Restaurant Review: Haveli Bistro Downtown
It’s been a while since the last visit to High and Long. Once a Wendy’s building, the shell transitioned oddly well from fast food to fancy fare in its subsequent appearances as a full-service restaurant. As of this spring, the address now hosts Haveli Bistro. Haveli offers Indian food, filling a partial void in the area. There aren’t a lot of Indian food trucks parked in the center of the city. And while Indian Oven on Main is also Downtown, it’s not as centrally located as the well-trafficked intersection at which Haveli has set up shop.
Haveli has all the elements traditionally required at an Indian restaurant: there’s a full bar and a lunch buffet, with full-service dining options at both lunch and dinner. The downstairs area looks like pretty much any downtown restaurant. The upstairs is strikingly bright, white and elegant, with simple line-drawing murals to communicate the theme. It feels like money. Haveli’s menu is large, but it’s manageable and filled with familiar options such as naan and tandoori.
Taking the familiar path, then, it’s easy to start with the likable vegetable Samosas ($5.95). They’re large fried pastry pockets with crunchy shells that hold a soft, starchy, sturdy mix of potato and peas.
Drums of Heaven ($11.95) are a house specialty and nicely prepared. An order yields a collection of modestly sized, meaty chicken legs, fried and then coated in sauce. Sure, the concept has relevant similarities to Buffalo Wings, but Haveli’s come with a distinctly aromatic, authentic South Indian accent you won’t find at a generic wing joint.
Returning to vegetable-centric options, the Saag Paneer ($13.95) is reliable and conceptually is one of the better things in this world to happen to spinach. It’s not much to look at, but the long-cooked vegetable is cooked with Indian “cottage cheese” (paneer) for an impossibly rich effect.
The star in the Chicken Biryani ($13.95) is not the chicken, but the rice. It’s made traditionally with a super long-grained basmati rice, and it’s infused with savory flavor that makes it well worth eating. It supports bland chicken that is nothing terribly special in and of itself, so the rice and some accompanying raita drive the experience.
Naan fans will find it on the menu in a number of variations. The straightforward plain version of the toasty flatbread ($3.95) is lighter and more delicate than others in the scene, but no less poofy and addictive.
The menu ventures into territory less frequently traveled at Indian restaurants, with options such as chop suey. The bar features wines, beer, and cocktails built around themes that include lassi and garam masala (case in point: The Last Lassi involves vodka, Somas Mango Cream, Chata, Honey syrup, and rose water).
The service at Haveli has been a little uneven. The team is kind, but the serving timing can be irregular and the scene can seem a little discombobulated. You can find Haveli at 185 N. High St. It has split hours, open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (30 minutes later on weekends), and dinner hours start at 4 p.m. (6 p .m. on weekends).
For more information, visit havelibistro.com..