After raving about my love for East Indian cuisine, a co-worker suggested that I try Indian Flame and Pizza. Located near Anders on the Lake on the southeast side of Red Deer, Indian Flame and Pizza is in a little corner plaza just off of 40th Avenue.
Although the parking lot is small, because of the adjacent businesses, there is always space available.
Inside, it had a cozy atmosphere with East Indian themed knick-knack decorations.
I adore the metal cups used in East Indian restaurants. They give a rustic feel and keeps your water cold.
We started with Vegetable Samosas which came in pairs. For those who may not know what a samosa is, think of a mini pizza pocket/puff pastry stuffed with potato and peas with a hint of masala and other East Indian spices.
The Vegetable Samosa was crispy and slightly flaky on the outside though not greasy at all.
I broke one apart to see the interior. The peas were cooked enough while retaining some texture and its beautiful green color. The potato was mashed and carried the rich East Indian spices and chili which provided the spice undertone in the samosa.
My mother had quite a number of co-workers of East Indian descent so as a result, I grew up with her occasionally bringing home homemade samosas. Sometimes, they can be very greasy, but the flavors were pretty consistent. At Indian Flame and Pizza, they remained consistent with the flavors that I have come to know, but were successful in ensuring minimal grease retention. I appreciated this.
My wife decided to order Lamb Curry which was described as lamb cooked in traditional flavored gravy.
My first thought on arrival was the consistency of the serving utensil and the appearance with lamb curries that I have had in the past. This is important as I have seen off-colored curries that foreshadowed some bad curry (… in a hurry).
The curry itself was rich and full of spices which masked any signs of gaminess that lamb meat can carry. The lamb was tender, without any tendons or fatty parts attached. This is a good sign of a chef that cared and took pride in his food.
I decided to go with my first love, Butter Chicken. This dish consisted of chicken breast cooked in tomato and cream. Yes, butter is used though not as prominently as one would assume given the word butter is actually used in the name of the dish.
Butter chicken was the first non-samosa East Indian dish that I have ever tried and made a East Indian cuisine fan out of me. During my days as a university student, I completed a 2-year stint in a research lab under a German Post-Doctorate researcher. He mentored me and taught me everything that I knew in laboratory work. We always had lunch together. His favorite place was this little curry food stall in the basement of a nearby plaza. We ate there regularly, usually several times a week. He introduced me to his go-to dish of butter chicken with veggies. I am still shocked with how much butter chicken I ate in those 2 years. I look back with fond memories of our time together and still check in to see how he’s doing in the field. He finally got the professorship that he wanted and worked so hard for.
The Butter Chicken was mildly sweet thanks to the heavy use of tomatoes. However, whatever tartness the tomatoes may have offered was balanced by the cream. It was a sweeter butter chicken than I was used to and remembered from my days as a student researcher. The chunks of chicken were moist and meaty which held its own against the rich gravy.
This dish is the california roll of Japanese Sushi, the one that you try on you first attempt at East Indian cuisine. It is relatively safe with familiar meat (chicken) and mild amounts of East Indian spices.
We also ordered 2 Plain Naans and Saffron Rice to support the main dishes. Naan is a flatbread traditionally baked in a Tandoori oven which results in a dry, crispy and airy bread that can handle the wetness of the gravies. Saffron rice uses saffron spices and vegetable bouillion to cook the rice and impart the familiar unique flavor.
The Naan here had good leoparding (think spots on a leopard) which confirmed the dry and crispy texture. Flavor-wise, it was neutral which was perfect to balance the rich gravies in the main dishes.
The Saffron Rice had a mild tone, slightly more flavorful than plain basmati rice. I have taken leftover curry home before and cooked more (non-basmati) rice to support it only to confirm that basmati rice is the perfect medium for East Indian cuisine. It has the right texture and moisture to work with the rich flavors.
On a final note, it’s funny that we did not order a pizza as my co-worker’s original recommendation for Indian Flame and Pizza was their pizza. We will definitely be back and probably have a pizza to satisfy our curiosity.