Indian cuisine restaurant opens in Dinkydome

The Little Taj Mahal replaced theVarsity Grill, which had been vacant for months.

Nina Petersen-Perlman

Walking up the steps of the Dinkydome, one can now catch whiffs of curry and coriander emanating from the building.

The smell signals that the East Bank finally has an Indian restaurant.

Little Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine opened Dec. 5 and has been luring customers with its tantalizing odors ever since.

Dinkydome owner Chacke Scallen said groups of Indian students approached her on separate occasions about having an Indian restaurant in the building.

With the Varsity Grill vacant for about two to three months, it was a no-brainer when Little Taj Mahal owner Rahman Arshad approached Scallen about housing his restaurant in the building.

“People come by and say, “We’ve been waiting for you,’ ” Arshad said.

Arshad works at the restaurant with his wife, brother, sister and sister-in-law. He’s no stranger to the restaurant business; since his family moved to New York from India in the 1970s, they’ve owned five.

He said he wanted to move to Minneapolis because it was a better place to raise a family and for his children to go to school.

Little Taj Mahal is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It features a buffet for dinner on weekdays and all day on weekends. The buffet is a good way to introduce people to food they might be wary of trying, Arshad said.

“I want them to try,” he said. “Everything is mild so they don’t have to be afraid.”

Arshad said customers can always add a spicy chutney to their dish if they like it hot.

Karen Engelson, a grant-writer who works for the Alliance for Sustainability at Hillel, the University’s Jewish student center, said she eats at the Dinkydome three times a week and has been eagerly monitoring Little Taj Mahal’s move.

“I’ve been watching that sign, gleefully rubbing my hands together,” she said. “They have a lot more choices than I thought they’d be able to. But they have all my favorites, like mango lassi (a blended drink with mango, yogurt and rosewater) and pokora (a deep-fried fritter).”

Radiation therapy junior Rob Hayward said he wanted to try the food after his co-workers at the Student Book Store talked about how good it was. He said he wasn’t disappointed ” his chicken kurma was delicious.

His only complaint was that the menu didn’t explain what each dish was.

“It’d be nice to have a description,” he said. “I looked at the menu and was like, “What does that mean?’ “

His companion Emily Groene, an American studies junior, was eating Indian food for the first time.

“It’s nice having diverse restaurant cuisine close to campus,” she said.

Indian Student Association co-president and management junior Rajiv Shah said he hadn’t heard of the Little Taj Mahal, but was glad another Indian restaurant was coming to campus.

“We have Thai food and Italian food,” he said. “It’s pretty cool we have Indian now too.”

Arshad said he’s looking forward to catering to students’ needs, no matter how small.

“People can come for bread, for tea or for soda, which are all just $1,” he said. “I want to make it convenient. We’re open for any needs.”

He said he’s also looking forward to that smell bringing him more customers.

“People open the door and smell the spices, the basmati rice,” he said. “It’s something to wake people up.”