Review: Silver Coin Indian Grill Pleases in Hoover

3321 Lorna Road, Suite 13
823-9070
www.silvercoinusa.com

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By Deborah Lockridge

silvercoin.jpgSilver Coin Indian Grill is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in the central Hoover area, and to Birmingham-area dining as a whole.

Located in the former Las Pinatas location on Lorna Road near the I-459 overpass, Silver Coin offers exotic and affordable Indian cuisine in a setting that's family-friendly, but not kid-centric. On both of two recent visits, the crowd was mostly Indian, many of them families.

I brought my own 4-year-old on my first visit, a girl's night out with my sister and daughter. It was early on a weeknight, and we had the pick of the dining room (Indians seem to eat later than the typical Southern family.) We were greeted warmly by our hosts, who also charmed my daughter, showing sincere interest in her as a person and complimenting her cute baby doll.

The dining room is open and airy, with saffron-yellow textured walls, a flat-screen TV playing Indian shows (with the sound off, thank goodness), and various Indian-themed artifacts and decorations. We started out with some papadums, crispy thin seasoned lentil pancakes. A trio of condiments on the table included a slightly sweet brown chutney; a green sauce of fresh herbs, including mint; and julienned carrots marinated in peppers and other seasonings – Indian "pickles," we were told.

While we were asking about the South Indian specialties on the menu, our server suggested that we split one for an appetizer. The Masala Dosa ($6.95) is described as a crepe stuffed with spiced cooked potatoes. But don't expect a French-style crepe. This was huge, hanging off the long serving plate, and tasted like a cross between a crepe and a potato pancake. The crepe on its own was very tasty, and the slightly spicy, tender chunks of potatoes inside were delicious, especially with the thick, light-green condiment served with it. There was also a sweeter style of chutney served with it. The dosa was so large we didn't think we would finish it, but it was so delicious that we did.

For entrees, our server suggested that we order one Tandoori dish and one curry-type dish with sauce to share. That sounded like an excellent idea, so for the Tandoori selection, we chose the Silver Coin Mixed Tandoori Platter from under the "Silver Coin Chef's Special" section. It included tandoori chicken, mint chicken tikka, lamb chop, tandoori prawns and fish tikka seabass. While the price, at $18.95, was higher than most of the offerings on the menu, this was a rather large amount of meats, plenty for the three of us to share. Our favorite was the mint tikka chicken, which was boneless and so tender you could cut it with a fork. The 4-year-old loved the regular tandoori chicken and the sea bass. My sister, who likes things on the mild side, thought the shrimp were a little spicy but enjoyed everything else.

For our other entrée, we went to the lamb section, as our server told us that the restaurant's lamb was very good. We ordered the Shahi Ghosh Kurma, described as diced lamb marinated in yogurt and cooked in mild delicate cashew nut sauce ($10.95). For $4 extra, we ordered one of the entrees as a "platter combo," which adds Dal Makhani (a side order of lentils), plain naan bread and raita to the rice that normally accompanies the entrees.

The lamb was delicious, but a little spicy for my sister, even though we ordered it "mild." Our server suggested on her next visit, she order "extra mild." The lamb was in large, tender chunks, and the sauce was sublime. The cashews were chopped or ground so finely you didn't get a nutty crunch, but more of a subtle creamy flavor. The basmati rice was beautiful and flavorful, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro and saffron. The raita was cold and creamy, with lots of chopped sweet onion, a perfect foil for the highly seasoned and spicy dishes. And the naan bread was huge, tender and lightly seasoned, a favorite with the 4-year-old.

My second visit, date night with my husband, was a little later in the evening, on a Saturday, and the dining room was a bit more crowded, but there was still no wait. Again, we were welcomed warmly and shown to a table.

On our server's recommendation, we tried two appetizers. Vegetable samosas ($3.50) were deep fried patties stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes and peas. Onion Methi Spinach Pakoras ($3.95) were clumps of sliced onion, fenugreek leaves and spinach, battered and fried crispy. While both dishes were fried, neither was the least bit greasy. We found the green minty table sauce went perfectly with the samosas, beautiful pyramid-shaped fitters stuffed with subtly seasoned potatoes and peas, while the spicy carrot pickles were a perfect foil for the crispy pakora fritters. Both appetizers disappeared.

For an entrée, we turned again to the lamb, this time ordering Karahai Ghost ($10.95), described as a spicy dish of diced lamb cooked in tomato-based gravy with onion, bell pepper and ginger. Again, the chunks of lamb were tender and flavorful. The gravy was very thick and had flavors unlike any Indian lamb dish we had had in the past, with the bell pepper and ginger coming through. We ordered it spicy, but not "very spicy," and it was perfect – so spicy we took half of it home.

We asked our server for a recommendation from the vegetarian section, and ended up with Malai Kofta, creamy mixed vegetables and cheese puffs served in mild gravy ($7.95). The "creamy mixed vegetables" were a savory, slightly spicy puree (I ordered mine medium), accented by about half a dozen melt-in-your-mouth cottage cheese dumplings.

There's a wine list of about 20 selections by the bottle and about a dozen by the glass, a mixture of same-old-same-old and some less common selections. I found a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling on one visit and a glass of Greg Norman Pinot Noir on the other visit went well with the heavily seasoned food ($5.95 each), while my husband enjoyed an "Indian" beer brewed in New York ($3.95).

On both visits, our servers were attentive and were able to make excellent suggestions on what to order. In addition to the service, we were impressed by the quality of the food and the affordable prices. Our only complaint was the background music, which sounded like someone playing Indian music on a Casio. It certainly won't keep us from going back.

If you've never tried Indian cuisine, Silver Coin is a great place to do it, especially if you like spicy food – but they can accommodate those who like it mild, as well. Just keep an open mind and don't be afraid to let your server be your guide. If you've already enjoyed Indian food, I highly recommend Silver Coin.

Published December 2006