Naan, to the best of my knowledge, is the first restaurant to serve authentic Indian food in Medellin.
I stumbled across it while walking around the streets above Parque Lleras, and I’m glad I did. I’ve been waiting for an Indian restaurant to arrive in this city for over three years!
The first thing I asked the waitress, upon taking a seat inside, was whether the owners were Indian or Colombian. The answer would allow me adjust my expectations accordingly.
She responded that they are paisa, which immediately lead me to believe they may not have been to India. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because as I soon found out, my lunch was quite delicious.
The first thing I appreciated about Naan was the interior decor, featuring several paintings on the walls to help set the mood, and Indian music playing on the sound system.
The music is a small detail I’ve come to expect in the Indian restaurants of the USA. It helps set the mood, and was a nice touch.
I ordered a mango lassi to start, knowing that if they could get this cool classic right, it’d be a good sign. It arrived in a large glass, with a straw and piece of bamboo for stirring (another nice touch). Other flavors include banana and lemon, tamarind, and pineapple.
Appetizers range in price from 6,500 to 12,000 pesos ($3.58 – $6.610), and include the classic samosa, made with mango chutney. Samosas are the Indian version of empanadas, and just as ubiquitous.
I skipped the appetizer and ordered my absolute favorite, Tikka Masal with Chicken, along with sides of Basmatic rice and naan.
Other entrees include:
- Fresh tuna with tamarind sauce and lemon-flavored Basmati rice
- Yellow curry with chicken
- Red curry with shrimp in coconut milk
- Green curry with fish
I waited anxiously for my lunch to arrive, hoping (and praying) it would be worthy of writing home about.
When it did arrive, I was happy with the presentation. Initially I thought the serving size was too small, but as I began mixing it with the rice, and eating, I soon found it was plenty.
The curry itself was not quite as thick and creamy as I’m use to with this Tikka Masala, but it satisfied my desire for Indian food. Plus, in a country that shys away from spicy food, it was hot enough to make me break a sweat.
The naan, unfortunately, was more akin to plain white or pita bread. The restaurant doesn’t have a tandoori oven, so it’s not cooked in the same way I’m use to.
However, as something extra to wipe up the curry, it was perfectly fine. In other words, go to Naan for everything else, but the naan itself!
I knew I couldn’t give Naan a proper review unless I tasted their chai tea, a favorite of mine since my days riding the rails across India.
The cup arrived piping hot, along with a small pitcher of flavored syrup. This allows the diner to regulate the flavor, and it’s the first time I’ve been presented with chai in such a way. The tea tasted fine, though it wasn’t as creamy as I’d expect. Adding more syrup helped with this.
Also, there was no handle on the cup, so I had to wait several minutes for it to cool down enough to be picked up. Actually, I couldn’t wait that long, so I wrapped a napkin around it so I could lift it up.
If I sound a little picky, it’s because in the USA, most Indian restaurants are owned by Indians, and there’s easier access to the spices and cooking techniques used in India.
I applaud Jaimie, the young paisa co-owner I met after lunch, for breaking new ground in Medellin’s food scene.
As long as he continues to try to tweak and improve the recipes, he’ll have no shortage of customers coming in.
And a tandoori oven, if possible, would take the kitchen to a whole new level.