Restaurant review: Shuttered favorite Amul India Restaurant reopens tastier than ever

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

For about a decade, Amul India Restaurant cultivated a large and loyal fan base by treating patrons to many-cuts-above Northern Indian-style curries, "tandoories" and so on. When Amul closed up shop last fall, I could practically hear sad sighs emanating from outside its abandoned Dublin locale and echoing throughout town.

Well quit your bitchin' because Amul's kitchen is up and cooking again. Reopened a couple months ago near its former Sawmill Road address, the new Amul is as good - or better - than ever.

Inside its modern, phase two strip mall digs, Amul's oddly bare burnt sienna walls, at-least-it's-trying bar and black-clad servers give it a sorta nondescript feel a la some restaurant in a mid-level hotel. Appearances are deceiving, though, because Amul is far from forgettable.

For instance, its wine and beer selection - while hardly stellar - is better than most of its peers and can accommodate slurpers with something decent. It also offers a couple house cocktails, like a thick and not cloyingly mango-juiced "Indian Screwdriver" ($5.50).

But you're here for the nuanced and not-afraid-to-go-five-alarm-on-your-ass spicy food. Brought out by friendly servers, Amul's dinner dishes read like the usual suspects, but their bold preparations are distinguished.

Take the waiter-recommended Chicken Tikka appetizer ($7), an item I rarely order in restaurants because it's generally boring. Amul's tikka - which I hubristically ordered "medium hot" - was a cliché-transcending fire starter. Tender boneless poultry chunks were energized by subcontinent spices ignited by chili, black pepper and sauteed peppers and onion.

Paneer Chili ($8) was another potent palate opener. Thick sticks of homemade cheese curds, along with more sauteed peppers and onions, were drenched in a sorta spicy Indian ketchup. Good times.

If indecision hounds you, or you just wanna work on your gut sculpture, splurge on the extra large, buffet-served-on-a-silver-tray called the Amul India Special dinner ($16). You'll get a little-of-a-lot entree preceded by a first course vegetable fritter and garlicky mashed potato croquette. Teamed with top-notch basmati and naan, this no-losers roundup includes a tandoori chicken thigh; sweet and creamy curried mushrooms and peas; thick, dense, rich and standard-eclipsing dal; a monster lamb curry with tender meat (the highlight); plus a dessert such as gulab jamun.

The Mixed Grill ($16) is another sampler special, only of sauceless, tandoori-grilled meats. Arriving like fajitas on a sizzling platter with lemon-juiced onions and peppers were chicken (tandoori and tikka); two luridly red (if chewy) shrimp; and the highlight of tender and juicy, seared ground chicken logs fragrant with tiny-diced cilantro, onions and jalapeno (Sheesh Kabab).

Adventurous types should target the sweet yet fiery Kadahi Fish ($14.50). Kadahi, aka karahi, indicates an Indian "wok-style" preparation. Accordingly, super-tender and super-plentiful mahi mahi chunks swamped in a killer creamy curry sauce vibrant with turmeric, ginger, scallion and red bell peppers came out in a nifty little cooking vessel. Ghee-whiz, the sauce was recklessly rich with clarified butter and such (pretty sure coconut milk was in there too), but I found its complex flavors wholly irresistible.

Ditto for the Chicken Choley Bhatura ($13). Starring another creamy curry sauce - but an earthier and distinctly flavored one - this was chick peas and tender chicken pieces served with bhatura (a puffy pillow of deep fried Indian bread; Amul's tasted almost donut-y). Though spicy, generously sized and rich, like most of Amul's genre-outperforming savory dishes, I found it difficult to stop eating this until I was gazing down on a completely empty plate.

Amul India Restaurant

5871 Sawmill Rd., Dublin