BAY VIEW BITES — Café India

October 31, 2014

By Monica Maniaci

Bay View is in the midst of a new restaurant boom, and you won’t hear too many residents complaining about it. After all, there really is no better proof that a neighborhood is thriving. An  open-minded community such as Bay View wants choices, and the more choices, the better.

Café India Bar & Grill is the latest addition to the new crop of restaurants, and the only Indian restaurant in the area. Located on the northwest corner of Kinnickinnic Avenue and Ward Street, it opened September 26.

Café India Bar and Grill is owned by Rakesh Rehan, who goes by the nickname Ryan. Rehan moved to Milwaukee in 2000. A few years later he acquired the former Martha’s Vineyard in Walker’s Point Plaza, 601 S. First St., and renamed it Fine Vineyard. In 2011, he opened the original Café India a few doors down in the same strip mall, a small, fast-food-like restaurant.

It didn’t take long for Rehan to decide to open a larger restaurant. “I met people who were desperate to have fine dining, a place where they could enjoy the food and bring their family and friends,” Rehan said.

Before moving to Oak Creek with his wife and children, Rehan lived in Bay View for a number of years. He knew he wanted to open a restaurant in the neighborhood.

Originally from northern India, Rehan, the chief cook at Café India, traveled the world, which he said has greatly influenced his style of cooking. “I consider myself a big time Indian food connoisseur. Wherever I go, I try Indian food. I have traveled all over India. I have enjoyed almost every side of Indian cuisine — Bombay style, Calcutta, New Delhi, even the Indian food in London and Australia. Keeping all that in mind, I understand the flavor of food, and I make food that is a mix of everything that I love,” he said.

You can taste that experience, love, and attention in every bite.

My husband and I recently dined at Café India with our two daughters. The service was efficient and attentive, and the food was out of this world.

They have a full bar and offer several Indian beers in addition to domestic, craft beer, and imports. My husband and I shared a 22-ounce Kingfisher ($9.99).

We ordered the Veggie Korma ($10.99) for the kids because, traditionally, it is a less spicy dish. It still had a slight kick and my eight year old drank two full glasses of water with it, but she loved it and ate it up eagerly. The onion sauce had just the right amount of sweetness. The broccoli, red pepper, green pepper, and mushrooms were just the right size and were neither undercooked nor overcooked.

Of course, we ordered both regular and garlic naan, one of India’s traditional flatbreads, to go with our meal. We ended up ordering more because it was so good. It was “fresh from the oven” hot. The pieces were soft and pillow-y inside, but crispy and toasty on the outside. My children couldn’t stop sopping up the Veggie Korma sauce with their pieces of naan.

We ordered the Butter Chicken ($11.99), described on the menu as shredded tandoori chicken pieces cooked in a creamy tomato sauce. It arrived hot and steamy, with a wonderful ginger-garlic aroma. My husband and I were delighted by its creaminess as we spooned the thick chunks of chicken onto our cilantro-flecked rice. With a solid punch of spice, this dish offered creamy comfort with a bang, exactly what I love about Indian food.

Lastly, we ordered the Lamb Vindaloo ($14.99), bone-in lamb pieces, cooked with potatoes in a spicy ginger and garlic sauce. With a hint of mustard and red wine vinegar, the lamb was exceptionally tender and fell right off the bone as if it had been simmering all afternoon.

“I try to cook traditionally,” Rehan said. “In every home you go in, in India, you won’t find lamb without bones. I stick to the authenticity. I keep my tradition.”

The kitchen at Café India Bar & Grill has two tandoori clay ovens, one just for cooking meat and one just for cooking bread. They are careful to consider food allergies. “We don’t use any nuts, coconut or other. That’s the thing I learned from having a small restaurant — a lot of people are allergic to nuts or coconut. We don’t use any nuts. We do use milk and cream,” Rehan said.

Café India Bar & Grill has ample indoor seating, plus a patio with capacity for almost 100 people. The patio is also a hookah bar. Rehan said they are planning to put add fireplaces soon. Rehan offers take-out and will start delivery service some time in the near future, he said.

In addition to their full dinner menu, Café India offers a lunch buffet every day; $9.99 weekdays and $11.99 on weekends. It is available from 11am to 3pm each day.

Rehan is excited by his restaurant’s success, and you can tell he is a man who is passionate about Indian food. “People come from Shorewood, Franklin, Waukesha, and of course Bay View residents are so helpful, so excited,” Rehan said. “We want to take good care of the people who come for the fine dining experience.”

Now, if we could just get a sushi place to open up in Bay View.

Café India Bar and Grill
2201 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
(414) 837-6121; (website in development)

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