just saw so many new faces in the restaurant, I thought I should do it,” he explained. New additions include Chicken Cochin, with onion, garlic, curry leaves, mustard seeds, dried red chili and slow-roasted coconut. The new Chicken Methi Malai also includes yogurt and a chef ’s special secret sauce.
Mathur teams with his chef, Mohammad Saleh, to develop new recipes and dishes. The two have worked together for a number of years, Mathur said. Their creations consistently receive rave reviews on Yelp.com, where the restaurant boasts a four-star rating.
Taste of Tandoor opens at 11 a.m. daily seven days a week, closing at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The buffet is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, the dining room is available for private events. For more information, visit www.tasteoftandoor.com or call 703-897-7200.
A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman writes articles for online and print publications. Overman can be reached at [email protected]