Indian food is a rare treat for most Filipinos. It’s not something we crave on the reg; not something we’d thoughtlessly eat without first asking our dining companions if they’re in on the fun. For me, in particular, eating Indian food means a week’s worth of mental preparation and a few hours of dread.
This doesn’t mean I don’t like Indian food–in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Some of my fondest memories in life are of dipping a piece of naan in a bowl of Butter Chicken or Lamb Rogan Josh. But my years of pining for Indian food has not strengthened my stomach’s ability to process copious amounts of spices, nor my palate’s ability not to be overwhelmed by the range of contrasting flavors.
I was immediately intrigued, then, when I first heard about Naan, Kapitolyo. The restaurant claims to offer “Filipino-palate friendly Indian dishes,” making it different from most Indian restaurants, which take pride in their authenticity.
Scanning Naan’s menu will give you an idea of what they mean. There isn’t an endless list of curries to choose from. Moreover, each item comes with a clear and precise explanation. This makes the restaurant approachable to diners who have limited experience with Indian food. It also helps that the restaurant looks so vibrant, cheerful, and welcoming.
Like most Indian restaurants, servers will ask if you’d like your dishes mild or spicy. On my first visit, I got the mild versions, which allowed me to fully savor the flavors of each dish, despite making me feel that they weren’t the best that Naan had to offer. On my second visit, I got a little bolder and ordered my dish “Indian spicy,” which left me with a burnt tongue, a headache, and a heart filled with regret (yes, I’m a wimp that way). While the spiciness wasn’t particularly my thing, it proved to me that the chefs can also adjust the seasoning to people looking for authentic Indian flavors.
I prefer starting off my meals at Naan with samosas, which are crispy, fried pieces of dough filled with spiced potatoes and green peas. For those who like hummus, Naan’s version is topped with olive oil and chili powder, giving it a mild spiciness that elevates the slightly boring chickpeas.
There’s also the Salted Egg Curry. This comes with a bed of tomato-based curry made more exciting with the addition of salted egg yolks. On top are slices of hard-boiled eggs sprinkled with chili powder, making them resemble deviled eggs. I found that the tomato sauce didn’t quite agree with the salted eggs, but it was interesting enough to try at least once. This is also one of Naan’s few vegetarian options.
When dining at Naan, you can choose to go for the full-size mains or order yourself a thali. Price-wise, getting a thali is the better choice–it’s a huge circular plate that comes with a protein of your choice, turmeric rice, a piece of naan, kachumber salad, garlic yogurt sauce, and Gulab Jamun. You could get it with the Lamb Korma, the Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala, the Grilled Beef Short Ribs Rogan Josh or other Indian specialties. Surprisingly, each thali comes with a sizeable serving of the protein, so you’ll never feel as if the side dishes are only there to make you full. It’s also an excellent option in case you’re dining alone.
If you go for the full-size mains, the Lamb Shank Korma is my top recommendation. At approximately 400 grams, it’s a main dish that’s good for sharing between two people, but it’s actually something you’d want to keep to yourself. The lamb is smoky, juicy, and tender all throughout, and the cashew paste lends a nutty richness that will stay in your memory. On Instagram, I named it as “one of the best things I’ve had in a while,” and I stand by that proclamation.
Meanwhile, the Fried Butter Chicken is a surprising twist on an Indian classic. It was actually the first time I saw a restaurant use fried chicken used for this dish. It adds a fun layer of crispiness that doesn’t dissipate despite being smothered in thick, tangy, tomato-based curry. I wish there was more sauce to go with this, though, since it was the best dip for the soft, fresh, and thin naan bread we ordered.
Overall, I wouldn’t say Naan is one of my favorites as far as Indian restaurants go. There are other Indian restaurants that offer more complex Indian flavors at similar price points. But because Naan knows its local market well, and specifically tries to adjust to it, it’s well worth a visit. There’s really no need for hours of wondering if you can handle all the spices because the staff can adjust to whatever you’re ready for at the moment. Besides, that Lamb Shank Korma isn’t something you’ll want to pass up any time of the day.
Naan Indian Street Kitchen is located at Unit 1, D-Strip, 20 United Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City