Las Vegas has never been known for its Indian food, as my colleague Max Jacobson has always been fond of pointing out. Whenever a fan asks him where they should go for decent Indian, he dryly informs them that, barring a trip to India, their best bet is to “go to London.” I’ll argue that New York also has great Indian, as do a few other American cities. But one place that never comes up in these discussions is Auckland, New Zealand. Nonetheless, Las Vegas’ newest Indian restaurant, Urban Turban, has been imported from that South Pacific metropolis. And it’s a solid addition to the local restaurant scene.
Urban Turban is a casual, modern space on Paradise Road. Customers enter through the spacious lounge, where they’re greeted by sports on the TVs and a motorized rickshaw nicknamed Turbie that was imported from India to serve as a mascot and photo op. The main dining room is bright and colorful with a view of the open kitchen.
Running that kitchen is the Indian-born Vijay Deokar. The chef tells me he’s never been to the Auckland original, and his goal is neither to perfectly duplicate its dishes nor to offer things exactly as they’d taste in his homeland. Instead, he wants to fine-tune all the food for the Las Vegas palate.
The menu’s first page is dominated by appetizers and shared plates. The appetizer selection is extensive, with nine chicken dishes, four lamb, five seafood and nine vegetarian. Shared plates include tandoori chicken, as well as seafood, vegetable and Bombay tapas platters. The seven traditional entrées include the British-influenced classic chicken tikka masala, Indian-spiced snapper and pesto chili salmon. The flip side of the menu includes various soups and salads, five rice and noodle dishes and a small kids’ menu.
The second page is also where you’ll find the seven “bottomless” curries. I’ve tried three of these so far, with the Bombay lamb masala, served in a red curry, packing the most flavor and spice. But the milder Bombay butter chicken (made with chilies, honey, cashews and cream) and Western Indiacoastal curry (flaky white fish in coconut curry) were also delicious. My problem with the curries has nothing to do with their flavor. It’s just that all-you-can-eat curries that can’t be shared don’t fit in well in a restaurant where the overwhelming majority of the menu is geared toward sharing. (Bottomless curries range from $10-$19.) To solve this problem, Urban Turban offers single-serve curries for $12. But they’re not advertised on the menu, so you need to know to ask for them.
From the appetizer section, don’t miss the chicken tikka: mildly spiced chunks of tender juicy chicken. Paneer tikka are cubes of marinated cottage cheese grilled just enough to give them a slight char flavor. The naan—available with cheese, garlic or butter—is done to perfection: light and airy with just a little char to make them crispy. But my favorite appetizer so far has been the simple lamb sliders. Larger than a typical slider, they’re cooked so as to showcase the mild gamy flavor of lamb at its best.
I’ve only been disappointed by two dishes so far. The first was the ridiculously oversized samosas, which were all filling and no crust. Moreover, they’re a bit too heavy on the cumin for my taste. (My wife, however, loves cumin and had no problem with that.) And despite the staff’s ravings about skewers of curry leaf shrimp, I found them boring and bland.
Otherwise, the staff is knowledgeable about the menu, and extremely friendly and attentive, the room itself having much more of a casual, party atmosphere than most Indian spots in town. I can’t wait to bring Max to see what he thinks.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Chicken tikka ($9)
- lamb sliders ($10)
- paneer tikka ($8)
- Bombay lamb masala ($19)
3900 Paradise Rd., 702-826-3216. Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.–late. Dinner for two, $30–$60.