849 Forest Ave., Portland
The take-out menu for Haggarty’s exclaims, “Brit-Indi reaches the US at last!” I now understand why this Anglo-fied variation on classic Indian fare, tasty though it is, hasn’t overwhelmed our shores before.
My companion and I started a recent dinner there with the mixed appetizer platter. (Haggarty’s is primarily a take-out place, but they have two small tables if you can’t wait until you get home to dig in.) The platter ($6.50) included a perfectly spiced, aromatic vegetable pakora; lightly fried chicken pakora; chicken chaat (wings marinated in spiced yogurt and char-grilled); and the unique and delicious mushroom pakora (juicy, whole mushrooms fried in a chick-pea batter). Accompanying the platter were a spicy chili sauce and a much milder yogurt and tomato dip.
The entrees at Haggarty’s offer you a choice of chicken, lamb, shrimp, vegetables or beef (yes, beef at an Indian place!) served in a variety of styles. Dishes include generous portions of rice, jazzed up nicely with cumin seed.
We tried shrimp in the South Indian garlic chili sauce ($9.95). The medium-sized shrimp arrived in a very hot, and unusually sweet, ketchupy sauce that got our taste buds and our tear ducts working.
Wait, did I say ketchup – and in Indian cuisine? That’s the Brit influence.
We also had a masala, which the menu bills as “the No. 1 Indian dish in the UK!” With lamb, it’s also $9.95. This was a much more traditional garam masala, with green pepper and yogurt. There was so much lamb that I felt bad for Mary. This dish was a winner.
On the side, we ordered naan ($1.95), a traditional Indian bread, but were disappointed. Traditionally, naan is baked in a tandoor oven, but this naan was unevenly grilled and tasted little different than plain pita.
The chicken tikka ($10.50), which we got to go, had about a half dozen pieces of meat that are purported to be marinated in Indian yogurt, but didn’t seem to have gotten that treatment. Ordered with karahi bhoona-style sauce (a ginger and garlic base with spices, green peppers and onions), they were flavorful nonetheless.
Time is not an enemy of Brit-Indi cooking. Some friends of mine who frequent Haggarty’s say the food tastes even better as left-overs, and given the size of the portions, there’s almost always another meal’s worth left after the first go-round. One couple I know once ordered their entrees, mixed the sauce and meat with the rice, and immediately put everything in the fridge until the next day.
Though I wouldn’t say I prefer Brit-Indi to proper Indian cuisine, I do recommend giving Haggarty’s a try. Brit or no Brit, Haggarty’s has the best pakoras in Portland, and the entrees – ketchup or no ketchup – present tastes worth trying twice.
— Mort Viande
Haggarty’s is open Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 1 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-9 p.m.