Dinner at Chai Pani
With 6,500 people invading downtown Asheville to attend the Mumford & Sons concert, it seemed every restaurant we tried to eat at Tuesday night had a 45 minute wait to be seated. Chai Pani Indian Street Food however came to the rescue, as they were able to seat us within 15 minutes.
Even though it was convenient, I have been waiting to eat at Chai Pani for a long time now. I absolutely love Indian food. I first fell in love with the cuisine as a freshman in college when my debate coach at the time took us to the Indian Oven in the Old Market district in Omaha, Nebraska. In Asheville, I’m particularly fond of Mela Indian Restaurant, which serves a rather cheap, but delicious lunch buffet with a lot of options. Apparently, the locals agree as it was voted Asheville's Favorite Restaurant in the Mountain Xpress Reader’s poll in 2008 and 2009, and finished #2 in 2010.
But Chai Pani has been making noise of its own as of late. The restaurant was recently featured in GQ magazine’s article Rad City: Asheville, North Carolina. Plus, Chai Pani distinguishes itself from other Indian restaurants in town by focusing on the street food genre rather than traditional plates. Chai Pani also had the added benefit for me of being a participating restaurant in the WNC Insider program. For those that don’t know, the WNC Insider is a card priced around $30 that gets you a buy one get one free entrée deal and 10% off thereafter at over 50 local participating restaurants. So the opportunity to not have to wait 40 minutes to be seated, eat Indian food, and not spend a lot of money was too good to pass up.
The menu at Chai Pani is reasonably priced. From what I remember there was not a dish over $10. Also Chai Pani locally sources the majority of the ingredients on the menu.
I had the Sloppy JAI (Kheema Pav- Ground & spiced turkey (kheema) slow cooked with tomatoes, potatoes, cilantro and aromatic spices, served on a warm bun).
The menu says it will be the best sloppy joe you will ever have and I whole-heartedly agree. However, this sloppy joe is quite a bit different than the traditional sloppy joe. The spices were just enough to get the sinuses going but not too overwhelming. The first half of the sandwich I made the mistake of skipping the yogurt sauce that accompanied it. Although, the first half was good, the second half was much better with a liberal dose of the yogurt sauce. Just when you thought the spice was going to pop you in the mouth, the yogurt was there to fend it off. The side salad composed of fresh veggies and a light dressing was great. The dish gave your palette a chance to take a break from the Sloppy JAI’s spice adventure.
My partner in crime ordered the KATHI KABAB (All natural Chicken marinated with ginger, garlic & spices, served in a griddled wrap with garnishes & chutneys).
A tad bit better photo from Chai Pani's Facebook Page
At first she loved this dish, but then the tears started to pour down her face. For me, to watch sweat roll down her temple was more entertaining than tableside magic tricks, but for her, it was painful. Yet the dish’s flavor must have been good because she fought back both heat sweats and tears and attempted to finish the dish. Thankfully, what I can only assume to be the owner or manager of Chai Pani asked if the dish was too spicy and whether or not he could offer an alternative? This guy was very attentive of his patrons. While we were there I heard him ask at least two other customers whether their particular dishes was too spicy for them. It was ultimately decided that the KATHI KABAB was too good too ask for an alternative and instead extra yogurt sauce was requested to tame the flames. The manager in a timely fashion returned with a saucer of the yogurt sauce. With the assistance of extra yogurt sauce, the dish was completed with satisfaction. It should be noted a friend of ours ordered the same dish and he didn’t think it was very spicy, so she may just be a wimp.
The service was attentive and the food was great. I will be back. My partner in crime will be as well with a bottle of TUMS and Yoo-hoo in hand.
Total before tip- $26.93
(Bill included 2 PBRs and 2 Wine Rickys)
Chai Pani Indian Street Food
22 Battery Park Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
We concluded the evening downtown with the Mumford & Sons concert. I’ll be completely honest the only time I want to listen to Mumford & Sons is when I want to wind down after a long day and just relax. But the band really blew me away Tuesday night.
They played the majority of the songs on the Sigh No More album and several new songs for an upcoming unnamed album. However, what really struck me about Mumford & Sons was the energy they brought to the stage. It seemed like every song they tried to bring the house down. It was neat to watch members of the band exchange instruments with each song, yet still manage to bring the same intensity no matter what particular instrument each member was playing at the moment. Marcus Mumford in particular is a straight G on the drums. He goes wild with sticks in his hand and there was a particular set where he seemed to knock over half his drum set from banging on the set so hard.
What made Tuesday night really special was the crowd matched the band’s intensity. To be a part of 6,500 people going nuts in a small auditorium was just awesome and at points gave me goose bumps. You can really see the crowd presence towards the end of this video.
Marcus promised they would be back hopefully multiple times. Frankly, I can’t wait!