When you see the tikka fries on the menu at House of Naan, you know it's not your average Indian restaurant.
Sure, you'll find all the greatest hits: tandoori chicken, vindaloo, korma and biryani. But business partners Harinder "Harry" Singh and Karandeep "Kay" Singh, who opened the New Haven restaurant in October, are hoping to give Indian cuisine a unique look.
"The main thing with us, is that we're just trying to change people's perception of Indian restaurants," said Harry Singh.
Inspired by Canadian poutine, the tikka fries ($12) are topped with mozzarella cheese, a creamy tomato-based tikka masala sauce; cubes of yogurt-marinated, tandoor-cooked chicken and chopped cilantro. They're a hit among local students and complement some of House of Naan's other "twist" dishes, including a popular lamb burger on brioche ($13), spiced with cumin, coriander and mint.
House of Naan replaces the former India Palace, featuring a fresh, contemporary look and a large full bar. The business partners, who are not related, are first-time restaurant owners, though Harry Singh, whose father owns Sitar Indian Cuisine on Grove Street, grew up in the industry. They aimed to create a distinctive menu, with a mix of creative small plates and traditional dishes, and innovative cocktails infused with exciting spice.
Tapas-style dishes ($5.50 to $11) include traditional vegetable samosas, cheese pakora and House of Naan's "65 Howe," a remake of the chili-spiced staple Chicken 65, which plays homage to its street address. Best-sellers include pan-fried "gun powder" shrimp, tandoor-cooked chili basil chicken bites, masala shrimp with mango salsa and okra crunch, crisp fried strands of okra with onion, tomato and spice blend.
Tandoor entrees ($14 to $18) are served with rice and sauteed vegetables, with proteins like chicken, salmon, lamb chops and shrimp. A section of "classic fare" ($13 to $17) features such popular sauce preparations as curry, madras, tikka masala, saag, rogan josh and jalfrezi, with choice of mixed vegetables, chicken, shrimp, lamb and paneer. House of Naan also offers extras for $1 apiece, including paneer, chickpeas and a brown rice option.
Harry Singh said the restaurant's name was chosen to connect with a broad audience — "Naan is something everyone knows" — and the eatery's fresh bread options ($3 to $5) are extensive, made with cheese, chicken, basil, potato, rosemary, and sweet raisins with shredded coconut. A naan basket ($11) offers a choice of any three.
House of Naan also deviates from the ubiquitous Indian buffet at lunchtime, instead offering lunch-sized portions of classic fare with rice, plain naan and an appetizer selection for $8 to $10.
"This way we can make it fresh," Harry Singh said.
Happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to close, with specials on select shots, beers on tap, wine pours and $5 small plates. Cocktails ($10 to $13) spotlight unique syrups, infused with spices and exotic flavors like garam masala, cardamom, tamarind, Darjeeling tea and saffron. "It's something funky and it's something new that no one's seen," Kay Singh said. (More information about House of Naan's cocktail philosophy here.)
Expect to see more experimental dishes join the menu, as the business partners say they've been playing around with naan pizzas, tacos and wraps. Save room for dessert — they've also tried out Nutella-stuffed naan topped with vanilla ice cream.
HOUSE OF NAAN, 65 Howe St., New Haven, is open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight,;and Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. 203-562- 6226, houseofnaan.com.