Restaurant review: Ignore exterior; OM Indian food makes up for it
MADISON—An Indian restaurant that opened on the city's east side last June doesn't look especially inviting from the outside.
There's little at its location on the corner of East Washington Avenue and Stoughton Road other than concrete and shabby looking buildings.
But step into OM Indian Fusion Cuisine and the picture changes dramatically. Owners Nancy and Sumanth Viswanathan transformed a former Chinese Buffet (and before that a Shakey's Pizza Parlor) into a clean, shining space featuring a gleaming bar that looks into an open kitchen and a 99-seat dining room that feels spacious and relaxing.
Better yet, its food is terrific. There's a traditional lunch buffet that offers mostly vegetarian dishes and a regular menu with an array of Indian and Indo-Chinese recipes and tandoori specialties. You'll also find your standard rice and curry dishes along with some unexpected “fusion-pasta” options.
The restaurant already has a reputation for its spicy heat, so beware when ordering. A friend and I asked to keep our food on the low-heat end of the spectrum and were still sweating a little and drinking lots of water with our meal. OM also serves beer and wine along with more traditional Indian beverages such as Masala chai, lassi and flavored milks.
Indian food is famous for its delicious breads, and OM is no exception. It offers several types of naan baked in a tandoor clay oven.
The kitchen's dosas—sort of a pancake made with rice and lentil flour that can be stuffed with spiced vegetables and eaten with chutney—are fresh, golden brown and crispy around the edges.
The garlic naan ($3.95), a flatbread that is roasted with garlic and cilantro, was a perfect accompaniment to an order of aloo gobi ($10.95)—an aromatic potato and cauliflower curry dish seasoned with turmeric, fennel and curry leaves. It comes with a side of basmati rice and is served in a generous portion on a large silver platter (as opposed to a plate).
The menu lists 14 appetizers that include a personal favorite: spinach and paneer rolls ($6.95 for an order of four). Although deep-fried, they are not greasy and are packed with spices that complement the tasty Indian curd cheese and spinach.
The appetizer mirchi bajji ($4.95) comes as three pieces of crispy green chili stuffed with seasoned onions, tomatoes and cilantro, all dipped in chickpea batter and deep-fried. (Watch out for the slow burn.)
Non-vegetarian items offer a choice of chicken, goat, lamb, shrimp or fish. The classic British dish tikka masala ($13.95) is rich with creamy tomato and onion, while the kitchen's chettinad ($13.95)—a mildly spiced coconut milk-based masala that is loaded with vegetables—hits all the right notes. These dishes all are served with rice in large portions on the aforementioned silver platters.
Service at OM is very good, with several staff members filling water glasses and checking on tables frequently.
The restaurant offers a handful of classic Indian desserts that include gulab jamun (a pastry ball fried golden brown and served with cardamom syrup, cocoa and coconut), kheer (rice pudding cooked with raisins, cashews, almonds and cardamom) and homemade ice cream (mango or pistachio).
Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.