Finally, finally, Boise has Indian food worth paying for.
When the S.O. and I moved to Boise a year and a half ago, we knew we’d have to make sacrifices. We gave up our weekly biryani runs to Namaste Flavours. I quit my Andhra special pesarattu addiction at Athidhi, cold turkey. And our long weekends in Toronto, spent gorging ourselves on Indo-Chinese Hakka noodles, Sri Lankan takeout, and kaju katli, became distant memories.
We gave Boise’s Indian food scene a fair shake, trying each of the three Indian restaurants in town at least twice. But ultimately, we’ve relied upon becoming better home cooks to fill the void. And that’s fine. We want to cook Indian well.
But we’d also love the convenience of being able to grab some chaat for a quick lunch.
And now, finally, we can.
Last Friday, Patel’s Chaat House opened its doors. Patel’s is located inside India Foods grocery store (6020 W Fairview Ave, Boise). The order taker and kitchen are at the back of the store, and a small dining area is off to the side. They’ll bring your order to your table, but water, cutlery, and napkins are self-serve. Bus your own dishes.
Patel’s has the characteristics of every legit Indian joint: food is served on styrofoam plates with plastic forks and spoons, and the place is already a dive despite being brand new.
The menu focuses on chaat, or street food, from North India, specifically Gujarat. They have an impressive and broad menu posted on the wall, but are only offering a few items while they get their sea legs under them. Menu items range $1.99-3.99; if you’re looking to make a meal out of Patel’s, plan on 1.5-2 dishes per person.
On offer today was khandvi, one of my favorite chaat items. As soon as I saw this Gujarati specialty on the menu, I knew Patel’s would be a winner — the difficulty of making this dish precludes it from appearing on many menus. Gram flour dough is made into thin strips, then rolled into spirals with mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Patel’s khandvi was tender and wriggly, and moved like a cube of Jell-O thumped with the backside of a spoon. It had an earthy, savory flavor enhanced by the mustard and cumin. Topped with coconut, cilantro, and sev (crisp gram flour shreds), this snack is served cold with chutney.
The samosa chaat was another winner. Two crisp samosas sat atop a hot, sour, creamy mosaic of tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, and raita (spiced cucumber-onion yogurt). There are a thousand flavors and textures in each bite.
Our final dish was pani puri — crispy shells filled with chickpeas, onions, and asafoetida, finished with a salty, oniony, tart liquid (pani puri water). Pani puri water is typically served in a cup alongside the puris, but Patel’s had pre-filled our puris with water. This made the puris soggy, so eating this dish didn’t give the desired effect of biting into a brittle bubble that gives way to a bright, mouth-filling water. This dish would have otherwise been delightful — so I’ll ask for the water on the side in the future.
Patel’s was hopping on opening day and throughout their first weekend — seemed like every Indian family in town filed into line for a taste of chaat. I take this as a sign that Boise demands better Indian options. So here’s to the end of bad butter chicken, and to the start of a genuine Indian food scene in Boise.
Now, will someone just make a decent biryani in this town?!?!