First Bites

Andaz Miami Beach Is Indian Fine Dining With a Bistro Feel and Pricing

Photo by Abel Folgar
Onion bhaji: You won't bother with battered-and-fried onion elsewhere.
There is something comforting about the slow-building scents of many curries emanating from a kitchen. Regardless of how commonplace Indian food has become, it retains a remarkable appeal of the exotic.

Says Raj Srinivas of the succinct menu at Andaz Miami Beach: “If you go too specific, you risk excluding people, or if it is too big, it is too much to do it all well.”

Alongside partners Govind Yadav and Robert D’Souza, Srinivas operates Andaz, a sleek and modern Indian restaurant with neighborhood bistro prices. Taking over the spot left vacant by Lean Sushi Bar & Lounge, the partners decided to keep the former establishment's Art Deco leanings, flooded it with clear lighting, and peppered it with slight accents of Indian decor. The conscious decision to minimize the ethnic look concentrates attention on the food and beverages.

The small menu is a perfect paring down of Indian favorites mixed with delicious surprises. Veggie and lamb samosas as well as dal soup ($7) anchor the appetizer list along with crispy and savory onion bhaji ($7), which stacks up quite well to other takes on battered-and-fried onion. Other options include masala crab and the flavorful batons of paneer pokoda ($8). The tandoor features various offerings of chicken, fish, lamb, and prawns to fawn over as well as veggie favorites like aloo gobi (potatoes), bhindi masala (okra), and baigan bharta (eggplant).

Featuring nine curries, all tempered to the guest's desired heat level, Andaz offers popular dishes such as vindaloo, coconut, tikka masala, and korma. While they’re all prepared with care, the signature house curry, the Andaz, is an incredible sauce worth ordering at its higher heat level. The browned onion, tomato, and spice mix hits you hard across the palate and then, almost immediately, mellows out into a delightful tail of flavor that opens up across the tongue.
click to enlarge Sweet Kashmiri naan, aromatic basmati, vegetable biryani and the delicious house curry. - PHOTO BY ABEL FOLGAR
Sweet Kashmiri naan, aromatic basmati, vegetable biryani and the delicious house curry.
Photo by Abel Folgar
“We wanted a restaurant with a bar, not a bar with a restaurant,” remark Srinivas and Yadav almost in unison before rattling off a list of young wines they’ve selected for their drinkability with the cuisine. “On our cocktail menu, you’ll find sweet fruit drinks that play counterpoint to the spices in the food,” says Yadav. Among these are a mango mojito and a lychee martini. But you can also experience the Old Monk Mule ($10); a dark rum, lime, and ginger beer cocktail; according to the backstory, Old Monk was the preferred rum of certain sectors of the Indian Armed Forces who at one time had it added to their wages as a form of ration/salary.

Srinivas and his partners have managed to turn the space’s former party atmosphere into a clean, family-and-friends neighborhood restaurant. It does not fit the mold of the traditional Indian spot and certainly does not reflect the pricing of its Miami Beach neighbors. It's a great place to try delicious dishes and wines at a leisurely pace.

Andaz Miami Beach. 1435 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; Open Sunday through Thursday noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 11 p.m.; closed Tuesdays.