I’m not a fan of veggie burgers intended to look, feel, and taste like meat. As someone who regularly sinks my teeth into real beef, no matter how close the facsimile claims to get, I find it’s always a pale shadow of the real thing. Give me a veggie burger with lots of flavor, just don’t make that flavor “beef.”
Enter Spice Kraft Indian Bistro. At lunchtime, the stylish restaurant (I tried the location in Alexandria, but there’s one in Arlington, too) serves inexpensive burgers and wraps alongside the dinner menu’s prettily plated fusion dishes like kofta made with quinoa in cumin-coconut sauce. Among them is the Maharani veggie burger, a many-splendored thing, indeed.
The homemade veggie patty reminded me of a flattened falafel. But the complex flavors are unquestionably Indian—except for the single slice of American cheese that holds them together on a fluffy sesame seed bun. Spiced mayo blends with two classic Indian chutneys, mint, and tamarind, for a sweet hint of heat. The acid from pickled veggies adds another layer that keeps the diner coming back for yet another bite.
The Kurkuri Fries on the side? The Hindi word means “crisp,” and that is most definitely accurate. The skinny battered frites have their own chutneys for dipping, but their habit-forming spice mix means that the sauces are more a “nice to have” than a necessity. This is a plate that delivers on flavor with nary a suggestion of animal protein. 2607 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 1135 N. Highland St., Arlington
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