Dancing Ganesha

Not the same old, same old sambal

Dancing Ganesha is the most ambitious Indian restaurant Minnesota has ever seen. The décor is ambitious, all Milan modern and cobalt light fixtures. The menu is ambitious, offering lots and lots of dishes never seen in Minnesota: Tandoori-cooked lobster tails, chard-and-water-chestnut pakoras, naan bread flavored with saffron, and even a sort of cooked shrimp ceviche made with pomelos and fruit salad. Curiously, Dancing Ganesha has some very good food—but none of it is their most ambitious.

For instance, skip the lobster peri peri, cooked in the Tandoori oven; it tastes like rubbery chicken. Instead, get the chicken Tandoori: It’s tender and, most remarkably, tastes of individual spices like cumin and fennel instead of the sort of generic taste that the dish usually has. The pomelo salad, made with what tastes like canned fruit cocktail and cooked chopped shrimp, is off-putting, but that old workhorse, chicken mulligatawny soup, is delicious, zingy, and bright, distinguished by appealing notes of mustard seed. The lamb vindaloo is certainly the best in Minnesota, a complex, long-cooked, very tender dish that has the winey depths of good beef bourguignon, achieved through very different ingredients. Thrifty gourmets will want to take advantage of Dancing Ganesha’s lunch buffet ($9.99 most days, or $12.99 on Fridays and weekends gets you Tandoori chicken and a half-dozen other treats). If the carrot halwa—a dessert sort of like rice pudding, but made mostly with carrots—is available, be sure to try some. It’s wonderful, like Thanksgiving marshmallow-yams, except with a lovelier perfume.

So what’s the secret to all this first-rate basic Indian food? It seems that the owners of Dancing Ganesha, the same team behind Columbia Heights’s excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant Nalapak (formerly Udupi), hired a bona fide chef, not a mere cook, to execute their ambitious menu. What a difference a chef makes!

1100 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis, 612-338-1877 » dancingganesharestaurant.com