By: Jason Perlow
I first met Arun Sareen six years ago, shortly after moving to South Florida from New Jersey.
After settling in, the first thing on our agenda after finding our regular Chinese, Sushi, Pizza and Mexican places was our regular Indian restaurant, which turned out to be Coral Springs’ Khana Kh’zana.
It was a hole-in-the wall, but Mr. Sareen and his family ran it like a four-star restaurant with service that made you feel like you were part of his clan yourself, featuring homestyle Northern Indian/Mughlai-style dishes originating from his hometown of New Delhi.
Shortly after, the enterprising restaurateur sold Khana Kh’zana, and opened Arun’s Indian Kichen across the street on Sample Road in Coral Springs, in a much smaller space originally reserved for a small Chinese takeout, which was never really designed for sit down eating.
The little eatery very quickly gained serious accolades and a near-perfect score on Yelp, fueled by lavish praise issued by local food bloggers and Instagrammers. With his new found popularity, Sareen spruced the place up a bit with a few coats of paint and a couple of tables, but the place became extremely busy and the output became difficult to scale.
Indian Kichen was now attracting subcontinental cuisine devotees from all over Broward County. Fans on their lunch breaks easily travelled 20 minutes and dozens of lights to get to his little takeout place — only to find they had no time to eat their food once they ordered it.
So Sareen came up with the idea of doing a Quick Serve version of Indian Kichen, a la Chipotle, and opened up a new restaurant, Taco Masala, on University Drive in Lauderhill – Tamarac residents may remember it as the former Chicken Kitchen. It’s much bigger and has a lot more seating than Indian Kichen.
There is no actual Asian/Mexican fusion going on here — despite the “Taco” in the name, this is pure Indian food. The menu here is a “greatest hits” list from Indian Kichen, such as Chicken Tikka Masala, Rogan Josh, and Vegetable Korma.
We tried all of these, and they were just as good as Indian Kichen’s.
The difference is that the dishes are all prepared ready to go in chafing dishes — which are freshly refilled as needed in small batches and the kitchen is cooking up new stuff constantly — so nothing is sitting in the trays for hours at a time.
And because these “tacos” are smaller portions — from $6.99 to $7.99, you can sample more than a single dish.
You first choose your base, either a roti, which is a type of whole wheat flatbread resembling a soft taco, or a saffron rice bowl. Then you fill it up with your choice of protein — there are 8 variations of different Indian curries, with chicken, lamb and vegetarian options. There’s also a salad/condiments bar where you can add all sorts of veggie toppings, rice and chutneys to increase your spice level to whatever you desire.
If you need to cool off the spice, the restaurant has Mango Lassi and Mango Shakes ready to go in the beverage fridge, along with soft drinks.
5415 N. University Drive, Lauderhill FL 33351
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10:45 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS’s ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.