Green Chili Indian Bistro opened in January. Medhu and Naresh Sharma, who own the excellent Raga Asian Indian Restaurant in Clearwater, took over the space that used to house a Blimpie sub shop. They've installed a short cafeteria-style steam-tray line, offering 10 or so vegetarian and meaty curries and dals: two veggie dishes, rice and bread for $5.75; two meat dishes, rice and bread for $6.95; or one each, rice and bread for $6.25. Add a side of spicy pickle or raita for 75 cents, a potato samosa for $2.75, or finish off with a rice pudding for $2.50, but that's about it.
Walk in and peruse. There's a potato and cauliflower aloo gobi, a chili-tinged north Indian chickpea curry called chole, or a crunchy, pale yellow cabbage saute dotted with black mustard and cumin seed. Farther along you'll find a tomatoey butter chicken or mild chicken curry. Another day there might be creamy vegetable korma or spongy cubes of Indian farmer cheese, called paneer, nestled in Popeye's dream, a bath of pureed spinach. Point to what catches your eye and it gets ladled into a three-section plastic plate (to-go orders get the classic three-section clamshell). Portions aren't enormously generous (one day's chicken curry order was just four tiny pieces), but it's filling stuff, especially with a swath of fried poori for mopping up the sauces. (Crisp, peppery papadum for $1 is also on offer, but I pine a little for the hot, pillowy naan they make at Raga. Maybe the lack of a tandoor on the property makes this bread trickier at Green Chili.)
In general, dishes are very mild. Personally, I like a bit more fire and flavor intensity, but a wall of Indian condiments can doctor things up in a jiff.
Decor is simple and clean, with no-frills cafe chairs and laminate-topped round tables. The Sharmas aim to add a full dinner menu sometime soon, which might necessitate a bit more glamor in the dining room. As is, it fills a niche — for when you need chicken tikka and a mango lassi, pronto.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.