Monsoon India: A Fury of Flavors
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Although Indian cuisine is believed to have the hottest dishes in the culinary world, when it comes to the entrees at Monsoon India, manager Carolyn Pinho wants to set the record straight — the eatery’s name has nothing to do with the level of spice in one’s meal.
“Owner Hari Reddy wanted to equate the monsoon season with this restaurant because it’s a time of replenishment during the hot season,” Pinho explains. “We start everything off with mild (spices) and people can ask us to go hotter.”
When it comes to the cuisine at Monsoon India, customers will find dishes bursting with spices characteristic of Indian cuisine. Last August, Reddy purchased the eatery, formerly Bombay Indian Restaurant, on the second level of Discovery Bay Center in Waikiki. Although it has a new name and owner, the Indian restaurant continues to provide its customers with authentic Indian flavors. The cuisine at Monsoon India reflects the Punjabi region, or northern India, especially through its menu.
“The menu (now) is more extensive,” Pinho says. “We offer more of the curries than the previous menu offered. (In the Kihei and Lahaina locations on Maui), Mr. Reddy offers beef, crab and scallops; we don’t offer those items here. We have lamb, chicken, shrimp and fish … those are the meat items we have, as well as an expanse of vegetarian cuisine. We accommodate different religious cuisine or culinary restrictions because we make all our meals fresh.”
When it comes to the restaurant’s most popular dish, Pinho describes the Chicken Tikka Masala ($17.95).
“Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish in any Indian restaurant,” she emphasizes. “It’s a tomato cream sauce with Indian spices like cardamom and cloves with chicken tikka, or white, boneless breast meat.”
Other popular entrees include the Monsoon Kabob ($19.95) — chicken tikka, chicken malai kababs, lamb tikka, beef shish kabobs and jumbo prawns — and the Tandoori Chicken on Bone ($17.95).
“The Monsoon Kabob is a sampler platter, and the Tandoori Chicken comes off our tandoor (cylindrical clay oven),” Pinho says. “We cook it and put it atop a bed of sauteed onions.”
Samosas (appetizers) also are popular among customers. The Meat Samosa ($7.95) contains a spiced minced turkey and pea filling, while the Vegetable Samosa ($6.95) features a lightly spiced potato and pea filling.
To conclude the meal, Monsoon India offers its customers a variety of desserts.
“We have Gulab Jamun ($5.95), or homemade doughnut balls, made with evaporated milk and soaked in honey syrup with pistachios on top,” Pinho says. “We also have Gajar Halwa ($5.95) — carrot pudding, or ground carrot, cooked in milk mixed with cream and nuts. We also have Rasmalai ($5.95), an Indian cheesecake — patties of Paneer cheese soaked in Malai (clotted cream), flavored with cardamom and pistachios.”
As the only Indian restaurant located in Waikiki proper, Pinho says that the eatery caters to Indian clientele. However, Monsoon India strives to promote its cuisine to locals as well, especially families.
“It’s exotic, but Monsoon India is a family restaurant, first and foremost,” Pinho says. “I would encourage people to bring their children to try the food.”
Pinho also notes that Monsoon India is unique because of its BYOB regulation, in which customers can bring their own spirits and no cork-age fee is charged. Kamaaina and military members also enjoy 10 percent off discounts regularly, while those celebrating birthdays and seniors ages 55 and older receive a 15 percent discount.
Although Monsoon India provides its clientele with dine in and takeout options, the eatery is planning to expand the latter.
“We are looking to expand our takeout into a lunchtime delivery service for the downtown area,” Pino says. “We offer takeout from 5 to 7 p.m. and 9-10 p.m., because 7-9 p.m. are our peak hours.”
Further changes include revamping the restaurant’s lunch menu, which is the dinner menu with a 15 percent discount.
These changes will take place after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) convention Nov. 12-13, according to Pinho, who recommends that customers make reservations especially during that time.
“We’re going to have a lot of private parties,” she says. “During APEC and leading into the holidays, it’s going to be very busy.”
- Discovery Bay Center
- 1778 Ala Moana Boulevard
- Honolulu, HI 96815
- (808) 941-5111
- Lunch Monday – Friday Noon – 2 p.m.
- Dinner daily 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
- Sunday Brunch Buffet 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.