photo credit: Sandy Noto
Currently only offering carryout and delivery
Checking out a new restaurant is a lot like going on a first date. You start sizing up the potential right away: Will it be a one-time hookup? A three month-er until you find a better option? It depends on what you’re looking for, and small details like if they’re wearing an ankle bracelet. But if you’re in the market for a new favorite Indian restaurant, Vajra in West Town could be the one.
At least that’s what you’ll start to think when you walk in. Not just because it looks nice and smells good, though both of these things are true. It’s because Vajra just has great energy. It’s busy and upbeat, and everyone seems to be having a good time. All of that’s definitely promising, but the main reason to see a future with this place is because of the delicious food.
Like any good long-term relationship, Vajra keeps things fresh by having a menu with a sh*tload of variety. You’ll find a reliable favorite like tikka masala (the equivalent to watching Netflix on the couch together), along with a lobster Malabar curry that’s more fancy-dinner-where-you-decide-to-actually-valet. There are casual street foods like samosa chaat (crushed samosa mixed with yogurt, chutneys, sev, papadum, and pomegranate seeds), and less common things like tandoori venison and gruyere-filled naan. Vajra is the right balance between predictable and interesting - which ultimately is what we want out of any partnership potentially involving a shared streaming account.
Great cocktails also make this place an LTR contender, and your server will help you decide by letting you know things like the smoke-infused soju cocktail complements the toasted spices in the Madras curry. But similar to what you discovered during that summer dating the architectural tour guide, nothing is perfect. A meal here gets expensive (entrees aren’t huge and range from $15 -$35). And sometimes the curries are missing the heat we’re looking for. But when you’re in the mood for more spice, you can have a casual fling with take-out from The Spice Room. Vajra won’t care.
Like finding out that your date volunteers at The Anti-Cruelty Society and hates Tom Hanks movies as much as you do, we find another layer to appreciate every time we go to Vajra. It might be getting paneer-stuffed bell peppers instead of tandoori mahi-mahi one visit, a new great cocktail the next, or the overall realization that no matter what we order, we always really like being there. Which, ultimately, is all we’re really looking for.
The samosa chaat is our favorite appetizer here. It’s a perfect combination of tangy and sweet, and fun to eat because of all the textures it has from the sev, papadum crackers, and pomegranate seeds.
This fantastic dish was recommended to us by our server, and we’ll be eternally grateful that he did. Tender pieces of goat are sitting in a sauce seasoned with five spice and star anise. It’s incredibly flavorful and delicious.
Lobster Malabar Curry
We fcking love this too. There’s a generous amount of perfectly cooked lobster meat in a rich gravy of coconut and tomato.
You’ll find the tikka masala under a section called “the classics,” and if it’s your go-to-order, you won’t be disappointed. You can choose to have it made with paneer, chicken, shrimp, or lamb.
The madras has a nice amount of heat, and the flavor from the toasted spices really comes through in the curry.
Cashew Shahi Korma
The Korma is a thick, slightly-sweet curry made with cashews. We like ordering this with shrimp - they’re large, perfectly cooked, and go really well with the sweetness of the sauce.
With everything else here, we didn’t think a gravy made of crushed and roasted eggplant would be a must-order, but the flavor and heat in this dish are incredible. Eat this with an order of naan.
First Class Momo Cha
Momo are Nepali dumplings, and the ones here are filled with minced goat. Unfortunately, they’re bland, and the spicy charred tomato sauce they come with can’t save them.
There are a lot of great tandoori options on the menu, but this is our favorite. A papaya rub makes it very tender, and the makhani (a tomato butter sauce) gives the lean meat a lot of richness.
The naan here is serviceable but nothing special. It’s just not as fluffy as we would like. But you should definitely have some on the table - and the one filled with gruyere goes really well with the Madras curry.