We made reservations ahead of time, but it wasn't super packed given the early Monday night timing. (Monday nights are a great night to check out restaurants that are tough to get into on weekends, if they're open!) The place filled up much more once we were seated... chalk that up to "Early Bird Special" Aubrey being in charge of reservations.
One of my favorite things to do in any Indian restaurant is watch Bollywood movies on the TVs. I was pleasantly surprised to see this "tradition" sneak into Chauhan in the form of projected picture frames with moving films inside! The restaurant felt intimate, cool, and dark... kind of sexy! There was free valet parking, too.
We started our meal with drinks and apps. (Note: the menu changes seasonally and even daily, in case you don't see these items when you go.) I believe my drink was the Moni and the Mule, with a delicious mint garnish. In fact, everyone's drinks were on point. It's no wonder, since their bartender won Eater's Bartender of the Year for Nashville, ahead of folks from cocktail-centric places like The Patterson House (my review here).
We also kicked off with some DELICIOUS lamb nachos. Yes, LAMB. I don't even like lamb that much, and I was digging in. Can't remember the name of these, but if you ever see them, GET THEM.
We also ordered a double-helping of the Masala Dabba and Tandoori bread. This was an experience, dipping bread into all of the spices and sauces. I think the mango was my favorite.
Also, you know from my blog that I can't say no to anything involving duck fat or pork belly. I just can't. In this case, I saw the Garam Masala Pork Belly on the menu, it was a must-have. This pork belly was juicy and fatty, and the spices added a really unique flavor.
For my main dish, I had the Hyderabadi Ribeye, because it just seemed like something "different" to do for Indian food. (I mean, how much beef do you see at your typical Indian restaurant? Chauhan branches out and has a lot of fusion and other influences.) The ribeye was huge and tasty, and the sides were delicious.
That said, I was jealous that everyone else ordered what they typically would get at an Indian restaurant, using the Desi Fare section of the menu: pick a protein, and pick a sauce. I tried theirs, and it was just so delicious and filled with truly awesome spice! Next time I'll get my cliché favorite Chicken Tikka Masala, because the sauce at Chauhan is extra special. I took a picture of Dan's meal to share here.
I left feeling completely fat and happy. Maneet's restaurant is as delightful as she is!
I'd heard a couple of people say that they felt like the restaurant served Indian food "lite", but after visiting myself it feels to me like those folks wanted to find something wrong with it... probably because it's associated with a celebrity chef. But to me, while we are regulars at House of India in Franklin (see my review here), this food was a truly different experience. It had high-end cocktails, fantastic ambiance, and really flavorful, aromatic food. It manages to be both Indian and Indian-inspired, with a variety on the menu that would please just about anyone. I'm so glad for this entry on the scene in Nashville, a restaurant serving something different and creative, something other than farm-to-table "upscale Southern" fare.
P.S. If you're in Nashville and a Maneet fan, you also need to grab a beer at Mantra Artisan Ales... check out my recap here!