Too often when restaurants boast of offering a “fusion” menu, they’re really selling confusion, a mixed bag of disparate international parts. That’s why I love Indo-Chinese cuisine. It’s just the opposite. It is clearly defined as Chinese food for an Indian palate, usually with some Indian dishes thrown in. Often, that also means vegetarian options for Chinese foods that are otherwise more appropriate for Meaty Monday.
I’ll admit that when I tried Madras Chopsticks a few weeks ago, it was on my own time and I ordered meat. But I couldn’t help but think that it would be great without too. That’s why I returned for Meatless Monday. The restaurant, in Village Center at Dulles with its concentration of 57 stores, is far from the only Indian restaurant in the neighborhood, where options range from biryani and cake to pizza, all cooked up with desi flavors. That’s a lot of competition, but I still felt the need to return to Madras Chopsticks, which is currently still takeout-only.
There are 11 vegetarian appetizers on the menu, including spring rolls and crispy chile baby corn, but I was so in love with the Chicken 65 (the ultimate Indo-Chinese classic) I tried a few weeks ago, I asked if they could prepare it with paneer instead. The kitchen happily obliged. But what I got wasn’t the same as the dark, spicy Chicken 65, with its stir-fried onions and peppers. Instead, the cubes of cheese were bright red and coated in a non-spicy masala mix. I still enjoyed it, but I’m not sure what to expect next time I order it. Either way, I’m eager for there to be a next time. No matter how it’s spiced, it’s hard to fault the bouncy, milky cheese, fried to ethereal crispness.
I asked for my chile garlic noodles hot and they were legitimately so, with a burn that built with each bite, but never overwhelmed the savory notes of the garlic. The carrot, cabbage and onion held onto their al dente body, but the best part of the noodle dish was unquestionably the eggs that I got instead of chicken, lamb or shrimp. The soft scrambled ova absorbed the flavors of the grill for a delightful muddle of whispered spice. I’ve never been a fan of American Chinese food and its sweet flavors. But spicy Indo-Chinese suits me just fine. If you haven’t tried it, it’s high time for some Paneer 65.
For more reviews on local Northern Virginia eateries, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletters.