I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
It appears a rule of law in town that for one to rise, one must fall, and for a restaurant to emerge, it must do so from the fertile ashes of a fallen ancestor. It points to the limited funds of certain entrepreneurs, that for a business to open, it must do so on the foundation, chairs, and kitchen of another. I find that rather disappointing, especially when the upstart does nothing to the original decor.
Not the greatest impression to start a review, and I’m trying to avoid a phoenix metaphor as that actually refers to the original beast arising from its former life. I’m pretty sure the A&A Burger Barn didn’t think it would serve their interests by rebranding themselves an Indo-Canadian barbecue chain which may or may not be part of an actual chain. I’m still confused by this. It’s call Barbecue Nation, proudly boasting itself part of a Barbecue Nation Ltd, indicating a chain, though the only one I could find shares neither a menu nor a logo and lists locations such as Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi with nothing outside of India, so unless this is a bizarre outreach, I’d say this location paid to use the name and that’s about it
Being Indo-Canadian, it means the restaurant’s menu is a dyslexic array of western and Indian dishes, presented in such a colorful yet scotch-guarded fashion, I’d swear a Denny’s and an Indian restaurant just got fed through Brundle’s telepod. And like that cautionary horror, what emerged is a confusing abomination which, on the surface, is better to get a faceful of buckshot than be allowed to live. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being hard on it. I’d just wish this place had made an effort to change from the Burger Barn’s decor. I mean, my god, they didn’t even reupholster the seats which haven’t moved a centimetre from their roots. The 50’s inspired checkerboard tiles are still here, the counter-synching propeller overhead fans are still running, and then to clog my miniscule table with three decanters and a ketchup bottle, it’s like they’re trying to get my hackles up. And yet, can one argue with the approach? Given how popular Indian cuisine is, what better fusion then to merge it with a western family restaurant? Is it such a bad idea?
I’ll explain at the end.
I can do without the two pages taken directly from a Denny’s, and why would anyone come here when the local Denny’s is literally up the block. I can almost see the sign from my window for crying out loud. No, I didn’t order the Eggs Benedict. Like all Indian restaurant reviews, I opened with the samosas and followed it up with the rogan josh. No, not Josh Rogan, he’s a country music star. No, not Joe Rogan, he’s a stand up comedian and commentator for UFC. I’m talking rogan josh, which is similar to lamb korma, earning scorn from Indian cuisine critics. I was asked if I wanted rice or naan, which gave the impression they were charged extra (and they were), a practice I dislike and had not seen in an Indian restaurant since Karahi King so many years ago. The samosas (somosa, there was one) was served alongside two metal tins of curry and chutney. It was really good; I could actually spot the whole coriander seeds in it. This was followed by one of the largest servings I’ve ever encountered, dominated by a naan of such immensity, Tom Hanks could have ridden to safety on it. I should have measured it, because it was probably 16 inches across. The teardrop shape justified the name of the restaurant. In India, a tandori is a barbecue, and one capable of temperatures considered balmy on Venus. Proper naan is cooked stuck on the sides of this plasma tunnel, giving the bread its signature shape, one I’ve never seen elsewhere in town—places cooking their naan on traditional ovens. I wasn’t asked for a level of spice, which I actually appreciated, and the delivered dish made me sweat through my skull. I’m practically bald (practically?) and I know a meal is spicy when my head gets cool and I feel my dome glistening.
I know it’s going to sound odd, but this was too much food, simply too much. Spicy Greens does it right: one price and you get everything to satisfy you. Here, you have to pay for rice and naan/roti making the final price too much and the meal too large. Sure, if you’re ordering for multiple people, that’s ok, but there should be a differentiation, perhaps a family size option; maybe they’re should be a lunch menu with packaged meals like combo-platters in Asian restaurantsohmygodIcan’tbelieveIjustsaidthat. I’ll have to whip myself with egg noodles later. But seriously, my serving consisted of four plates; how in the world are two people expecting to enjoy a meal at this table, especially one already occupied by needless condiments (yes, needless, bring them if I need them). You physically cannot fit eight plates at a table this size. Back when it was A&A, that was easy. Would it have been such a chore to tear out these seats and do something new, like maybe a refectory-style layout—that would be unique—long tables people would have to share. Hell, I reviewed a restaurant in England which did that. No one else in town has tried it. Just saying it would be a neat idea.
That all being criticized, the food was excellent…but seriously, when is it not? It’s coming down to the fact that above average Indian is the new crap. Indian food is almost always good, made by intelligent people with a passion for their cuisine. I have to expect it to be amazing, because if it’s not, no one will come given the bar raised by competition. Under reflection, I wonder if any of the staff are carried over from the recently folded Indian Lion, as several of the last few restaurants I’ve reviewed have done so. So yeah, the food was really really good. The naan was positively the best and worth the visit. Don’t order the rice; it’s twice as much as the colossal naan. Order two of those at $1.50 a pancake and you’ll thank me.
Near the end of the meal, I looked across the aisle and I found an obese couple feasting on a plate of sandwiches and scrambled eggs. Proven wrong already. When the waitress walked by, the man made a point to mention that Barbecue Nation doesn’t have an actual barbecue, there’s no barbecuing being done. First of all, he was criticizing a minimum wage employee about the name of the business she worked at. It was ignorant, and I couldn’t help but respond by explaining to this poster-child of white trash that tandori, which dominates one page of the menu, is actually a barbecue. In India, the terms “barbecue” and “tandori” are interchangeable. I’m not sure if he found the clarification enlightening, but as he hobbled out, he grumbled and moaned about the delivery time for his meal. I suppose this is an experience Barbecue Nation should expect from an arrogant redneck town such as this: obese narrow-minded philistines expecting warp speed fat flowing to their table via plastic plates, the ones anticipating coffee cups at their table. If you wanted bacon and eggs, go to a place where they have them pre-fried the day previous. This is why Barbecue Nation should alter its menu…because they’re trying to be two things which don’t mix. People who frequent Denny’s don’t want the option of Indian food on their menu. A place called Barbecue Nation is already tasked with convincing people that the title isn’t a lie, and on top of that, is forced to tolerate morons that come into a place specializing in great Indian food and ordering bacon and eggs.