Recently, we talked value for food - specifically Indian food. After our experience at Tanzore, we just wanted to confirm that we weren't being unreasonable in our value expectations. So the very next day, we took ourselves to Anarkali on Melrose. The comparison was particularly apt, since we had a Groupon to this restaurant as well.
From the get-go, it was clear that Anarkali isn't on the same level as Tanzore, decor-wise - it looks like the small restaurant probably hasn't had a makeover since its beginnings in 1983. But there is a nice coziness to the enclosed booths and fabric-draped walls, and the service, though languid, was quietly efficient and friendly.
For each entree, you have the option of getting the a la carte (just the entree), dinner (soup, entree, and rice), or thali (two vegetables, entree, rice, naan, and a choice of salad or rayta). We went with the dinner option, and were rewarded with a cup of very basic but hearty and well-seasoned vegetable and lentil soup (below).
We were hungry, so we got the assorted appetizer platter for two, which included samosa, onion bhajje (kind of a tangle of battered, fried onion strings), chicken tikka, sheekh kabab and papadom (a crispy thin cracker made with chickpea or lentil flour). Everything was very solid, and for $6.95? Anarkali was already pulling ahead in the value department.
Because we opted not to go with the thali option, our order of garlic naan was extra, but I was happy to pay $2.95 (half the price as that at Tanzore for the same item) for this huge piece of very good naan.
In order to make a fair comparison, I decided to get the lamb vindaloo (below) again. Not only did Anarkali dish out twice the amount for cheaper ($14.95, $4 dollars less than Tanzore), but when I asked for it spicy, they gave me spicy. Not ghost pepper spicy, mind you, but enough to make me slurp down some ice water to cool off. Flavor-wise, it was very, very good - I gleefully spooned the spicy sauce over the complimentary rice - and there was very little discernible difference in quality of meat.
Mark stuck with what he knows (and loves) and ordered the chicken tikka masala (below). Anarkali's version was slightly more tart and tomato-ey than other tikka masalas we've sampled (which tend to be creamier), but we enjoyed it just as much. Again, we got about twice as much as the portion at Tanzore, for cheaper ($14.95, $2 less).
We didn't sample any of the desserts, but that's because we were completely and utterly stuffed, all for the delightful price of approximately $42 (pre-Groupon). Bonus? When we presented our $30 Groupon at the end of the meal, our server (possibly the owner?) gave it back to us, having crossed out the value and writing $20 atop it, saying, "This is for next time." With value and flavors like that, I can guarantee you we'll take him up on his offer.