Indian cuisine comes to Otay Ranch Town Center

Phillip Brents

Fri June 6, 2014 12:16pm

Think fresh. Think fast. Think Indian. Think Kasi.Quick-serve Indian cuisine is, in fact, a reality, and it has definitely excited the taste buds of diners at the growing restaurant chain’s newest location in Otay Ranch Town Center. The quality of the food and the price make for a perfection dining combination.
“The concept is to have a very healthy approach (to dining) with healthy northern Indian food,” CEO Harish Chopra explained. “We have an open kitchen, so our customers can see how we make things.”
Southern Indian cuisine, which may be more familiar to American diners, features fish, curries and rice, while northern Indian cuisine features more beans, especially lentils, and chicken (though shrimp is offered at the restaurant).
The Otay Ranch Town Center restaurant opened its doors on April 1 to much acclaim. It is the fourth location in San Diego County. Chopra, an India native, said the first Kasi location opened in August 2012 in Carlsbad, followed by stores in Poway and Mission Valley. 
He said the plan is to open restaurants in clusters. A fifth Kasi restaurant opened recently in Boca Raton, Fla. Las Vegas and possibly Boston are next on the list for the growing restaurant chain.
“The majority of our customers are first-timers to Indian food but are coming around fast,” Chopra said. It’s evident that diners know a good deal when they see it; it took little time for Kasi’s Otay Ranch restaurant to attract a dedicated following.
“I’ve seen many examples of first-timers to Indian food who have come in and are back three or four times that same week,” Chopra said. “It’s addicting.” It might be time to spice up your life a bit.
No creams, teas or heavy oils are used in the preparation of the food. It might not be completely authentic Indian cuisine but it’s a perfect fit for the eclectic health-conscious California lifestyle. The menu is short — nine entrees and limited sides and desserts — but heavy on taste. Orders come in bowls ($6.75), combo plates ($8.25), wraps ($8) or salads ($8). Combo orders come with a choice of two entrée items with either an organic spring mix salad or basmati rice.
The chicken tikka masala has taken Kasi’s South County customers by storm as the No. 1 favorite. The succulent marinated chicken breast chunks are served in the restaurant’s popular spice sauce. Other menu items include chicken curry, chicken saag, shrimp tikka masala and shrimp saag. Tandoori chicken, marinated in yogurt, honey and spices and roasted, is available as a separate entrée item.
There are four vegetarian entrees available: daal (black lentils and kidney beans in a savory tomato-onion sauce), aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower in a savory sauce), channa masala (chickpeas, onions and tomatoes flavored with a blend of ginger, garlic and spices) and saag paneer (spinach cooked with herbs, spices and traditional Indian cheese).
Two of the vegetarian entrees — aloo gobi and channa masala — double as vegan entrees. All entrees are gluten free. Diners can request either plain naan or garlic naan flat bread (we like the latter). Both the naan and tandoori chicken are cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical metal oven situated in the open kitchen at the end of the store. 
As for drinks, the traditional mango lassi best resembles a yogurt smoothie; desserts include mango, pistachio and plain cheesecake.
Healthy eating
Cauliflower contains vitamin C and manganese, both powerful antioxidants, as well as beta-carotene, various phytonutrients, and high amounts of vitamin K and omega-3, both anti-inflammatory agents. Cauliflower is also high in dietary fiber, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9. It is also a good source of protein, phosphorus and potassium.
By decreasing chronic inflammation, blood vessels are kept open, allowing copious blood flow to the body’s essential organs. Lentils, a staple of northern Indian cuisine, contain high levels of folate and magnesium, are loaded with iron and contain the third highest level of protein among plant foods. Lentils, when digested by the body, provide steady, low-burning energy, which helps regulate and balance blood sugar levels. Lentils and chickpeas — rich in fiber, folic acid, manganese and the essential trace element molybdenum — both help reduce cholesterol and may assist in preventing diabetes.
Peptides contained in spinach help lower blood pressure. Spinach’s many other health benefits include those promoting digestion, vision and healthy skin, maintaining the strength and density of bones and helping boost the immune system.
The health benefits of spices are well known, acting as powerful antioxidants, anti-bacterials and anti-inflammatories. Twenty-eight spices are used in the cuisine at Kasi, including turmeric, garlic, fennel, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika and ginger. They have traditionally been used as treatments for high cholesterol, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, jaundice, liver disorders, parasites, respiratory problems, low energy, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, inflamed hemorrhoids (piles), intestinal gas, insomnia, motion sickness and morning sickness (in pregnant women), among others. 
Coriander is also believed to be a natural aphrodisiac. Garam masala includes cloves, star anise, peppercorns, coriander, nutmeg, cumin, cardamom, mace, garlic, ginger, turmeric, fennel, chili peppers and malibar leaves. The combination is an elixir of life.
Chopra is especially proud that the restaurant is also eco-friendly with recyclable dinnerware. Besides dine-in orders, take-out and catering services are also offered. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 373-8983 for more information.