As an ex-chef living in England some years back, I became obsessed with Indian food. The Brits, once colonizers of India, adopted the cuisine as their own, and in London spicy Indian grub is as common as a baguette in Paris.
But I never quite mastered the art of Indian cooking myself, especially curries. Each ingredient must be added at the right time during a curry's evolution so as not to become too powerful—or too convoluted. Since returning to the States, I've continued my quest for restaurants with great curry skills, and I've found a spot skirting Portland that gives me something to aspire to. Mayuri, a traditional Indian restaurant in Beaverton (Nike slaves, listen up), masters curry and more.
Although its name means "peacock" in Sanskrit, Mayuri is a Denny's déjà vu, its drab decor only one paintbrush away from its chained predecessor. Über-chic it ain't. But the unassuming atmosphere lets the food speak for itself.
Aromatic waves from the kitchen made my crew giddy with anticipation. Indian meals are about going big and sharing, so start with a near perfect round of onion and spinach pakoras ($5.95), crispy, delicate and not at all greasy. Green chilies lent a welcomed, sustained heat to a sautéed chili chicken dish ($8.95), the bird rolled in coriander leaves, onions and spices. The gobi manchiuria ($8.95), aromatic, fried cauliflower, possessed the perfect texture—tender with a bit of bite.
Entrees are served either à la carte or thali style, which includes a round of tasty usual suspects (naan, raita, chutney and dal). In any case, Mayuri shows no mercy with portions. The dosas ($5-$10.95), South Indian crêpes made with different lentil flours and stuffed with veggie curry, were three times the size of the plate. They alone justified our commute.
But on a recent visit, the restaurant's lamb saag ($12.95 à la carte) flat-lined on flavor. Instead, opt for moist, succulent chicken tikka kebabs ($13.95 a la carte), a tandoori oven specialty here that bears little resemblance to the dry kebabs curing on many Indian buffet steam tables around town. The malai kofta curry ($10.95 à la carte), paneer-stuffed vegetable patties bathing in a creamy sauce, was so colorful and heady, it was pleasing before and after it reached my lips.
And for dessert, gulab jamun ($4), a doughnut hole-like pastry drizzled with a light honey-and-ginger syrup, was vibrant and sweetly spiced.
Like its decor, Mayuri's service is courteous and utilitarian—and, yes, at times a bit slow. This suburban peacock isn't long on romance or vibe, but for shareable Indian food, cooked with soul, it's cheaper than a trip back over the Atlantic.
Mayuri, 16175 SW Walker Road, Beaverton, 533-9050. 11:30 am-2 pm and 5:30-9 pm Monday-Friday, 11:30 am-2:30 pm and 5:30-9:30 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$ Moderate.