Photo by Anne Marie Tamburro.

Gainesville is plentiful in places to find Indian food, but perhaps the most stylish, with its bold, funky sign visible from the intersection of Main Street and University, is Andaz Indian Restaurant—literally. Andaz is the Hindi word for “style.” 

Step inside the restaurant, and it’s evident why owner Parvesh Khirbat chose this name. Modern light fixtures make the sleek full bar and dark-wood tables gleam in contrast to the sponge-painted walls. Pieces of Mughal art, hand-selected by Khirbat, hang from the walls, depicting detailed renderings of peacocks and elephants.

Come between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch buffet, and you’ll find large copper pots full of a variety of Indian dishes lining the buffet table. It’s a popular time of day for the restaurant—the buffet can serve around 100 customers a day—partly because Andaz is friendly for diners of many diets, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Chef Mehfooj Khan is attached to the name Andaz for another reason: because the restaurant “covers everything from A to Z.” Andaz’s dinner menu offers over 60 items including customer favorites such as chicken tikka masala, roasted chicken in a mild tomato sauce, the creation of which is actually traced back to England. For a similar dish with an origin in India, you can try the Mughlai butter chicken. Both dishes are cooked in a tandoor, a type of clay oven.

Andaz also serves yummy delights such as flaky samosas, flavorful spiced curries, and grilled lamb chops marinated in yogurt and ginger. If you don’t eat meat, try the Paneer Vindaloo, potatoes and homemade cheese in a spicy tomato sauce, or the Baingan, spiced eggplant served with a sesame sauce. For those with a sweet tooth, Khirbat recommends the gulab jamun, balls of dough that are fried and then soaked in rose water.

Tearing into a fresh, warm piece of garlic naan and then dipping it into a crisp, refreshing onion chutney is the perfect way to start off your meal at Andaz. From there, spoonful after spoonful of whatever entrée you choose, from potato- to goat-based dishes, will leave you feeling warm and happy—not to mention full. 

No food coloring or artificial flavors go into the food, and each order of naan is made to order and baked fresh in the tandoor.

“Everything that we do is pretty much 90 percent made from scratch,” Khirbat said.

Restaurant manager Omid Ahmadi said Andaz prides itself on being an innovative restaurant that stays true to the roots of its Indian cuisine.

“Every year we’re adding something to our menu or every year we’re trying something new with our decorations,” Ahmadi said. “But some of the dishes (the customers) love, and they don’t want to lose them.”

Khirbat, along with Khan, opened Andaz four years ago after they became friends at an Indian restaurant in Ocala where Khan worked. Khirbat was a regular customer of Khan’s, and appreciated his culinary skills so much he proposed they open a restaurant together.

Illustration by Caroline Jinks.

But the two knew Ocala was not where they wanted to pursue their dreams. 

“We alway wanted to be in a place where it’s vibrant,” Khirbat said.

Khan, a five star chef from North India, was “born into” the world of cooking. Growing up in a family of chefs as a child in New Delhi, he was already learning and developing a love for the art of cuisine. He graduated from culinary school at 21 and worked in some of India’s five star hotels before deciding he wanted to “make wonders in food” in America.

Admadi said it’s Khan’s talent, combined with the care that goes into his dishes, that sets Andaz apart.

“He always adds a flavor of love to his food,” Ahmadi said. “Anyone from any culture or any country can try it and have a good experience.”

Ultimately, there’s one factor to Andaz’s style that comes from outside the restaurant itself.

“Lovely people in Gainesville,” Ahmadi insisted with a smile. •

 

Andaz Indian Restaurant

12 W University Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601 | Website

• • •

Butter Chicken

Ingredients

 

Chicken & Marinade
  • 1 kg chicken pieces
  • ginger and garlic paste
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • ¼ cup oil

Sauce
  • 1 ½ kg tomatoes
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 4 tbsp whole dhania seed
  • 500 ml cream
  • 8-10 whole green elachi (ground)
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 250g butter
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp katshru methi

 

Instructions

1. Wash and drain chicken until all water has been removed. Marinate the chicken with the above ingredients for approximately 2-4 hours.

2. Grill the chicken, ensuring both sides are evenly done. In the meantime, set the grilled chicken aside and prepare the sauce.

3. In a thick-based pot, add in washed whole tomatoes, 1 cup water, cinnamon, dhania, garlic, chilli powder, elachi, butter and salt to taste. Cook until tomatoes are soft and mushy.

4. Remove tomatoes from heat, cool, then liquidise the tomatoes until smooth. Once liquidised, using a cake flour sifter, strain the tomatoes to remove seeds. A pulp-like texture will remain in the sifter. Throw away the pulp left over in the sifter.

5. Take your smooth tomato base and pour it into a pot. Cook for about 30 to 45 minutes on medium low heat, allowing sauce to thicken until butter comes visible on the top. Once cooked, add your grilled chicken to the pot.

6. Cook for 5 minutes on high, add cream and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes.

7. Garnish with chopped dhania. Serve with roti or basmati rice. Serves 4 to 6.