Indian cuisine has never been as prevalent in Las Vegas as it is in many major U.S. cities and abroad. So the opening of Turmeric Flavors of India in the heart of the Fremont Street entertainment zone is excellent news for Downtown’s dining scene. But be forewarned, this is not the budget-conscious street food or vegetarian standby that has long defined the genre in other metropolitan areas. This is a new breed of high-end Indian cuisine aimed for our new Downtown.
Heart of the Action
Turmeric is located on one of the most exciting intersections in the Valley, the northeast corner of Fremont and Seventh Streets. It occupies space that was once the pool for the neighboring City Center Motel that is still a somewhat seedy reminder of Downtown’s pre–Tony Hsieh past, despite its fresh coat of paint. Yet with Container Park’s entrance directly across the main drag, it’s a microcosm for the area’s diversity as gentrification makes its slow crawl east. Because of that, people-watching will undoubtedly be a prime draw for Turmeric’s upstairs patio, which doubles as a bar and after-work dining spot for employees of nearby bars and restaurants.
Downstairs, the casual front dining room and main bar offer another prime view of the street through garage door-style windows. It’s bright during lunch hours, and lit by neon and the fiery breath of Container Park’s praying mantis at night. The back room, however, is quiet, dark and considerably more formal.
The High Road
Both Turmeric and the adjoining hotel are co-owned by Rajesh Patel, who also runs Saffron Flavors of India on Craig Road, and his brother-in-law, Ritesh Patel, who owns and operates Curry Leaf Flavors of India in the Southwest Valley. Ritesh, a former engineer and self-trained chef, runs the kitchen. Among his staff is chef Vikas Yadav, who comes to them by way of London, where he worked in a modern Indian fine-dining restaurant.
Much of the food here is far more elegant than what many of us expect from Indian cooking. The house-cured salmon appetizer is adorned with green pea relish, puffed rice, potato cubes and mixed greens, while a lamb entrée tucks the traditionally seasoned meat within a crispy potato cake. A pair of sauces beautifully paint the plate beneath spicy eggplant slices topped with tamarind chutney and a peanut-sesame crust. And how many other Indian restaurants will offer you an amuse-bouche, let alone one as complex as a slightly dry and unexpectedly spicy cube of chickpea cake adorned with mint and cilantro salsa and a sliver of flash-fried chili pepper?
While the food is fancy, the two-page dinner menu at Turmeric is notably compact, especially by Indian restaurant standards. The front page lists nine appetizers and seven main courses, while the back offers tandoori, six sides, assorted breads and rice, and a pair of desserts. Less than one-third of the starters and entrees are vegetarian—a respectable ratio, but not a lot of choices, given Indian food’s popularity among those who eschew meat. Fortunately for that crowd, they can easily assemble a feast from the entirely meat-free side dishes. Top veggie options include spinach dumplings in tomato and fenugreek sauce and a rich, flavorful vegetable biryani.
For those seeking more predictable options, there’s a bit of curry (at present just beef and lamb), while tandoori is currently limited to sampler plates for either one or two. And the menu lists chicken tikka, though not the more popular tikka masala. But this is just a starting point as the staff gets its footing.
“It’s a small menu so we can focus more on the quality, the taste of the ingredients and the details, and it gives the chefs time to work on each dish,” Ritesh says. “But as we grow, it’s going to be seasonal. And some classics will be [added to the offerings] over time. We’d like to serve some [more] signature curry dishes. We’re just waiting on the response.”
In the meantime, Ritesh has instructed his kitchen staff to honor off-the-menu requests for any dishes sold at the owners’ other two restaurants whenever possible. So if you have a favorite item that you don’t see, feel free to run it past your server and see if the kitchen can whip it up.
Turmeric Flavors of India
700 East Fremont St. turmericflavorsofindia.com, Open daily for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner served 5-10 p.m. Sun-Thu and 5-11 p.m. Fri-Sat. Dinner for two, $45-$100.
Photos by Krystal Ramirez