Long-time readers of this publication no doubt realize that Indian food has never my favorite cuisine type. On the other hand, if more Indian restaurants served the subtly delicious flavors I’ve sampled at Desi Flavors Indian Cuisine, I might have spent more time in Indian eateries.
Owner Sree Alla, an information technology (IT) guy who worked for many years at an Indian restaurant in Atlanta, opened Desi Flavors, the first restaurant he has owned himself, in the Tampa Telecom Park off E. Fletcher Ave. in December 2020 — in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even so, Sree says he has continually built a loyal following since opening and he is hoping that his ads and this story in the Neighborhood News will help him continue to reach new customers in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel.
The food, at least what photographer Charmaine George, her boyfriend Brendan and I sampled on a recent visit, is pretty impressive. While most Indian cuisine is curry-based, Sree explains that there are so many different types and heat levels of curries that the same dishes at every Indian restaurant can taste different from every other place.
Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that Sree’s dishes from all regions of India are full of flavor, which explains the “Flavors” in the restaurant’s name. The “Desi” in the name means “country person,” or “one from our country,” and also can refer to people from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
About The Menu…
The only way to describe the two-sided menu at Desi Flavors is HUGE! The starters on the front of the menu are divided into “Veg” and “Non-Veg.” To date, we’ve only sampled the vegetable samosas (minced potato and green peas deep-fried in pastry dough), but they were crispy and had a milder, more delicate flavor than many of the samosas I’ve sampled elsewhere, and were served with two different chutneys (sauces).
Other “Veg Starters” I am looking forward to trying include the spring rolls (minced veggies wrapped in rice paper and fried), the chilli paneer (crispy paneer tossed in a spicy sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar and chili sauce) and the gobi Manchurian (cauliflower florets dipped in corn flour, deep fried and tossed in ginger, garlic, spring onion and chilis).
The “Non-Veg Starters” I look forward to trying include the non-veg samosas (with chicken or lamb), the chilli chicken (crispy chicken in the same spicy sauce as the cauliflower) and the fried fish pakora (fritters).
Charmaine, Brendan and I did try one of the “Tandoori Sizzlers” on the front side of the menu — the chicken kababs, which are boneless pieces of chicken marinated in the Tandoori spice mix and cooked in a clay oven, served with fresh onions and peppers. Yum! There also are chicken on the bone, shrimp, fish (filet or whole), paneer (cheese)and mixed grill Tandoori options.
The chicken biryani Sree had us sample also had a completely different flavor than most others I’ve tried. The long-grain basmati rice is flavored with unique spices and the rice and bone-in chicken served on top of it are sealed in a thick pot and cooked over a slow flame. The chicken seemed spicier than the rice, but both were very tasty. I definitely plan to try the goat and lamb options in the future, but there are eleven different biryani on the Desi Flavors menu.
On the menu’s flip side, there are 20 non-vegetable entrées, but all we tried was the butter chicken, another dish I’ve not always enjoyed elsewhere. The tender pieces of boneless Tandoori chicken are cooked in a rich, creamy (and very mild) tomato sauce with butter. It is served with a side of perfect butter naan bread (one of 12 baked-to-order breads on the menu) and basmati rice with peas and carrots.
Other non-veg entrées include chicken tikka masala, kadai chicken or lamb with pan-sautéed veggies, butter lamb and Chef’s Signature lamb, goat, shrimp or fish curry.
There also are 18 different vegetable entrées, from Chana (garbanzo bean) masala to palak paneer (spinach and cottage cheese seasoned with ginger, garlic and aromatic spices) and malai kofta (dumplings of fresh veggies and cheese cooked in a mild cream sauce).
Craving something different? Desi Flavors also offers Indo-Chinese options like fried rice or hakka (similar to lo mein) noodles, both with your choice of veggies, egg, chicken, shrimp or mixed.
There also are eight South Indian options, including Idly (steamed rice and lentil patties served with chutneys), chole poori (minced veggies wrapped in rice paper and fried), upma (thick porridge made with coarse rice flour and different veggies and nuts) and eight different dosa crepes made from rice and lentils, served with sambar (lentils in tamarind & coconut), tomato and coconut chutneys.
Save room for dessert, too. We got to sample the gulab jamun (Indian-style donuts made from evaporated milk solids deep-fried and served in a light sugar syrup) and rasmali (which reminded me of rice pudding) and I particularly enjoyed the gulab. Charmaine also really raved about the mango lassi, a super-creamy drink made with mango, yogurt, milk, a little sugar and a dash of cardamom. I also felt the hot masala chai tea was super-smooth.
Desi Flavors also has a variety of specials throughout the week. On Wednesdays (5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.), the South Indian menu options are buy-one, get-one free. The same offer goes for biryanis on Thursday evenings. On the weekends (Fri.-Sun), get a family biryani pack with a free appetizer or house special dessert to go for only $29.99 (veggie) to $45.99 (shrimp).
And, Saturdays and Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Desi Flavors is proud to offer its 35-item Grand Lunch Buffet for only $16.99 per person, or $11.99 per child under age 12.
Desi Flavors Indian Cuisine (13418 Telecom Dr. in zip code 33637) is open Tues.-Thur., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-10 p.m. on Fri.; 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; and 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Sunday, For more information, call (813) 615-0004, visit DesiFlavorsTampa.com. And, please tell Sree and his staff that the Neighborhood News sent you!
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