by Elissa Karg
Ruchi Indian Cuisine
29555 Northwestern, Southfield
Eats: 3.5 stars
Experience: 3 stars
Ruchi translates as “tasty treat,” and indeed the vibrant colors and flavors that characterize Indian food are abundant here.
Chicken biryani features dark meat in basmati rice ranging in color from yellow to gold to orange and is served with a yogurt sauce. Lamb shahi korma is served in a small copper dish raised up on little brass feet. It is served in a creamy sauce that incorporates coconut, almonds, eggs and spices and tastes heavenly.
The chicken tikka is cooked in a tandoori oven on a skewer. The round clay oven used for Indian tandooris gets very hot, giving a nicely grilled flavor to the seasonings of masala, yogurt and lemon juice on the chicken. Big chunks of breast meat are served on a sizzling hot platter with strips of onions and peppers. The same dish ordered with lamb, medium spicy, was delicious.
Naan, the flat bread baked on the wall of the tandoori oven, is always wonderful. You can order it plain, filled with butter and garlic, stuffed with ground lamb or studded with almonds, walnuts and bits of candied pineapple and cherries.
One page on the menu features dishes from south India, which are harder to find in our area. Dosa, a kind of crispy crepe made of lentil and rice flour, is offered plain or with fillings such as sautéed onions and peppers or potato curry. One dosa is so large that it was only a few inches shorter than the width of the table. You break off pieces and dip them into a tomato chutney (studded with black mustard seeds, spicy and delicious) or coconut chutney, which has a subtle, seductive flavor.
Owner and manager Shivaji Chirumamilla confesses that occasionally the color of his food is intensified with a few drops of food dye, but mostly the dishes are brightly colored naturally from the food and its seasonings. The golden yellows come from tumeric, a pungent spice. Many of the traditional batters are made from various colored lentils, not white flour, giving an unusual tint to vegetable pakora, an enjoyable appetizer of slices of potato, onions, cucumber and other veggies stuffed inside a batter the color of sunflowers.
The brick red coating on gobi (cauliflower) comes from food coloring, which doesn’t detract from the savory taste of ginger, tomatoes and herbs covering each floret.
Chirumamilla says that all the food is made on the premises, from culturing the yogurt to the paneer (cheese) to baked-to-order bread. He says that often American customers are puzzled because it takes 20 minutes to get entrées, but that’s because each dish is cooked to order.
If you order a thali platter, six or seven small samples of dishes are added to your entrée for $2, including dessert. One night it was a delicious carrot pudding, reminiscent of sweet potato pie. On another night it was rasmalal, a cheese dumpling served with creamy syrup and topped with pistachio nuts.
As with many ethnic restaurants, patrons of Ruchi will sometimes have difficulty communicating. So I had my lamb korma with naan, instead of the thali platter I thought I had ordered. To my view, this only contributes to the adventure of ethnic eating and the authenticity of the experience.
My other criterion is to dine with patrons of the same ethnicity as the food, and this qualifier was also met. On a Saturday night many of the Indian women were dressed in shimmering silk saris.
A birthday party was winding up as we were seated, and my co-diner pronounced the place “child-friendly to a fault.” But soon peace was restored.
Open daily for lunch (buffet) and dinner. Banquet facilities are available. Full bar.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.