Puspa East Indian Restaurant
1051 40 Avenue NW
Calgary, AB T2K 0G2
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10:30pm
It doesn’t always pay to be on the leading edge. In Jennifer Lee’s book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”, she documents how migrant Chinese workers moved into the restaurant business in the early 1900’s. Rather than serve traditional Chinese food, which would be a tough sell, they served the invented dish Chop Suey; as both a big joke on all the “white people”, and to sell palatable Chinese food to a culture that was adverse to most of the qualities of authentic Chinese food. With increased global awareness, this challenge is not uncommon today either. New cuisines, as they enter a city, or another culture, face many different challenges. They are responsible for educating a whole new audience on the flavours and values that make up their cuisine, while serving something that will suit their tastes. The end result is often a watered down, blander, less authentic version of the cuisine. Sort of like Chop Suey.
Puspa East Indian Restaurant is located in a small stripmall in NW Calgary. While they were not one of the first East Indian restaurants in Calgary, they were definitely on the leading edge, having been around for more than 15 years. The restaurant itself is littered with old reviews ranging from 1994 to 2001, which always makes me nervous.
The decor itself is dated, but the environment is very clean. A smiling proprietor appears from the back a minute after I enter the establishment – apparently the only one serving today. I am promptly seated. And the proprietor disappears again.
During their lunch hour, instead of a buffet, they have lunch specials available. Basically a plate of curry available in a variety of meats, on a bed of rice and salad. Ringing in under 10 bucks, the price is definitely a good selling feature. I order the lamb curry, and a side of naan as well.
The naan arrives fairly hot from the tandoor. It looks great. Unfortunately, that only leads to greater disappointment. It is a bit soggy, and completely flavourless,
The curry arrived as stewed meat with no distinguishable curry flavour. The salad was limp. The rice was ok. The meat was recognizable as lamb. A bit tough and stringy, but I knew what i was eating.
Surpsingly enough, their menu actually has some interesting dishes on it. Unfortunately, in what i sampled, their food lacked the heat, spice and depth that make up the Indian food that i enjoy. Their longevity obviously speaks to some level of success, but for those of you who have developed a more distinguished palate when it comes to Indian food, this may be a place to pass on. With reviews from 2001 and prices to match, It’s too bad really that they havent managed to adapt their flavours for a more modern audience. Because really, a good Chop Suey can still be good.