Monsoon India

Monsoon India
760 South Kihei Road, Unit 109, Kihei, 875-6666
Open 5-9pm daily for dinner, 11:30am-2:30pm Mon.-Sat. for lunch, and 11:30am-3pm for Sunday brunch

If you’re like me, you live to eat rather than eat to live. I consider myself a culinary explorer constantly in search of a new adventure. I found one in Kihei recently, tucked away at the Menehune Shores on the north end of town. Monsoon India—a new restaurant at that location—is Maui on the outside but definitely India on the inside, in look, taste and smell.

The walls are somewhere between mango and pumpkin, the hangings red and gold and the statuary—well, Indian. But it’s the smells—of cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and, of course, curry—that really make you forget where you are.

This is a place where a yogurt drink is a lassi, which is nothing like a smoothie. And it’s also a place where any misconceptions you may have about curry are put to rest. In India curry is a common term, used to describe any entrée with a sauce. But that certainly doesn’t mean they all taste the same, says manager Hari Reddy. In fact, he and Monsoon’s Chef Bindeshor insist nothing is further from the truth. So they offer six different curries with names like Vindaloo, Saag and Kadhai, served with any of nine meat, vegetarian or seafood choices.

Veggie offerings like bhindi masala—okra cooked with herbs and spices—stand cheek by jowl with many of what I consider the traditional Indian non-meat alternatives—garbanzo beans, lentils and potatoes. Lots of potatoes. In fact, they’re not only in the Samosas, an appetizer that looks like a crispy turnover (think eggroll but taller) but also in the curries and many of the vegetable dishes.

The Tandoori kababs are cooked in a traditional clay oven or tandoor. If you want a sampling, order the Monsoon kababs. You’ll get lamb, chicken (done two different ways), jumbo prawns and shish kabab.

Naan, leavened flat bread, is soft, puffy and also takes its turn in the tandoor. Order the bread basket with assorted naans and kulcha—a specific version with onions. It looks to be perfect for the unapologetic consumer of carbs. (I can’t imagine how I missed it, given my love of all things bread.)

I also somehow missed the Biriyanis section of the menu. These are Basmati rice dishes cooked with spices and saffron. For those new to Indian cuisine, it is also known as the most expensive spice in the world (thank you, Google). According to the description, it turns any rice dish to which its added saffron yellow (no big surprise), not 14K gold as you might expect.

If you’re looking to identify ingredients in any of Monsoon India’s dishes, good luck. Remember lassi, the yogurt drink? The only ingredient I came away with was yogurt. Oh, and the fact that I really liked it.

While the meal felt like a stroll down the streets of any northern Indian town, this dining experience was a little strange since it juxtaposed India indoors with Maui outdoors. The south side of the restaurant is completely open and looks out over the ocean, so you’re exploring the sights and smells of an exotic country while looking at an island sunset and sunburned tourists. It makes for an international dining adventure, without even packing a suitcase. Maui Time Weekly, Nancy Kanyuk