Indian Hotspot brings the heat

Helen Kang and Riya Mehta

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On Nov. 16, Indian Hotspot opened in the Bollinger Canyon Safeway Plaza, taking the place of Pallen Martial Arts. Advertised as a “foodie heaven bar,” a “venue to nostalgic cravings,” and a place to connect and meet up with friends, this new restaurant offers a variety of Indian regional flavors from vegetarian entrees to authentic sweets. 

 

Ambiance: 8/10

From the outside, the restaurant is far from eye-catching; the small sign is a weak attempt at advertising, especially given the fact that much of the interior of the restaurant is hidden by blandly colored walls. However, at night, the attractive, bright lighting of the interior makes up for the plainness during the day. Once you enter the restaurant, it’s almost as if you’ve entered a whole different world. You’re immediately hit with the strong scent of spices mixed with a floral scent reminiscent of soap. The restaurant is brightly lit with lamps and circular chandeliers, giving it a modern feel. Many of the walls have Indian architecture and paintings imprinted on them, allowing visitors to experience a taste of Indian culture. The tables are spaced apart with much room to walk in between for guests and waiters. Next to the front desk is a glass shelf filled with sweets and pastries with a line formed by shelves of Indian snacks for customers to consider buying while they wait in line. The separate line for the baked goods allows customers to drop in exclusively for sweets instead of having a sit-down meal. Overall, the interior design is aesthetically pleasing with an ode to Indian culture, but the exterior needs work. 

 

Food: 10/10

The food was the biggest selling point for us. There were plenty of options to choose from; there was even a section of the menu dedicated to chaat food (a savory snack popular in India). All the options were reasonably priced as well. From the all-vegetarian menu, we decided on paneer tikka masala ($12), jeera rice ($4), and butter naan ($4). The paneer was soft and delicate, and the delicious and creamy orange-colored gravy soaked the paneer. The spice level was just right: not too overpowering, but still present to add flavor. The ginger also provided a different hint of flavor in the paneer that was unexpected but welcoming at the same time. The naan complemented the paneer perfectly as well. It was a light and soft bread-like item that was supposed to be eaten with the paneer. The buttery naan with the spiced gravy was a match made in heaven. After the naan was finished, we decided to eat the remaining paneer with the jeera rice. The rice was soft, but not too mushy that its flavor was lost in the paneer. Similar to the naan, it paired perfectly with the gravy of the paneer, and the portion was perfect for two people to finish with a little left over. The rice could have had a little more flavoring or possibly a squeeze of lemon on top, but otherwise, it was the perfect way to finish off the meal. With these three items completed, our stomachs were full and content. For diners looking for more authentic Indian food however, Indian Hotspot may not be the top pick. Most of the menu includes popular Indian food that has become somewhat Americanized, which is why those who highly value authenticity may not be as satisfied.

 

Service: 5/10

As we entered the restaurant, we were confused as to if we were supposed to order first or sit down and wait for our order to be taken. No waiters approached us until a few minutes later, when they sat us down at the table closest to them. They kindly gave us the menu and allowed us to browse the many food options, but within the next two minutes, the waiter approached us once more and asked us if we were ready. We said “no” multiple times, yet the waiter did not give us too much time to look at the menu, and we felt rushed to order.

After we did decide on the meal, the manager went around to speak to the many people in a friendly manner. He came to our table and asked us how everything was going, which was greatly appreciated. It made the whole experience much more personal. Our food came within the next 20 minutes, which was a little longer than expected since the restaurant was not too busy around 1:45 p.m. As we were eating, it seemed as though many of the waiters had nothing to do and were simply following each other or waiting around. It was a little awkward and uncomfortable, but for the most part, it wasn’t bothersome. The waiters checked up on us to ask how the food was and if we needed anything else.

After we were ready to pay, they handed us the check but watched as we figured out the tip and other payments. This was also awkward because we felt as if we needed to tip more and preferred to discuss with each other how we would pay, but because the waiter was standing at our table the entire time, we felt pressed for time and uncomfortable. 

 

Tips to maximize your visit

Go in a big group so that you are able to order more food. The portions are pretty big, so we were only able to order three items and therefore unable to try anything from the chaat menu or dessert menu. If you go in a big group, you can try the many different foods they provide.