Bobby Singh was in his new Goshen restaurant recently and heard a familiar tune.
From the banquet room, a group of diners was singing the Indian national anthem, led by American Paul Conrad, who had lived in India.
And Singh started to cry.
In a town he moved to five years ago, in a restaurant that opened Sept. 5, Bobby and Rosie Singh have quickly found a place in the hearts – and stomachs – of people wanting good Indian food. “Everyone has welcomed us,” Rosie said, noting that people often thank them for being open.
At 127 S. Main St., Singh and his wife Rosie opened Maple Indian Cuisine on First Friday in September. People lined up outside. They fed 250 people that day. In the days that followed, people came in waves. They say serving staff they’d hired quit because of being overwhelmed.
Suddenly they had a restaurant full of customers and few people other than Rosie to serve them.
They thought they’d be busy, but not that busy.
It’s hard to be angry when the food is so good.
They didn’t expect to serve 100 or more at a lunch buffet and half that many at night seven days week. When they they thought they had Monday business levels figured out, they got busier.
There were service issues. People waited for food. People getting carry-out arrived home to find they didn’t get the right food.
From the beginning, the Singhs have been gracious and humble. They worked to make it right for customers. They asked for patience. It’s hard to be an angry diner in the face of that. It’s also hard to be angry when the food is so good.
That’s the other thing that’s been true since the beginning. The food has been outstanding. I am not an expert on Indian food, but this is easily the best Indian food I’ve had. A restaurant on Main Street in Goshen is serving great Indian food.
I usually wait 30 days to visit a restaurant after it opens to give the owners a chance to work out the kinks. I broke my rule on Maple Indian. I was hearing such good things about the food I went after two weeks and wasn’t disappointed.
Maple Indian has a lunch buffet that always has four vegetable dishes, four meat dishes, salad items and desserts. It gives you an opportunity to try various items from the menu and learn how to eat Indian food.
Even without instruction, people have found their way and filled up for $8.99 on weekdays and $9.99 on weekends, but a few tips from the Singhs don’t hurt.
- If you want to taste the different foods, don’t mix them all on the plate. They don’t care how many plates you use.
- Start with an appetizer of tandoori chicken and one of the fried items. Vegetable pakora is a battered, fried bit of Indian goodness. The samosas are big and packed with potatoes and other fillings.
- Load. Get a bit of rice, curry and raita (made with yogurt) and some naan, a flatbread made in the clay tandoori oven. You can add the mint and coriander chutney, which is bright green, to chicken dishes and the dark brown or tamarind sauce to fried foods. But you can really add the sauces in any way you want (just watch out for the sour pickle, which lives up to its name).
- Eat. You can eat the curry using the bread and avoid your silverware.
- Repeat as needed. Ask for explanations of dishes if you need them.
- Get dessert. One of my favorite foods in the world is gulab jamun, a pastry made with milk and then tossed in a sweet honey syrup. These are usually on the buffet and can make any drab day better.
At dinner, there’s no buffet and you have to sort through the large menu. Rosie made her husband cut down the number of items on it, but 120 dishes are listed. The entrees are $10 to $16 with good-sized portions.
There are 18 bread dishes in addition to the appetizers, curries, biryanis and others. A team of five or six prepares the food in the kitchen.
Where do you start if you’re a rookie? The butter chicken has been selling really well. So has the chicken masala, tandoori chicken and chicken biryani. If you like lamb, the lamb biryani is nicely prepared.
The tandoori chicken and the breads are all made in a clay oven at Maple Indian. The pizza oven that Il Forno used at that location is still there, but isn’t in use.
There’s a little spice in the food, which is mostly based on Punjabi northern Indian dishes where spice is less prevalent than in southern Indian. If you want more or less heat, you can ask.
If you have food allergies, this is a great place to eat because the food is cooked with olive oil and can easily be adapted. The curries all have a base of onion, tomato and spices. Some get cream at the end, but not all.
Singh gets asked often why he opened an Indian restaurant in Goshen.
The long answer is that he moved here from Michigan five years ago and often cooked at home when Indian friends came to visit. He’s been running the Phillips 66 station near Goshen Middle School and been in the gas station business since 2001, but he wanted more. He took over an Indian restaurant in Illinois last year and wanted to open one in Goshen. He looked for a property for two years before this spring, a year after he started working with the Cressy & Everett real estate office, he got a call saying 127 S. Main St. was available.
Rosie gives the short answer. “He always said we needed more in Goshen. Why not here? Why not him?” she said.
Michael Sherer had started a campaign several years ago to get an Indian restaurant in Goshen. The community has quickly embraced the Singhs and the food they’re producing. Their business is good and the calls for catering are starting to come in.
“The diversity Goshen has, I never knew was here,” Rosie said.
They’re now part of it and fans are grateful.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
If you go:
What: Maple Indian Cuisine
Where: 127 S. Main St., Goshen
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for lunch buffet, 4 to 9 Sunday to Thursday, 4 to 10 Saturday and Sunday for dinner
Details: Credit cards accepted, carry-out and catering available, beer and wine will be available soon, no smoking, handicapped accessible.
Phone: 574-533-0000 and 574-534-3333