Monsoon Indian Cuisine
Address: 4180 Dearborn CircleMt. Laurel, NJ 08054
Liquor License: No (BYOB)
Dress: Smart Casual
Pricing: $$ (surprisingly affordable)
For years, I insisted that I did not like Indian food. Friends tried to convince me to try it again, and I always had an excuse when, in reality, I had never really given it a chance. That is, until I tried Monsoon in Mount Laurel, NJ. While getting ice cream one night, we passed a restaurant with really interesting decor visible from the outside, most notably the frosted plate glass windows with East Indian style arches that allowed for a view of the modern dining room. We decided we had to try this place, regardless of my preconceived notions of Indian food.All I have to say is, I am so glad we tried this place, it is amazing! Immediately upon entering, the aroma of spices awakens the senses without overpowering them. The decor is sparse yet modern and intriguing; backlit Indian art pieces intermingled with contemporary lighting fixtures and flooring make for an upscale yet casual dining experience. While we wish our server had explained more to us about the food, (since we tried to make obvious that we had never ordered Indian food before,) he was nice and attentive in bringing us anything we needed. Since Monsoon is BYOB, we picked up a bottle of Riesling (which I read online pairs well with Indian food,) and an ice bucket was brought to us immediately. The menu offered many choices including very reasonably price appetizers (between $4 and $7,) and a several selections of breads and naan. Monsoon also offers a Tandoori menu; Biryani (long grain rice with spices, mat and raita,) menu; Non-Veg main course menu containing chicken and lamb; and a Vegetarian main course menu, as well as several tasty and inexpensive desserts (4 of the 5 choices were only $3.95!). Below is a brief explanation of the dishes we tried; mind you, we had no idea what we were ordering, we simply read the descriptions and decided to take a risk, which made the experience even more fun!
Aloo Papri Chaat – Lentil wafers topped with spiced potatoes, chickpeas, and a perfect blend of sauces. ($4.50)
This appetizer was amazing! I was surprised to taste that is was served cold, but this really made the flavors come out. The dish had a really appealing mixture of textures and flavors; crunchy lentil wafers, grainy chickpeas, and soft potatoes. It also had several sauces, including a dark, sweet tamarind sauce, creamy white yogurt-based sauce, and green cilantro chutney. It really was a treat for the senses, since it had so many elements and yet everything came together so nicely. I would definitely order this again and again.
Assorted Bread Basket: Naan, garlic naan, tandoori roti and parantha ($9.95)
It seems like most of the dishes here have a lot of sauce, so it is necessary to order at least one type of bread to soak it up and believe me, you will want to, since the sauces are so delicious! The naan is crispy outside and chewy inside, warm, and flavorful; perfect for dipping into the savory sauces offered with the main courses! The garlic naan was my favorite, but the naan (flatbread), tandoori roti (whole wheat naan) and parantha (layered whole wheat bread) were also delicious.
Entrées are serve with basmati rice. I tasted mine, as well as my boyfriend’s dishes, both of which are described below.
Chicken Tikka Masala – Chicken Tikka in an herb-infused tomato gravy ($14.95)
This was my entrée, and it was delicious! It consisted of marinated chunks of chicken (tikka) in a spiced sauce (masala), which had a perfectly balanced amount of spice which left my mouth tin entréegling and wanting more at the same time! The sauce was rich and flavorful and tasted amazing when spooned over the rice, as well as scooped up in a yummy piece of naan. I was absolutely in love with this dish and while the portion isn’t huge, it is rich enough that I was not left hungry after the meal.
Lamb Roganjosh – Lamb curry cooked with cardamom ($15.95)
This was my boyfriend’s entrée and while I just had a taste, I enjoyed that the lamb was well-cooked and the brown sauce had a rich, spicy curry flavor. Also tasty with rice or naan.
Desserts only cost $3.95, so we each got one and tasted the two we ordered. They are the perfect size (just a few bites after a big meal,) and what I liked the most was their authenticity. Monsoon does not offer inauthentic desserts such as American ice cream or cake, instead, desserts are house-made Indian specialties, which, it turns out, are delicious!
Galub Jamun –Milk and flour (like a dumpling,) fried and served in a rosewater syrup infused with cardamom.
This was my choice and it was absolutely fantastic! The dumplings have a fluffy texture once entered into the syrup, which has an exotic, sweet flavor. I was expecting to be put off by the rose flavor, but instead, I was intrigued and really loved the hint of earthiness it gave the syrup. One serving is 3 dumplings, which are small and just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth after a hearty meal.
Gahar Halwa – Carrot pudding with almonds, raisins, and cardamom.
This was my boyfriend’s choice. It was tasty, though definitely not a dessert by American standards. It was a bit heavy and rich, since it’s main ingredient is carrot, but the flavors were really interesting and the texture was chunky and the slivered almonds on top were delicious. Very good, though I preferred my own dessert.
There is no question that we will return to Monsoon. I have heard that they have a great lunch buffet, so perhaps we will try it out. This was a wonderful choice for our first time having Indian food in a restaurant and I am now officially an Indian food fan!
*Photos courtesy of Monsoon Indian Cuisine