Story and Pictures by Chalica Pack
Walking into the Hannam-dong location of Chakraa Indian restaurant, I instantly felt like I was going to have a wonderful dining experience. The Hannam location is perfect for a romantic dinner or quiet meeting. With low lighting and beautiful decor, I felt very relaxed. And the bottle of good red wine on the table certainly added to my ease.
The staff are all native to India, as are the owners. I was lucky enough to enjoy a lavish vegetarian feast with Shanthi Prince, who co-owns Chakraa.
Shanthi Prince and her husband came to India 10 years ago. Between their 5 popular restaurants and 2 school-age daughters, they keep very busy.
We started our meal off with a bowl of spicy muligatwny soup served with a separate small bowl of white rice to add texture. I have had good lentil soup before, but the spiciness of this one made it original and memorable.
Next was a dish of samosas, a salad,and a plate of grilled vegetables and paneer. Grilled paneer takes on the consistency and textured you would expect in a thick sweet potato chip. Paired with the fresh vegetables and dipping sauces, this dish was certainly a front runner of the night. Not to be outdone, the somasas were packed full of wonderful vegetables, potatoes and spices.
The main course was made up of vegetable korma, aloo gobi, palak paneer, yellow dhall and saffron rice.
Palak paneer is often my "go to" dish at an Indian restaurant and I was so thrilled to see that their version was rich with thick chunks of paneer. In fact, I don't believe I have ever seen so much paneer in a dish before. Talking to Shanthi, I could tell that Chakraa takes a lot of pride in making and preparing their dishes. Their desire to keep the dishes authentic makes them stand out among their competitors.
Alongside our table full of vegetarian dishes, we were brought three different types of naan- garlic, carrot and palak (spinach) naan. Chakraa has been experimenting with some of their staple dishes and their latest creations- carrot and palak naan- are fine examples of taking beloved Indian food and giving them a new modern twist.
Although my belly was full and satisfied, Shanthi had her server bring us out two desert dishes- a dish of phirnee (rice pudding) and gulab jamoon (milk and cheese balls in syrup). I'm never one to turn down dessert. The gulab jamoon was the best in Seoul.
Indian food has long been a favorite of mine. Their dishes are rich in flavor, texture, and spice. With so many non-meat dishes on the menu, Chakraa is the perfect match for a vegetarian diet.
If you are a vegetarian (or want to get in good with one!), the Hannam location of Chakraa is starting an all vegetarian buffet on Thursday nights from 4pm - 10pm at 15,000won per person (w/ 10% tax to be added). The buffet menu is extensive and includes 6 main course dishes alongside their various salad and appetizer choices.
I think I can hear vegetarians everywhere shouting for joy.www.vegetarianinkorea.com