The closest I’ve come to visiting India was decades ago in my traveling life when I visited Sri Lanka, a pearl of an island off the southern coast of India. At that time still a lot of British influence, beautiful beaches, warm culture and divine food. I still have a small wooden mask purchased from Ambalangoda, a town renowned for it’s mask craftsmanship. And then there is the 2011 flick, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” about seniors finding paradise at a hotel in India. It was with those remembrances that I visited The Taste of India, Culpeper’s first Indian restaurant.
It was after lunch and before dinner so the restaurant was quiet…it afforded me a chance to recharge and relax. The place has morphed into a piece of India in the heart of a rural downtown historic district. White tablecloths, dark chocolate furniture, mustard colored napkins and cinnamon painted walls create a relaxing ambiance.
The aroma from the kitchen had its own language of exotic spices and warm places but it was not overpowering at all. It was the scent that complemented the sights and sounds of one of Culpeper’s latest offerings for foodie aficionados. Traditional Indian music played softly in the background. Taste of India is a chain of Indian restaurants that are also located in Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Gainesville.
Open now for nearly seven months, manager Lal Kumar Shrestha is pleased with how things are going. Their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet that is offered daily from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. has reacquainted and, for many, introduced Indian cuisine which, contrary to misconceptions, is not always very hot. Each dish is individually prepared and, at your request, the hotness factor can be tempered from mild to super hot. Food is freshly prepared.
“We make our own spices in the kitchen,” says Shrestha who exudes a calm and pleasant demeanor. “We’ve been getting good feedback from the community,” he continued, “you have to give 100 percent with this business…I give all my time to this.”
Shrestha knows the owners and has worked with them about six years. He knows their tastes and where they’d like to see their group of restaurants go.
Word of mouth is spreading and recently the restaurant entertained a group of 16 that came from Sperryville.
“It makes us happy when we see others very happy,” smiled Shrestha who recently made a contribution to the Little Fork Fire and Rescue Department in Amissville. They’ve also taken food to the Culpeper Senior Center.
“I want people to know that we are here and looking to build a relationship with the community,” said Shrestha.
Indian breads, known as naan, are unleavened handmade breads baked in a clay oven.
“People really like the breads,” said Shrestha.
And there are many choices from plain to those stuffed with potatoes and peas or chopped tandoori chicken and spices or perhaps stuffed with homemade cheese.
Topping off my visit was a heavenly orange colored drink. It’s called a Mango Lassi and is created with homemade yogurt (not your store variety) and fresh mango. Admittedly perhaps too heavy to accompany a meal but as an afternoon dessert – perfect. Plus it brought back all those memories of faraway places.
Taste of India is located at 201 S. East Street in Culpeper. Phone 540-764-4647