We all know the Brillat-Savarin quote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” This is never more true than when talking about street food. That makes Tava Fry, which opened last week in Ashburn, a case study in Indian identity.
More specifically, it will tell you who residents of Mumbai are. The answer: global citizens. Words painted on the front counter, where diners order, explains, “The options you will find here at Tava Fry are both authentic and honest depictions of the recipes you’ll find on every street corner and every alleyway in Mumbai.” Most of the food won’t sound too foreign to casual American eaters. There are burgers, fries, pizzas and sandwiches. But each of those is prepared in Mumbai style.
Take the chicken tikka pizza, for instance. There are plenty of pizzerias in the area that use desi toppings to stand apart. But most of those have the type of crusts we’re used to at American pizzerias. The petite pies at Tava Fry are served on something that vaguely resembles French bread. “We like our pizzas extra crispy,” explained my server. Tava Fry’s chef makes the bread specially for the pizzas, then covers them with spicy sauce, peppers and onions, chicken tikka, cilantro and processed, cheddar-like Amul cheese. I had never had one before, but somehow, it tasted like I had been eating it my whole life.
I felt similarly about the lamb shami kebab burger. The lamb patty is light and a bit crumbly, courtesy of the addition of lentils. Ginger and chiles are the dominant flavors, until you crunch into a whole clove. Unlike at an American burger joint, at Tava Fry, each burger contains a wholly different set of seasonings. The chicken chapli burger is flavored with cayenne, coriander and mint, while the fish burger is seasoned with the spice mix typically used in fried kolivada dishes.
Speaking of spices, it’s a mistake to order a burger without masala fries. You’ll find waffle fries everywhere, but including a cumin-heavy spice mix simply makes the side more fun. I was hoping to also accompany my food with Thums Up, Limca or another Indian soft drink. My server said that due to COVID-19, it’s currently impossible to get them from the homeland. Until then, diners looking for a taste of the Mumbai streets have somewhere new to sink their teeth into some spice. // 44054 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 140, Ashburn
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