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Published August 29, 2012, 01:03 PM

The Eatbeat: Passage to India offers adventures in eating

FARGO — There was a pleasing aroma of curry as we entered Passage to India during the lunch hour here on a weekday in late August. The restaurant was nearly full of people eating at neat rows of tables and a row of booths along one side. There was soft, Indian-style music.

By: Marilyn Hagerty, Forum Communications, INFORUM

FARGO — There was a pleasing aroma of curry as we entered Passage to India during the lunch hour here on a weekday in late August. The restaurant was nearly full of people eating at neat rows of tables and a row of booths along one side. There was soft, Indian-style music.

The buffet itself was vast, well-organized and carefully tended. We moved along picking and choosing from what must be the largest array of Indian fare in this region.

There were appetizers including a vegetable samosa made of crispy flour wraps stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas and flavors of mint and chutney. There was an assorted pakora made with slices of potato, eggplant, onion rings and bell pepper fried with lentil butter.

Vegetarian dishes were served with rice. One called baingan bartha is roasted eggplant cooked with herbs and spices. South Indian specials include dosa, described as rice crepes with spring vegetable stuffing, chutney and sambal sauce.

Along with vegetables, lamb and chicken are mainstays on the extensive Indian menu. Seafood, curry, rice and noodles are also part of the lineup.

The lunch buffet changes daily. Dinner is a la carte. On weekdays, the lunch buffet is $9.95. On weekends, it’s $12.95.

Tastes and textures on the vast buffet are fascinating. Peter John, the manager, said chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular items. It’s made of chicken breast chunks broiled in a clay oven known as tandoor and sauteed in creamy tomato sauce. Regular customers often ask for lamb pepper fry made of lamb sauteed with ginger onions, tomato and black pepper.

For me, the appeal of the Indian food is in flavors such as the lemon-ginger spice cardamom, fresh ginger and mint leaves. Also inviting is the bread called naan and the hot and sour soups along with the greens.

Tiny artificial roses in small vases grace the tables where glass tops are used over crisp white tablecloths. I liked the red carpeting and tiny sparkling lights. There is music that the owners say is up-to-date — not the stuff you would hear years ago.

This is a restaurant that would call me back for more adventures in eating. It has been operating in Fargo for seven years. That’s when John and his brother, Sam Rangaswanny, decided to move on from work as managers in California to owners in Fargo. They have built a sideline shop of Indian foods to the point where they are opening a separate store.

Richard Shafer, a professor at UND, often goes to the buffet at Passages to India to find lamb. His wife, Jill, also a professor, is a vegetarian and enjoys the array available. Schafer is pleased with the quality of the food that has become familiar to him during his travels and teaching in India and South Africa.

He talks of the Indian tea — creamy with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s something I found very special to savor at the end of a meal.


Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or call (701) 772-1055.

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