Cinnamon Indian Cuisine has expanded from its popular base on Evans Street to a second location in Arlington Village to bring its downtown favorites to more suburban palates.
Called Cinnamon Bistro Indian Cuisine, at 731 Red Banks Road, the new location has an ample outdoor patio seating, a large main dining room, fully stocked bar as well as three separate event rooms, one with its own bathroom and one with audiovisual capabilities. They are perfect places to host wedding and rehearsal dinners, business events or book club meetings. The possibilities are endless.
The business has an impressive menu similar to the Evans Street location with over 90 choices including chicken, seafood, vegetarian options, lamb, clay oven specialties, appetizers, soups, salads and desserts. All items are traditionally prepared paying tribute to the Punjabi region of northern India. The food is authentic, wildly colorful and full of unique flavor combinations.
The majority of dishes are mild and incorporate basic Indian spices including turmeric, coriander, cumin and salt. You can add on the “heat” part as you like by adding in red chili powder. These are the core spices that make up Indian cuisine. Turmeric has a rich, vivid color, cumin is warm and earthy, and coriander has a subtle nutty flavor and aids in digestion. They also use traditional flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and fenugreek spice, which is dried herb added to many of their dishes, and saffron, which has an amazing golden yellow hue and sultry flavor.
The easiest way to start your India journey and immerse yourself into their foods at Cinnamon Bistro is to stop by for their impressive lunch buffet that features dozens of their authentic dishes. There is Basmati white rice, five veggie dishes, fritters, traditional breads, tandoori clay oven meats, four chicken options, a full salad bar, fresh fruit and two dessert choices. The buffet operates under strict COVID guidelines implementing safety measures including gloves for each trip, frequent sanitation and mask-wearing. The buffet is open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
For my food tour I started with an appetizer called baigan khas, eggplant layered with fresh tomato and topped with hanging yogurt and mint served with garlic naan bread. First, let me explain what hanging yogurt is. Take fresh yogurt, strain out the liquid and you are left with a smooth and creamy yogurt that has a cool refreshing tang that tastes like a cross between sour cream and yogurt. Naan is such a luscious base for this dish and is a traditional Indian bread made in a tandoori oven. It has a crisp outer layer and inside are pillowy soft bubbles of bread. The dip is full bodied and rich in deep red color and a tomato flavor. It’s a beautiful starter.
Cinnamon Bistro and Cinnamon Indian Cuisine both use traditional “tandoori” clay ovens. These cylindrical clay ovens date back over 5,000 years. They can be heated to a high temperature and are used to sear and cook meats and their traditional naan. The extreme heat creates a blistered, crispy skin on the soft naan and crispy edges to their seared meats. I sampled the tandoori special, the tulsi malai kebob. This is made with boneless pieces of delicately spiced chicken flavored with fresh basil and ginger, sautéed with peppers and onions and served with Basmati white rice, chickpeas in a rich tomato sauce and a side of fresh salad with that same creamy hanging yogurt. This dish had a bright yet smooth flavor from the warming ginger and hints of sweet from the peppers and onions. The salad cools it all down. You can even squeeze on a lemon for added freshness. This dish was a delightful introduction to tandoori dishes.
To end my flavor journey I tried a seafood explosion with the crab Malabar, one of their most popular seafood entrees. Start with super fresh crab meat that has been sautéed with onions, tomatoes, corn, Indian herbs, and turmeric powder served with Basmati white rice, salad, and a side dish like the authentic saag. This colorful dish smelled amazing and the tangy and savory tomato based gravy was creamy and velvety with sweet corn and crab meat running through. These were not little bits of crab, but large mouthfuls paired with clean white rice and an earthy smooth saag, which is creamed spiced spinach. It has a mellow flavor and is not as pungent as fresh spinach can sometimes be.
Cinnamon Bistro Indian Cuisine has many traditional dishes to wake up and brighten your food palates this winter adding vitality, health and flavor in every dish they serve. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and try something new, take a trip to India and you may fall in love it.
Cinnamon Bistro Indian Cuisine is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily, dinner is 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 5-8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 252-565-8935 or visit their website, www.cinnamon419.com.