Chapel Hill has recently gained another Indian restaurant in the old Cypress on the Hill space. A couple of weekends ago we checked out the new CholaNad for lunch. The room is simple and modern with exposed duct work, sleek wooden furniture, and crisp white tablecloths. It is basically the same as it was before with a few Indian wall hangings.
The menu says that it offers ‘excellent and interesting South Indian food’. But, mind you this is not your typical Indian restaurant. For that matter it is not even you typical South Indian restaurant. The majority of Indian restaurants in the U.S. focus on North Indian, Punjabi food. There are a few South Indian restaurants that serve the usual dosa and idili. While CholaNad does offer a couple of the typical Indian restaurant dishes, such as Chicken Tikki Masala, the menu focuses on specialties from Tamil Nadu and offers a contemporary take on them.
We started with a few appetizers for the table. The Tropical Beachside Lentils are a garbanzo beans prepared with spices, grated coconut and mango slices as they are often served beachside in India. They were fantastic with a nice salty, spice, and subtle sweetness from the coconut. Deliciously addictive! We also tried the Medieval Rice Buns which are a savory bite size steamed rice bun. Somewhat similar to an idili but the dough is not fermented so it doesn’t have the sour tang. They were served with a piquant tomato chutney. The Egg and Greens Mini Roll Ups were eggs scrambled with various herbs and rolled in a rice paper which were seared on the sides. They had a bit of a spring roll texture but not the light brightness of spring rolls. While tasty, I wasn’t a fan of rice paper texture against the eggs.
G and I ordered two main dishes to share. We decided we had to try the classic Chicken Tikka Masala which was served with Naan. The chicken was perfectly tender and the sauce flavorful and delicate without being too spicy or too sweet. The naan was wonderful, crispy with a perfect elasticity. We also tried the Sautéed Bread Chops with Chicken Sauce. I was particularly intrigued to see this dish on a menu as it is often made at home as a way to use leftover paratha. It is dish of chopped up paratha, and Indian layered flat bread, sautéed with onions and eggs and served with a sauce from chicken curry. It was delicious! The spicy curry sauce added a nice depth and rich flavor to the simple paratha and egg combination. We also tried a bit of the Vegetarian Biryani which was nice with light, fragrant rice.
It is nice to see an Indian restaurant offering cuisine of a different region. It is a huge country with so many culinary specialties that it is a shame we don’t get more variety here in the U.S. CholaNad does a fantastic job of providing some of the usual suspects and yet offering a contemporary spin on some dishes from Tamil Nadu.
308 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27516